Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Impunity Prevails, Reaching the 2,000 Milestone

Stunning, sad, depressing. This is how police reporters describe their coverage of the homicides during this year so far and just yesterday, the milestone surpassed two thousand murders.

"We've have seen so many different types of deaths and so much suffering, it is so frustrating" said Raul Baylon, a reporter for Channel 2.

Opposite to him is the street Alfonso Castañeda cordoned off where a member of the gang "Bambú 24," was executed along with Victor Hugo Dominguez. His cameraman and partner were the first journalists to arrive at the crime scene.

Raul wears a vest that distinguishes him as a member of the news team for Channel 2. The hours are grueling, seldom are the moments pleasant and every day, the stress prevails. Perhaps the camaraderie among the journalists is what helps him to diminish some of stress of the depressing environment.

The more than two thousand executions in Ciudad Juarez so far this year has forced reporters to change their work schedule and are even collaborating together when covering the murders. Security measures were intensified after the murder of reporter Armando Rodriguez, who was a teacher to many of the younger journalists. "There has never been so many homicides recorded in the history of Ciudad Juarez and, despite the high numbers on the previous year, I really thought that would be the biggest figure yet. But unfortunately the year is not over and we have exceeded last year number by around 400 victims," he said.

To a degree their experiences has impacted how they see life in general, how much more they value life and they have learned to live every second to the fullest.

"It's really shocking. To see on a daily basis all the crime scenes and how the sicarios (hit men) have been intensifying their method of torturing victims. They have witness headless bodies hung on bridges, people butchered into pieces, or victims just murdered while placing masks on their faces as if some macabre joke. It is indeed shocking,” he said.

He also highlighted the heavy workload that involved covering all the executions.

"There were days when we had to cover more than 6 homicides or that unfortunate day when there were up to 14 victims killed. For me it has been stressful to see so many people killed, many times I have been very afraid, "said Julio Garcia, a cameraman for Channel 5.

A few months ago, Garcia suffered an assault by the Municipal police, when he was arrested and his camera equipment damaged.

Garcia noted that the major problem was working with the police, "They try to keep us from doing our job", he said.

He said that the crime wave they must cover as reporters forces them to see death in the face and effects how they perceive life, two thousand executions this year is just incredible."

"As a reporter we must mask our fears to retain some sort of sanity in our daily jobs but as personal citizens, we feel the exact same fear as everyone else," noted Garcia.

"I feel sadness for the people who have lost love ones. The scenes are always the same; crying, screaming, nerves of fear from the family and again I feel sadness," said the cameraman for Channel 44, Eduardo Urrutia.

He explained that when he focuses the lens of his camera toward the mother lying on the body of his lifeless son, or the wife yelling at his husband to open his eyes, or the child lying on the bloodied asphalt behind the yellow tape not breathing, just makes his heart stop beating.

"I had never imagined living this nightmare and recording it, this mayhem has exceeded all expectations. Now anything more vicious does not surprise me anymore, but it still hurts to see it," he said.

"Lalo," one of the youngest reporters of the television news said that his personal life has not changed drastically despite the violence that prevails in the city, although he admits he has taken some precautions.

"More than anything when I leave home or when I drive my car, I always watch over my shoulder. But really if anything I leave my life in the hands of God," he said with a smile that says it all.

Lucio Soria, photographer of "The Journal" was the one responsible for capturing the graphic murder crime wave of 2009. "It is historic," said the reporter while taking a step back from the area permitted by the media at a crime scene.

For Carlos Ramirez, reporter for the newspaper "El Mexicano," said that the hardest part of his work has been to be a witness to the impunity, because few cases are ever solved.

"As a reporter, although we have a lot of work, it is sad that authorities do nothing to solve this violent streak," the journalist mentioned.

"The fact that Juarez has reached two thousand executions is tragic for our citizens, it is sad that you can't be secure in your own home, that your family can't go out to eat peacefully and as a reporter, even though we have a lot of work, it is sad to see impunity prevail, " he said.
The Drum Beat

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