Ciudad Juarez, Chih - Military authorities arrested a third person suspected of involvement in the Jan. 31 massacre of 15 people, most of them teenaged students, in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez, officials said Saturday.
At a press conference given by military authorities and the Attorney General’s Office of Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located, the suspect was questioned before the media and said he shot at point-blank range at least one youth who tried to jump out the back of the house in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood where the massacre took place.
The suspected killer, an ex-municipal police officer from Ciudad Juarez identified as Aldo Flavio Hernandez Lozano, 36, who goes by the alias of “El 18,” said he belonged to the criminal group known as “La Linea,” a nickname for the Juarez cartel.
Besides the massacre of the young people, El 18 is suspected of 40 other murders, of which 16 were presumably committed last year. No details were given about the others.
The authorities are also searching for another ex-municipal police officer called Jose Guadalupe Cavazos, alias “El 27,” suspected of involvement in the slaying of the teenaged youths at a birthday party in Villas de Salvarcar.
The presentation to the press of the man in custody took place at the military garrison on the southwest side of the city across the border from the U.S. city of El Paso, Texas.
A few days after the murders, the authorities managed to nab Israel Arzate Melendez and Jose Dolores Echeverria, arrested on Feb. 2 and 6, respectively, who have now been charged with taking part in the slaying of the young people in Villas de Salvarcar.
Meanwhile, authorities of the Joint Operation – army soldiers and federal agents – said that Friday they captured members of a youth gang accused of perpetrating at least 12 kidnappings, of which five were planned from inside a local jail by Ernesto Piñón de la Cruz, alias “El Neto”.
Four of the 10 arrested, two of them women, are between 15 and 17 years of age, and were receiving from 300 to 1,200 pesos ($23 to $92) to guard the hostages “per event.”
According to the source, the gang cut fingers off the hands of their hostages to send them to the victims’ families as a way of pressuring them into paying ransom money.
Meanwhile, deaths in Mexico’s most violent town continue, with at least 12 fatal shootings in the last 12 hours.
According to unofficial figures, in Ciudad Juarez more than 380 people have met violent deaths to date in 2010, following the 2,635 premeditated murders in 2009 and somewhat more than 1,600 in 2008. Most of those cases were related to organized crime.
Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas and Guatemala, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a recent report.
The border town is the epicenter of a war between the Juarez drug cartel led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and the Sinaloa cartel of kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Both are backed by street gangs in Mexico and the United States.
The violence in Juarez has forced the federal government to increase the presence of federal agents from 400 to 1,200 in the city, where there are also 8,000 army soldiers, as well as to try and create a strategy for social and economic development capable of repairing the social fabric.