Mexicans brave drug war to go home for Christmas

Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:55am EST
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By Tim Gaynor

EL PASO, Texas (Reuters) - For Denver cook Eloy Sanchez, Mexico's escalating drug war means his dash home to Mexico for Christmas has never been more dangerous -- so he is trying to minimize the risks.

"We are sticking together to take care of each other," said Sanchez, 42, as he prepared to roll south from Texas in a small convoy of vehicles through Ciudad Juarez, where 3,000 people have been killed in raging drug violence since January.

"There's .... hit men and people who rob you and assault you on the road," he added.

Around a million U.S.-based Mexicans head south each Christmas along the length of the border from California to South Texas.

This year travelers such as Sanchez, who is headed for the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, are taking extra precautions for their safety as they run a gauntlet of spiraling drug violence and lawlessness to get home.

Since President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago and pledged to crush powerful drug gangs, more than 30,000 people have been murdered in the deepening mayhem, most of them in northern and central Mexico.

Mexican authorities are also concerned about additional risks on the roads this year and are urging travelers to take steps to stay safe.

"We are more concerned ... than in previous years as there has been an increase in drug violence and banditry," said Alejandro Orbezo, a Mexican consular official in charge of the "Paisano" program for returning migrants in the western United States.   Continued...