The massacres in rehabilitation centers in the cities of Tijuana and Juarez reveal corruption and inefficiency of the authorities and the similarity between victims and perpetrators: young people without hope or future.
Melquiades Hernandez Esparza, head of the rehabilitation center for drug addicts "El Camino a la Recuperación," this time in Tijuana, also heard gunshots in her center. From where she stood in the bedroom she managed to see four men wearing ski masks and assault rifles leaving the center.
The killers had left behind 13 dead bodies lying at the foot of a fence. The center is one of many that operate illegally in Tijuana. According to the State Health Department, there are at least 50 such places in the city, and the people know these centers see them growing in large numbers in neighborhoods where addicts proliferate.
Beyond the narco war and the conflict between competing drug organizations you find that impunity and violence is always behind these crimes, and they all have the same modus operandi that have become ingrained in the structures of the economic and political power in both cities: organized crime always operates in the shadows of corruption.
In the economic crisis plaguing Ciudad Juarez, the only business that has thrived over the past two years is drug trafficking.
The availability of drugs in the barrios is far from diminishing, on the contrary, it is thriving and growing, all despite the heavy presence of the military and federal police. The same happens in Tijuana, where it is estimated that small street drug dealers spreads over 5000 “tienditas” scattered throughout the city, a business that is estimated at 35 million dollars a month.
Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana have suffered the most in comparison to other cities, where the effects of social degradation caused by the drug trafficking business is a daily occurrence. This activity is operated by multinational cartels for profit who in attempt to destroy potential competitors, they generate many sadistic forms of violence that get more and more extreme and brutal.
The proliferation of crimes that organized crime is involved in includes extortion, kidnapping, auto theft, human trafficking, and the manufacturing and sales of piracy goods. According to recent statements made by the Secretary of the Interior Francisco Blake, the cartels have been substituting the economy for decades and to date organized crime controls at least 400 municipalities in the country.
The gains in funerals
In the cemetery of Juarez mass graves accumulate with bodies that no one can identify or claim, in fact just last year there were more than 800 such graves.
Laurencio Barraza talks about how every morning when he leaves his home to got to work at the "Organización Popular Independiente" he makes the cross across his face with his hand, because his office is located in the corner next to one of many of the "tienditas" belonging to the narcos who are found in every street in the center of the city.
In other words he makes the blessing because if he hopes to return home alive, it will only be by the grace of a higher power and certainly not as a result of the presence of the military, police or even the will of the narcos.
Gustavo Muñoz Hepo, former City Councilman, has real fear when he hears his cell phone ring. Anything can happen in a city where anyone can call (for example) the Latinoamericana funeral home at any moment to demand a percentage of the profits generated by the dead that a massacre has provided. Like other business owners who refused to pay, they set fire to their businesses.
Casa Amiga, founded by Esther Chávez Cano, the first person to denounce the atrocity of the so-called femicides, she is involved in the care of victims of domestic violence. Part of that care is to provide all the necessary therapies where patients not only talk about what ails them physically, but also of their problems and fears.
Irma Guadalupe Casas Franco, who is responsible for the operation of the center, said that the issues brought up during therapy has changed: women are no longer talking about the assaults, but of those killed in neighborhoods and also talk about acquaintances, friends and relatives that have been executed.
When I ask Elizabeth Flores, a member of the "Pastoral Obrera de la Diócesis de Ciudad Juárez" and someone who has lived in the city all her life, on what she thinks might be the worst of what has happened to Juarez in the last few years, she remains silent for a few moments, and looks out the window at the lonely street lit by the dull autumn sun and says with pain in her heart: "The people are running out of hope."
Geography of crime
Closed businesses abound both in downtown and the neighborhoods that surround it, as well as in the modern avenues where luxury hotels are located, a place where at one time, it saw a fleeting prosperity. At night the city's centro (plaza) is in a sordid state. The same place where a taxi driver dares to drive around during just in time to survey the sad scenes of this strange war. The taxi follows the same route marked by the geography of the crime in which Muñoz Hepo spoke of.
There have been complete neighborhoods that have been lost to the "picaderos" (houses and businesses where users buy and administer quick hits of illegal drugs).
