Monday, December 14, 2009

On Front Lines of Drug War

CNN


Juarez, Mexico (CNN) -- It's an all-too common scene on patrol with a joint Mexican law enforcement task force in Juarez, Mexico.

Two people are shot dead in broad daylight Wednesday in a city lost in a drug war between rival cartels over the lucrative drug route into the United States.

Gunmen fire on a car, killing the driver; the passenger starts to flee and is gunned down in the street. These are the 11th and 12th killings in the Mexican city that day. Locals said killings are more frequent in the evenings. At this point, the sun hasn't even started to go down.

Juarez has become a deadly city where bodies, blood and gun-shell casings are commonplace in the streets.

In 2008, more than 1,600 people were killed in drug-related violence; this year local government officials put that number at more than 2,400. The carnage is taking place in a city with a population of around 1.5 million, literally at America's doorstep. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has declared a war on drug cartels and the way they operate their businesses.


Calderon ordered 45,000 Mexican military troops and 5,000 federal police to hot spots in the drug war. No place has witnessed the amount of carnage this Mexican border city has.

Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said in March -- when Juarez saw a drop in drug-war killings during the initial buildup of those forces -- that he felt there was going to be a turnaround for the city. The scores of dead here indicate that he may have been wrong.

The military and federal and local police are on patrol, on the lookout for suspicious activity and making random stops as night begins to fall Wednesday. In the distance, the city lights of El Paso, Texas, are visible. The violence is separated by the Rio Grande, which serves as the natural border between the sister cities.

The crackle of voices comes over the police radio that a 13th person is dead in Juarez that Wednesday night. The unit then goes on another call where suspicious men are causing a disturbance in a neighborhood. As the police arrive, witnesses who saw the men run off after brandishing firearms do not give a good description of them.

There are no descriptions of clothing, body types or vehicles, which police say can be a major frustration.


Many locals we spoke with say the police and military are corrupt and cannot be trusted. The city, in an attempt to counter such fears, announced a program where residents can call in information anonymously. The calls are answered on the U.S. side of the border. Local officials said they hope this strategy will generate more tips.

At 11 p.m., as the city streets begin to quiet down, there is another call. A gruesome discovery is made literally steps from the border crossing -- four females are found shot; two are children, ages 14 and 12. These deaths are just steps from a pedestrian crossing, where military and local police have increased the numbers on patrol.

The death toll for Wednesday stands at 17. It's another deadly day in the life of a city just steps from American soil.

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