Sunday, December 19, 2010

A bus trip in Mexico

One of our blog readers, Garth Kiser, sent me an article he wrote about a trip he took in Mexico. He's posted it to iReport on He was traveling from Chetumal to Tijuana by bus. Early in the trip, the bus goes through the occasional checkpoint:
Come morning we roll into a military checkpoint, officers armed with assault rifles behind sandbag bunkers. All passengers are ordered to exit the bus as the luggage compartments are searched. The soldiers attempt to coax drug sniffing dogs into the compartments with tennis balls on strings but get no K9 compliance. The next stop comes barely 10 miles later. An officer in a pressed white shirt bearing a large gold police star requests to see my Mexican entry card.
This was interesting for me because I've had the opportunity to watch some outstanding K9 dogs at work in Canada and the United States. It takes a lot of good instruction and training for both the dog and handler to get to the point where they can work effectively together. Now there could be any number of reasons why these dogs did not perform on this particular occasion (fatigue, heat, etc). However, I also wonder what kind of ongoing training and practise the handlers and their dogs are receiving.

As he gets closer to Tijuana, there is an increase in the number and severity of the checkpoints:
Fifteen hours north of Mexico City. The intensity of the checkpoints increases dramatically. The bus is boarded one or twice per hour by gangs of unidentified men carrying pockets full of tools. Highway 24, marker 127. A group of 4 surround my seat at the rear of the bus, asking questions and sizing me up with sinister expressions. These people have the look and feel of thugs, not cops. They move back outside but the bus can't yet depart because another group of cop-thugs is dismantling parts of the vehicle's exterior with power drills, looking behind panels and inside the engine compartment.
Garth concludes his article by asking an important question:
Busses are the main form of transportation in Mexico. How can the government allow their infrastructure to suffer so severely? The drugs searched for in Mexico are bound for the USA, not Mexico, so again, why would the Mexican government be willing to cripple a vital transportation infrastructure?


  1. Thanks for mentioning my article David. Noticing you took special interest in the part about the ill-trained dogs, I thought you and your readers would also like to know about the dogs present at the Mexico City Norte bus station.

    One dog was asleep at the main entrance and the other was being pet by passengers! A well-trained dog is a powerful tool, able to both passively search out contraband and to act as a deterrent. None of the dogs I saw in Mexico serve either of these purposes.

  2. Sad. But it just goes to show many enduring aspects of prohibition: everyone is a suspect — guilty until proven innocent, the poor suffer the most, environmental degradation: tens/hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel burned up as buses idle, needless trashing and premature destruction of buses, wasting people's time which no doubt leads to many other wastes like missed appointments, and no doubt a huge increase in disrespect for the overly-heavy-handed government.

    Yet even in the face of this I still "hear" the hard-hearts chanting, "it's the law, we must stop illegal drugs." The first saying that comes to mind is "penny wise but pound foolish." However, I'm not entirely pleased with that saying in this context since there is nothing penny wise about this; it's only destructive, it's only bad.

    Perhaps the root of this assault is from the cartels who only want the big guys to transport drugs and hate the thought of mom & pop operations doing the same.

    With regard to the dogs, I wonder what happens when they find personal use amounts, since Mexico legalized personal use amounts.


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