The most representative case is La Bellavista, west of the city. This was a typical neighborhood where people worked in El Paso and managed to live here with a good standard of living. Due to the proximity of the international bridge, many people cross it every day to work on the other side. Today, that neighborhood is completely lost and is full of "picaderos."
There are also new neighborhoods, such as Guadalajara, located southeast of the city attempting to give life to a dying city. We must take into account that growth has overwhelmed the city that has generated neighborhoods without any service. That, in relation to drug use and drug trafficking, but there is also a place where the kidnappings and extortions proliferate: Paseo Triunfo de la República, the avenues Gomez Morin and Tomás Fernández, traditionally areas that are more developed commercially and economically, where you find offices, restaurants and more.
Many of these businesses have suffered a terrible onslaught by the crime, which has burned restaurants, hardware stores and even the Latinoamericana funeral home.
From the days of Prohibition in the United States, Juárez began a path that reaches New York and expands to different cities across the border. From a logistical standpoint, the city is a key point in drug trafficking operations.
In addition to its geographical location, it is connected by better roads: a long route north that crosses the U.S. and reaches Canada, two different train networks that extend to El Paso, and it also has five international border crossings: all this makes the crossing of goods across the border, legal and illegal, a lot easier.
On October 18 Tijuana Mexican authorities seized 134 tons of marijuana, a historic blow to the cartels for such large quantity seized and especially for its economic value, estimated by the Ministry of National Defense at 805,000,444 million pesos worth in the Mexican market and $196,450,000 million dollars valued at the other side of the border.
In the past two years four massacres similar to this have been carried out in rehabilitation centers in the state of Chihuahua: the September 2, 2009 of 16 young people that were murdered in El Aliviane, 13 days later 10 people were executed in the Anexo de Vida in Ciudad Juárez. On June 10 another 19 people were killed in the center Cristiano Fe y Vida, and then on July 16, six people were killed in a Christian center.
No one knows exactly how many rehabilitation centers for drug addicts exist in Mexico. According to data provided by the Health Secretary himself at a press conference a few days ago, he gave an estimate of about 1,800. It is also not known what really happens inside these centers, how they work and what are the methods used for purported rehabilitation of addicts.
The testimonies of those who have used these facilities in Tijuana, hoping to get their family members out of the hell of addiction, show a catalog of abuses. Silverio de la Mora tells of his son: "He is a recovering addict; very few leave the addiction to heroin. They are chains that are wrapped around them very tightly. The lives of my boy and our family were destroyed by drugs."
How is it possible that the government has allowed these rehab centers to operate, many of them run by former addicts, who, although they understand the pain of what an addict goes through, they do not have the capacity or expertise to understand or let alone solve the problem. "My son was in such center in Colonia Guerrero, and the other boys use to hang him by the feet and beat him. "
The authorities know of the existence of 50 rehabilitation centers that operated clandestinely in this border city, but those who have sought care in them, as Silverio has, insists that: "Tijuana is full of these places."
Nobody knows what happens inside these centers nor do they know if the people who run them and work in them have ties to the drug cartels or if they operate under their control. They could be used as safe houses or a good place to recruit new members.
Political and criminal association
Victor Clark Alfaro of the Bi-National Commission of Human Rights (Comisión Binacional de Derechos Humanos), a professor at the University of San Diego, has witnessed social degradation caused by the presence of drug trafficking in Tijuana. "This is a city taken by assault by organized crime."
Criminal organizations have become increasingly visible since the early nineties and have taken control of areas that were previously in state hands, which has led to the deterioration of quality of life and human rights of society as a whole, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty.
José Luis Pérez Canchola, who a few years ago was the first Human Rights prosecutor in Tijuana said: "For me, the political class has as a much more responsibility than the police forces, because of what has happened in the last 20 years in Tijuana, Baja California."
We must remember that there were senior officials who sat down to talk with the criminals so that they did not commit crimes of common law. With a tremendous ingenuity, the state gave in to these criminal organizations.
The consequences have been fatal, everything got worse when unscrupulous politicians accepted or requested money from drug organizations to finance their political campaigns. In return for the financial contributions, the criminal organizations demanded control of high positions within police departments and to operate freely in key business areas.
Political figures not only accepted drug money, but in fact are associated with them.