Families of 16 killed in Juárez massacre may seek safety in U.S.
The Dallas Morning News
Jose Luis Aguilar, 38, hold a baseball team photo of him and his slain son, Jose Luis Aguilar Camargo, 19, who was the eldest of his three boys and was majoring in international relations.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – One by one, the coffins were carried out from small homes Wednesday, held carefully by grieving friends and relatives who demanded justice – but expressed little confidence they'll ever get it.
Many, instead, said they are planning to abandon Mexico and move to Texas to save their other children.
"I never even gave the United States much thought," said José Luís Aguilar Rangel, 38, as he stood over his son's coffin, which lay next to the coffin of his nephew Horacio. "But Mexico has abandoned us, betrayed us.
Friend Victor Manuel, right, comforts the mother of one of the teenage victims Wednesday in Villas de Salvarcar in Ciudad Juarez. Eight teens were buried Wednesday all victims of a massacre early Sunday that left 16 young people dead.
"Shame on them," he said, alluding to authorities he described as too corrupt to ever bring justice or restore faith.
Eight teens were buried Wednesday – all victims of a massacre early Sunday that left 16 young people dead, most of them university students and many of them members of a baseball team. All were celebrating a friend's birthday when a dozen or so gunmen burst into a private house after midnight and sprayed the place with bullets.
Armed police watch over a street Wednesday in Villas de Salvarcar. Authorities said Adrian Ramirez, known as "El Rama" or "El Doice" and a leader of the Barrio Azteca gang, was responsible for planning and carrying out the massacre.
Mexican authorities said Tuesday that a top gang leader, believed to be from El Paso and a member of the Juárez cartel, was thought to be responsible for the massacre of the teens. He was killed in a shootout with soldiers Monday.
Authorities said Adrian Ramírez, known as "El Rama" or "El Doce" and a leader of the Barrio Azteca gang, was responsible for planning and carrying out the massacre.
At a news conference, police also presented José Dolores Arroyo, arrested on accusations of being a lookout for the gunmen.
Friends watch the procession of hearses from a bus window Wednesday.
Authorities went to extraordinary lengths to show that the two men were involved in the massacre, using the Internet to post photos, interrogation transcripts and a diagram of the gang organization, including other suspects, even listing their salaries as hitmen or lookouts, starting at about $200 a week.
According to the posted transcript, Arroyo told police that the gunmen believed the students were members of a rival gang known as Artistic Assassins who work for Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, purported to be the nation's most powerful drug lord and the head of the rival Sinaloa cartel.
Some officials, including Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, said the gang members probably had bad intelligence and attacked the wrong house.
A cross marks the ground in front of the store and homes where the shooting massacre occurred. Many relatives of the victims said they are planning to abandon Mexico and move to Texas to save their other children.
Crackhouse the target
Late Wednesday, a top federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the original target of the gunmen was a crackhouse in the neighborhood, where local thugs were buying and selling drugs without the permission of the cartel – confirming a theory advanced earlier in the day by residents of the neighborhood.
The gunmen shot and killed one person and injured another at a storefront used for selling drugs across the street from the crackhouse, the official said. Then they turned their guns on the partygoers in a private home nearby, possibly believing the students and ballplayers inside were gang members.
The killing of so many innocents stunned the nation, and political and civic leaders raised new questions about the strategy being used against powerful drug cartels by the administration of President Felipe Calderón.
The Senate demanded that Calderón's top security ministers appear before Congress to answer questions about the strategy, which was designed with the help of the U.S. government through the $1.2 billion Mérida Initiative.
Family and friends watch as coffins are loaded into hearses Wednesday in Villas de Salvarcar.
Also Wednesday, Juárez business and civic leaders urged Calderón to declare the city a disaster zone because months of drug-related violence has left the economy moribund and has led to the exodus of tens of thousands of its residents.
The unemployment rate in the manufacturing plants of the local maquiladora industry, many of them U.S. owned, is about 30 percent. One study estimates that as many as 116,000 homes are empty in Juárez, abandoned by families that have moved to cities such as El Paso, just across the border, Albuquerque and Dallas.
As hearses lined the streets Wednesday, may residents used homemade signs to vent their anger and discontent and some were directed against the government.
As hearses lined the streets Wednesday, many residents used homemade signs to vent their anger and discontent – and some were directed against the government. One banner read, "Mr. President, until we find those responsible, You are the assassin."
Outside the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez, where many of the victims attended classes, one sign simply read, "Enough!"
And outside the Aguilar home, a homemade sign greeted visitors: "What do you want us to do now, arm our children? Justice."
Jose Reyes Baeza Terrazas, governor of the state of Chihuahua, visits the homes of the slain teens. Most of the dead were university students and many members of a baseball team.
Those visitors included Chihuahua Gov. José Reyes Baeza, who showed up unexpectedly to pay his respects to every mourning family on the block of Villa del Portal.
Juárez has become the epicenter of drug violence in Mexico, with more than 4,300 killings since January 2008.
The latest killings came just two weeks after Calderón sent 2,000 newly U.S.-trained federal agents to Ciudad Juárez, a move intended to mark a turning point in the battle for control of the city. The agents were to begin replacing army troops, who were initially sent in to replace a corrupted police force.
"What do you want us to do now, arm our children?
Home made sign.
But now residents are looking elsewhere for a solution. In interviews, some asked that the United Nations send peacekeepers; others spoke openly about wanting the United States to intervene.
When a delegation from the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute stopped to pay their respects to the families, some residents mistook them for officials from the U.S. Consulate and asked them for political asylum. The Wilson Center is a Washington think tank.
For José Aguilar, whose son and nephew were killed in the mass shooting, the thought of leaving Mexico had never crossed his mind, he said. The slain son, José, 19, was the eldest of his three boys and was majoring in international relations.
The coffin of Jesus Armando Segovia Ortiz, 15, sits in his family's home Wednesday during a viewing.
Father and son had a tight bond. The elder José, a trucker, coached his son's baseball team, and often, late at night as others slept, they talked about their dreams, about someday setting up a customs brokerage company in Juárez and building a better future for the family.
As the two other sons and friends carried out young José's silver coffin, rain fell, the drops mixing with tears on the father's somber face.
"There's nothing left for me in Mexico," he said. "Nothing."
Friends walk arm in arm down the street in Villa de Salvarcar during multiple visitations to the homes of the deceased. Juarez has become the epicenter of drug violence in Mexico, with more than 4,300 killings since January 2008.