Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Babysitters

Yesterday evening I'm sitting the the Plaza de Armas, eating a sandwich at an outdoor cafe (I know what you're thinking: slow down, party dude...the missus will be back any day now!) when I noticed that security in the area had been rather significantly beefed up. This is a city of half a million people where it's generally hard to find a cop, but suddenly the square was being patrolled by dozens of flak jacket-wearing federal police and machine gun-toting agents from the AFI (Mexico's FBI) - a veritable sea of crewcuts and aviator glasses. Two snipers walked the rooftops. It looked like Homecoming Day at the School of the Americas. "McCain must be in town shopping for some Indian handicrafts," I thought.

Because you can get away with anything if you look like a dumb tourist, I struck up a conversation with a stocky guy cradling an M-16. It turns out these guys are essentially babysitting a group of several hundred foreign (mostly Spanish) teenagers here for a quasi-governmental cultural exchange program called the Ruta Quetzal, who were in one of the buildings being welcomed by the governor. Though most of the batshit crazy violence here is directed at drug cartels, corrupt officals who work for drug cartels, non-corrupt officals who prosecute drug cartels and journalists who cover drug cartels, most of the foreign governments insisted that Mexico secure their kids as if they were a shipment of enriched uranium. They're up the street right now visiting a little chapel full of statues of notable queretanos. The streets are closed for a block in either direction.

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