by Adriana Gómez Licón \ El Paso Times
A plan that could increase the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Juárez was welcomed by that city's mayor while meeting with U.S. diplomats on Monday, Mexican officials said.
U.S. Ambassador in Mexico Carlos Pascual met with Juárez Mayor Héctor Murguía to discuss national security matters after last week's blow against the Barrio Azteca gang, known to operate in both El Paso and Juárez.
"To put a stop to the criminal wave, it is necessary to get the help from any organization or country that is willing to do it. My administration is open to cooperate," Murguía said Monday in Juárez.
Also present at the meeting was Dean Haas, U.S. consul in Juárez.
The detailed proposal on placing more ICE agents on the ground in Juárez has not yet been drafted, said Karen Villareal, Murguía's spokeswoman. But Pascual was in the city to gauge the mayor's feelings toward U.S. involvement in Juárez, she said. It is not known up to what capacity ICE agents would work in Juárez.
"My stance is that in Juárez we would welcome help from any institution, be it Mexican or foreign," Murguía said.
He said that criminals live in El Paso and cross the border into Juárez to commit crimes. "That is why we need to collaborate with U.S. authorities," he said.
The Barrio Azteca arrests were a clear example, Murguía said. U.S. and Mexican agencies shared information to arrest alleged gang members.
ICE agents already operate in other cities in Mexico. In February, ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was shot dead in San Luis Potosí while on duty. Another agent, Victor Avila, was also shot in the same attack but survived. Both were assigned to Mexico City.
Murguía also spoke with Pascual about the Mérida Initiative, a $1.4 billion drug-fighting aid package. Murguía wanted to learn what Juárez can do to obtain more funding, Villareal said.