President Calderon glancing at a large sign "No More Weapons" directed to the US.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said the number of homicides in Ciudad Juarez has fallen 57 percent since the launch of a security and community development strategy in the violent border city two years ago.
“If we take into account exactly two years of the ‘We Are Juarez’ strategy, through January of this year, homicides in Juarez fell 57 percent,” Calderon said during the inauguration of a job fair on the second day of his visit to the city, located across the border from El Paso, Texas.
The president did not indicate how he calculated that percentage, although the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office reported that 1,974 people were killed in the city in 2011, down 36 percent from the 3,100 murdered in 2010.
President Calderon reading to students in a school in Ciudad Juarez.
“And to do that, job creation and putting people who need work in a position to find it is essential, which explains the encouraging results that the ‘We Are Juarez’ strategy has had thus far,” he said Friday.
The job fair, where 44 companies are offering some 2,300 jobs to Juarez residents, is part of that strategy.
Calderon said 51,000 new jobs were created in Mexico in January and – according to the “maquiladora,” or export-oriented assembly plant, industry, which is mostly concentrated in border cities – 7,200 jobs were created that same month in Ciudad Juarez.
He added that 42,000 new jobs were created nationwide in the first two weeks of February and “if the same rate (seen in January) were to continue, we’d be talking about more than 5,000 (jobs) in Juarez.”
Calderon added that more than 5 billion pesos ($392 million) has been spent on the “We Are Juarez” program since its inception in early 2010 to bolster security, education, sports, health, social development and employment in the border city, which was the world’s deadliest between 2008 and 2010.
President Calderon reviewing a parade in Ciudad Juarez along with the Governor of Cihuahua to his right.
On Friday, Calderon met privately with the victims’ families to hear their demands and gather information on the situation in that neighborhood.
The mothers said they have been in mourning since the day of the massacre in Villas de Salvarcar, where playing fields, a park and a memorial garden for the victims have been installed.
“We thank the president for the support he’s given us and for the things installed in the neighborhood, but our mourning persists. We haven’t forgotten our children, nor will we,” said Esther, a mother of one of the slain youths.
“The neighborhood has changed a lot and we truly hope that the situation improves, not only here but throughout the city,” she added.
However, other relatives of the victims said recently they are still living in fear of drug traffickers and feeling exposed two years after the massacre.
Luz Maria Davila, whose sons, Marcos and Jose Luis Piña Davila, were among those killed on that fateful day, said last month the situation in the neighborhood was “the same” and people were still afraid.
“The government has not done anything. Everything’s the same here and the same stuff as always keeps happening,” said Davila, who made headlines when she confronted Calderon during one of his previous visits to the city to demand justice.
“The park and the playing fields are all really pretty and covered with federal government logos, but it’s a shame because we can’t enjoy them. Not long ago, some young men were killed on the soccer fields,” a woman who testified at the trial of the men convicted of the massacre said last month.
Five men convicted in connection with the Villas de Salvarcar massacre got 240 years in prison.
Since the Jan. 31, 2010, killings, there have been two other massacres in the area.
On Jan. 23, 2011, seven young men playing soccer on a field built as part of the federal government’s “Todos Somos Juarez” program were gunned down. Gunmen killed 15 young men on Oct. 23, 2010, at a house in Villas de Salvarcar.
During his visit to Juarez this week, the president inaugurated a public library in Villas de Salvarcar and also attended baseball, soccer and American football games in the neighborhood and a concert given by a youth orchestra made up of elementary and high school students.
Despite the drop in homicides last year, Ciudad Juarez remained Mexico’s murder capital with 148 killings for every 100,000 residents.
Authorities attribute most of the violence in the hardscrabble metropolis to a territorial conflict between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.