Thursday, July 08, 2010

Duck and Cover: The Mexican Drug War Edition

Remember that grainy footage of children during the Cold War, ducking under their desks for cover, believing it protection if atomic armageddon broke out? It's the type of government-sponsored footage your history professor uses to evoke the cataclysmic fear felt by most at a time of simmering hostility between the USSR and the USA.

Now, twenty years since the Cold War's thaw, reporters are confirming that duck and cover are back. This time, though, it's a tactic taught in Mexico's schools as a way to survive shootouts at a time when much of the country continues a descent into internecine violence. The other tactic was to close school entirely, which is what the Governor of Nayarit State did in June.

Among other newspapers, USA Today reports that the officials have issued:

New guidelines [which] instruct teachers to take all students indoors, lock classroom doors and keep the children away from windows. Children should lie on the floor and cover their heads with their hands to protect themselves from flying glass or chips of concrete. Above all, children should not take pictures or video of
the shootout.

The guidelines are designed to try to keep students and teachers safe from harm. The fear is not unfounded: over the course of this year, two students died at the Tec de Monterrey, a private university in the State of Nuevo Leon. Still other students have witnessed violence around their school, when police, army, and cartel members have engaged in shootouts. To practice responses to gunfire, some states ensure that students and staff go through regular "shootout drills." As reported by REDIM, an organization that supports children's rights, the warnings come too late for some youth aged 15 to 17, especially in Border States, where rates of violence have surged to astronomic levels.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that some Mexico City youth, mainly from marginal, impoverished locales, seem to have another idea to save themselves from destruction, worshipping at the shrine of San Hipolito, and clutching statuaries of St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless clauses.