Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Calderon Returns to Juarez

Mexico's President Felipe Calderón will return to Juárez this week.

El Paso Times

Ciudad Juarez, Chih - Mexico's President Felipe Calderón will visit Juárez again this week as he revises the strategy to fight organized crime in the country's deadliest city.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in Juárez since January 2008.

Calderón will attend a meeting with Juárez, Chihuahua state and federal officials as well as business and human rights groups at noon Wednesday at the Juárez Camino Real Hotel.

During his visit Thursday, in front of about 500 people, including several cabinet members, Calderón committed to go back to Juárez to hear a follow-up on changes to the strategy to combat violence.

The recent massacre that left 15 people dead prompted the presidential visit. It also led to a vocal protest. The angry mother of two teenagers killed in the birthday party attack on Jan. 30 at one point interrupted the meeting to speak to Calderón face to face about her frustration with the inefficiency of the police investigation.

Calderón spoke about changes in the police and military to catch infiltrators. He also spoke about the opening of new schools and the expansion of health services in the border city. He announced that the military is not withdrawing from Juárez. Instead, he is reinforcing their presence in neighborhoods where violence is common.

Lorenza Patricia Galarza Gándara spoke Thursday in front of Calderón and his cabinet, representing the local human rights' commission. She said she had more than 1,000 documented cases of human rights violations by the military.

"The military should leave," Galarza Gándara said.

Calderón asked his agrarian reform secretary, Abelardo Escobar Prieto, present at last week's meeting, to stay in Juárez until the president's return to hear complaints from the community on the proposals.

"During these days, we've all been working for ideas and proposals to be expressed," Escobar Prieto said Monday.

He said officials are tweaking the strategy, which may include the opening of a new American football field, changes in education, the protection of public spaces and new social programs.

"They are enriching the strategy with a lot of optimism," Escobar Prieto said.

The strategy will include short-term and long-term changes in several areas, including public safety. Escobar Prieto said the reaction of people in Juárez to last week's presidential visit was that Juarenses were "hopeful for things to be repaired."

Mexican senator for Chihuahua Ramón Galindo Noriega said in a statement that the success of the new strategy will depend on the tools provided by the legislative and judicial powers. Galindo Noriega said the criminal code should be changed to increase punishment for kidnappers, extortionists and gun traffickers.

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