Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Lawless Ciudad Juarez

Monday, April 5, 2010 |


No brakes in violence.

Violence and crime in Ciudad Juárez has surpassed any law or limit. Regarded as one of the most dangerous cities of Mexico and the world, Ciudad Juarez has become a common scene of violent confrontations between drug lords and military forces, the same governmental forces who watch over the security that has for the most part been lost.

Just in 2009 Ciudad Juarez registered more than 2,600 homicides. In Mexico in the last three years the murders have increased to 15,000.

It was once believed that the victims were made up of just the same cartels members killing each other. But the reality is that the vast majority of the victims who are being mowed down by the lethal bullets are; pregnant women, seniors, children, police officers, soldiers and journalists, they are the real people who are spilling their blood on the streets of Ciudad Juarez.
 
The different ways of how the thugs murder their victims is both brutal and is beyond excessive. From decapitations to dismembered bodies, with gunshots to the head in execution style (tiro de gracia) to clear physical signs of torture, the bodies pile up and are found on a daily basis. Every day, multiple times.

The corpses are found in abandoned lands, wrapped in garbage bags, blankets and dumped in broad daylight. It's hard to believe that full para-military assaults with assault rifles and grenades occur in main streets, restaurants, and shopping centers. They are taking place at noon, among the multitude of governmental troops and federales.

As a measure, to try to counter the criminal groups that are terrorizing the city, the Merida Initiative was set in motion.

In this plan the United States allocated $1,400 million between 2008 and 2010 for aid to Mexican and Central American operations, so that these nations could more effectively combat the drug cartels. But the strategy is lacking in effectiveness and results are far in between.

Apart from assistance coordinated with the U.S. government, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has visited Ciudad Juarez three times in 2010 so far. He was here in Juarez so that he can say that he will fight the drug traffickers until they are defeated.

Listening to the families of the torn city and analyzing the problems in the ground for new combat strategies has been the priority and commitment of Calderon. But the people hear the same old song from the local mayor, who has a lot to say and the governor, who moved his operation to Juarez in order to monitor the progress at ground zero.

While the 1.3 million residents in the violent region demand greater security and a better quality of life on earth, which at the moment appears to belong to the narcos, the crimes are increasing.

The dispute over the drug routes into the United States, the world's top consumer of cocaine, escalated in the last four years, when the murders passed 300 more to reach 2,660 in 2009. In 2010 of this year there has been more than 400 so far, on track to reach a new record.

For its geographical location Ciudad Juarez on the U.S. border, is also the place of those who are no longer able to cross the border illegally. Heavy security checks are made daily in buses, restaurants, shopping malls, schools in search of illegal immigrants and criminals who take refuge here.

The affluent who have papers have left to the other side, El Paso, one of the safest cities in the United States. On the other hand, the poor must decide if they shall remain, but where to run?

The city is the battle ground of a bloody war between the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartel. Bitter rivals fighting to the end.

The murders occur in the streets, parties and drug rehabilitation centers and not a day goes that the general public does not see corpses lying on plain view. Executions from street gangs such as "Los Aztecas," who are the murderers on the payroll of the Juarez cartel or "Los Micles," a gang who responds to orders from the Sinaloa cartel.

In this declared war on drugs, Felipe Calderon has done what none of his predecessors could have imagined: directed his own armed forces to fight the criminal cartels.

From the start of his government, in December 2006, Calderón has sent to the streets of Mexico over 45,000 soldiers to try to support civilian authorities in the country's most troubled states.

The economy has also been severely affected. According to a report by BBC World, at minimum 5,000 businesses have closed since 2006 due to the rising tide of violence.

"Of course we live in fear. Every day the crime rate goes up and no one here knows if they are going to live to the end of the day," said Lourdes Rosales, a vendor from a gift shop in a shopping center in Ciudad Juárez.

The night life are only glimpses. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs are empty or closed. Nobody dares to go out at night. That is the way of life in a high risk area such as Juarez, just like being in a war zone, where anyone can take your life away in a split second, and no one will care or notice.

In recent days the conflict in Ciudad Juárez has taken a new turn. At least 47 Americans have died since January 2008 from crimes related to the violence of drug cartels.

The most recent attack was against an official of the U.S. consulate and her husband in Ciudad Juarez after leaving a party. The message to US citizens? If you visit don't stray and know that the cartel can reach out and touch you anytime if they wish, especially if you dare to set foot on the blood soaked soil of the most dangerous city in the world.

In Juarez the fear of being killed is present every day for all its citizens. People avoid going out unless necessary. They prefer to meet in their homes and only with people they know. Trust is a matter of life or death. Something most people in the US take for granted. But not in Juarez, you can smell death in the air.

"At the traffic lights whenever we stop, we have to watch out from all sides. We do not talk to strangers and do not answer calls that we do not recognize. We live without freedom," said Eduardo Gallegos, a resident of the city.

Among the measures that people have taken upon the constant way of living at risk is to create armed commandos who, by their own account, put them at even levels with the groups of killers, or as they are usually known, sicarios.

Under slogans like: "We will kill a criminal every 24 hours," citizen groups have warned the government that if they are unable to take control of the violent murder rates, they will go into action.

The people in the city get bombarded by the media from all over the world who want them to tell them the stories of what happened, but they know if anyone talks, they have signed their death sentence.

"The people who are witness to crime are frightened and relatives of victims are devastated. It is difficult to find testimonies from witnesses," said Rocio Gallegos, chief of information for the Diario de Juarez.

The bad image of Ciudad Juarez did not begin with the recent drug crimes. More than 10 years ago the femicides that poured out of Juarez sent shock waves around the world.

From mid-1990 the wave of violence against women has left more than 300 unsolved deaths.


The scenario in Ciudad Juarez is heartbreaking. The drug traffickers are relentless; they do not stop their threats against the government and society itself.

But Felipe Calderon has declared that he is not intimidated.

"The Mexican government will not allow any criminal organizations, de facto or any type by that matter to violate the freedom of Mexicans and the law that is essential to the nation," pointed the Mexican president.

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