Deserted Main St. in Ciudad Mier, site of a battle between rival cartels © Ross McDonnell
The full Associated Press report on Ciudad Mier, a pretty "Puebla Mexicana" town abandoned by it's some 6000 residents after suffering some nine months of explosive violence between rival drug cartels begins something like this:
CIUDAD MIER, Mexico — Shell casings carpet the road outside a bullet-riddled subdivision on the outskirts of this colonial town on the Rio Grande Valley, abandoned by most of the 6,000 inhabitants following a nine-month battle by warring drug cartels.
Nobody lives in the 65 one-story white houses across the border from Roma, Texas, except the abandoned pets that roam the streets of the Casas Geo development. Like 90 percent of those who once lived in Mier, they have fled to a shelter in the nearby city of Miguel Aleman, Mexico's first such haven for people displaced by drug violence.
While Mexicans increasingly have fled border towns up and down the Rio Grande Valley, Ciudad Mier is the most dramatic example so far of the increasing ferocity of war between rival drug cartels, and the government's failure to fight back.
The state and federal governments say it's safe to go back and that people are returning. One official even invited tourists to return. The scenes witnessed by The Associated Press say something else.
Even during daylight hours, a Mexican army squad patrols the town nervously.
About half the houses in Ciudad Mier have bullet holes. The Casas Geo subdivision seems frozen in time; most residents left in the summer, and it was empty by early November. The houses show how people lived when the battle reached its height: armoires and wooden wardrobes pushed up against the windows, in a vain bid to stop the bullets.
Gaping holes in walls, windows and doors where high-powered ammunition made impact. On the entrance to the subdivision, someone daubed in paint "CDG" and a heart, a reference to the Gulf Cartel.
The empty gun cabinet in Ciudad Mier's destroyed police station.
Ciudad Mier's destroyed police station.
Army patrols guard the main square of Ciudad Mier.
Mexican army checkpoint at the entrance to Ciudad Mier.
The abandoned Casas Geo residential estate in Ciudad Mier.
Ciudad Mier's church reflected in a bullet scarred store window.