“We’re not the world’s most dangerous city by a long way, nor Mexico’s, and we can prove it,” Hector Murguia said at a press conference.
Ciudad Juarez, home to approximately 1.3 million people, “is today the most dangerous city in Mexico and I think it’s the most dangerous city in the hemisphere, if not the world,” William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told a U.S. congressional panel on Thursday.
His comment came in response to a question from a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs concerning the shooting deaths of five police officers Wednesday in Juarez.
Murguia said his administration’s records indicate that 116 homicides were committed in the city in January of this year, 69 in February and 69 in March, down from 269, 173 and 268 murders, respectively, in those same three months of 2011.
The mayor said the U.S. official’s remarks were “irresponsible” because they “drive away tourism and (adversely) affect the advances achieved to date in terms of security.”
He also invited Brownfield to visit Ciudad Juarez “so he can see for himself that this is a community that’s trying to move forward, in spite of his comments.”
On Thursday night, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued a statement applauding and expressing support for the efforts of President Felipe Calderon’s administration, the state government of Chihuahua and Murguia’s administration to tackle drug-related violence.
“The impact of these efforts can be seen in (Juarez’s) crime statistics, which show a significant reduction in homicides,” the embassy said.
“U.S. assistance, in coordination with our Mexican counterparts, has focused on training and equipping police to give them greater capacity to combat the threat posed by transnational criminal organizations to local communities,” the statement said.
The embassy said that as bilateral efforts under the Merida Initiative – a U.S.-funded regional plan to battle drug cartels and organized crime – “shift in focus from federal to state police forces, Chihuahua state and the city of Juarez have become key priorities.”
“We will continue to provide support, particularly in areas most affected by crime and violence, in partnership with the government of Mexico, its security agencies and its citizens.”
Ciudad Juarez remained Mexico’s deadliest major city in 2011 with nearly 2,000 homicides, or roughly 148 murders for every 100,000 residents, although that figure was down from the previous year, when 3,100 people were murdered.
Authorities attribute most of the violence in the gritty metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, to a territorial conflict between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.
According to a recent report from the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, a non-governmental organization, the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula has surpassed Ciudad Juarez as the world’s most violent metropolis.
Mexico’s government said 12,903 people died in drug-related violence between January and September 2011, bringing the drug war death toll since December 2006, when Calderon took office, to 47,515.
The country’s murder total has grown every year of the federal government’s military offensive against the well-funded, heavily armed drug gangs.
Unofficial tallies published late last year by independent daily La Jornada put the drug-war death toll at more than 50,000.