Mexican violence scares off U.S. aid missions

| March 10, 2012

MEXICO CITY – For two decades, a community hospital in Colorado sent a medical aid mission each year to a remote city in northeast Mexico, treating tens of thousands of low-income residents for free.

Dozens of U.S. doctors and dentists, backed up by even more nurses and technicians, would repair cleft palates, take out gall bladders, treat cataracts, fix abscessed teeth and fit people for custom hearing aids.

"We basically would take over the hospital and run it 24/7 for a week," said Rich Lopez, a former deputy mayor of Boulder, Colo.

But then the gangsters arrived. Mante, a city in a sugar cane-growing region of Tamaulipas state, fell victim to the violence roiling Mexico. Last year, for the first time since the early 1990s, the U.S. medical team stayed home. They stayed home this February, too.

As Mexico battles narcotics and crime groups, U.S. medical and religious missions that for generations had come to build houses, tend the sick and conduct goodwill activities have been forced to retreat. The suspension of such missions has cast a terrible, unseen blow on hidden corners of Mexico. It's also been painful for Americans with a desire to help.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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