Ciudad Juarez, Chih - Nearly 1,000 mourners braved a driving rain Wednesday to bury many of the 12 teenage students and three family men whose massacre Sunday stunned Mexico and even this violence-jaded city.
People here might be forgiven the desperate hope that things can't get any worse in a city besieged by murder — except on this day, when everyone sees that it can. And in Ciudad Juarez, it almost definitely will.
“What's the point of raising good kids if they are going to kill them anyway?” asked Gerardo Soto, 32, who works with the fathers of two of the slain boys. “There's no punishment for something like this, no logic to it, no justice.”
The slaughtered include a 15-year-old class clown, an honor student, several star athletes, one couple's only two children, and a hard-working father of four. All were killed early Sunday in a shootout at a party.
President Felipe Calderon and Mexican officials suggest the killings resulted from gang rivalries, but if these are gangsters, mourners say, then Juarez is truly lost.
“These were good young men, They all grew up together, played together, went to school together,” said Gloria Moreno, 40, a neighbor of seven of those killed .
“When will this end? When by God will it end?” she asked.
Hundreds of the dead students' classmates joined the crowd cramming the Jesus Christ Sunof Justice Roman Catholic Church for Wednesday's funeral Mass. As seven caskets were carried to the altar, teenage boys and girls broke into sobs and wails .
Those killed Sunday appear to be dedicated family men or children of poor families who dreamed of professional careers. Their parents, who hold $50-a-week factory jobs, drive trucks, or work construction, struggled to keep the teens out of gangs and away from drugs.
“As of now all our investigations clearly indicate they were innocent young people,” Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez said Wednesday. But she added that investigators are looking into several adults killed early Sunday, and at other teens who escaped unhurt, for possible gangland ties.
About 60 people, mostly teens, had gathered for the party Saturday night in a house a few doors down from Moreno. Shortly after midnight gangsters attacked. Cars barricaded the street at each end of the block. Trigger men ran shooting into the party house, and those around it.
One suspect arrested
Eight teenagers and the three men died on the spot, four other teens died at the hospital a few blocks away. Fourteen more were wounded, some of them critically.
State and federal officials on Tuesday night paraded a suspect before the television cameras who confessed to taking part in the massacre. Oscar Arroyo, 30, had been captured by soldiers as he and accomplice tried to assassinate another couple .
Arroyo said the attack was ordered by bosses of a Juarez-based drug smuggling gang who said the teens at the party belonged to the rival Artistas Asesinos, the Artisan Assassins, who serve the Sinaloa-state based smuggling criminal empire of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The massacre might “reflect a logic of gangs and criminal bands, that in itself is a worrying sign of a social deterioration or decomposition,” Calderon said Tuesday in Tokyo, where he's on a trip to sell Juarez and Mexico as investment opportunities.
But Calderon has poured nearly 10,000 federal troops and policemen into Juarez's streets, to no avail. Last weekend's killings brought January's gangland-style homicides to more than 220.
If Juarez's carnage can touch these families, mourners said, then few are safe.
“They were good boys, serious students, respectful of people,” Luz Davila said of her only children — Marcos, 19 and 16 year old Jose Luis — who died together not eight doors down from their home. “Today it's my boys and those of the other families. Tomorrow, who?”
And so Juarez mourns.