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

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Juarez Police Executions

A Ciudad Juarez municipal policewoman was shot to death this afternoon while aboard a public bus.

The victim was identified as Irma Cabrales, who was assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit "Programa de Atención a Violencia Intrafamiliar" (PAVI).

According to witness accounts the off duty officer had just boarded the bus when two armed style commandos boarded the bus and fired at least seven rounds at the victim before fleeing avoiding capture in daylight hours.

Some 1,400 people have been murdered so far this year in Juarez as gunmen working for rival drug cartels battle to gain control of the routes used for smuggling drugs into the United States. Gangland violence has been sweeping Mexico as powerful narcotics smuggling gangs battle one another for dominance.

In 2008, Juarez earned the dubious distinction of being Mexico’s most violent city, living through days when dozens of people were murdered in the span of a few hours, and armed groups committed acts of violence in public areas that has terrorized residents.

President Felipe Calderon has called for his nation to unite against the gangs. But years of endemic police corruption and abuses have left many Mexicans cynical. Mexican officials have acknowledged that some officers — especially local and state forces — have been killed for their role in protecting one criminal gang or another rather than in the line of duty.

The border city of 1.5 million people, home to the Juarez drug cartel, ended 2008 with a total of 1,605 people murdered, according to press tallies, including 77 federal, state and municipal police officers.

President Calderon has vowed to stay the course, portraying the violence among gangs and attacks on the police as a sign of success rather than failure. The government has smashed the cartels, he says, forcing a war among the splinter groups. “What it signifies is a strategy of some criminal organizations who seek to terrorize society and paralyze the government,” he said. “The question is, should we persevere and go forward or simply hide in our offices and duck our heads. No way is the Mexican government going to back down in such a fight.”

But the steady drumbeat of police killings has caused shock. The wave of violence in Ciudad Juarez continues to claim the lives of hundreds despite the deployment of 8,000 federal police and soldiers. Some experts on crime in Mexico believe that one reason for the surge in violence is that President Calderón has upset the longstanding arrangements between the police and drug traffickers at every level of government. While others belive that the government has so far failed to break the ties between the organized criminals, police and the political power

The Mexican government is in an outright war against the entrenched drug cartels and the "settling of accounts" between two main drug cartels. So far this year a high record number of 50 police officers have been executed in the state of Chihuahua from various different police agencies. So far this year Chihuahua ranks first in executions nationwide and is second in the state in police officers killed, only second to the state of Sinaloa which has a record number of 74 officer related executions.

“It is not just happening in Ciudad Juárez,” Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, said at the funeral for the deputy commander, Juan Antonio Roman García. “It’s happening in Nuevo Laredo, in Tijuana, in this entire region. They are attacking top commanders to destabilize the police.”

This wave of violence against police forces has served as a message from the cartels that life and death in Mexican society is determined by them. An example of this was the execution of the deputy commander Roman Garcia. Roman, the No. 2 policeman in the gritty border city of Ciudad Juarez, was riddled with bullets outside his home as he stepped from his pickup truck in the early hours of the morning. Standing in the street in front of his house, with his wife and three children inside, Roman managed to shoot back at his killers but was cut down in a volley of more than 60 bullets.

 Roman's name had been on top of a death list  "narcolista" that drug traffickers left at a Ciudad Juarez police monument. Three other police agents from that list were also executed.

He was one of many senior policeman killed throughout the country in a blow to President Felipe Calderon's fight against well-armed cartels that smuggle cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines to the United States.

The conditions in which the body of municipal police agent Adrian Ramos Morales stationed in Zaragoza, alerted authorities after finding him decapitated and placed inside a plastic bag. Among other casualties from narco executions by drug cartels are PGJE commanders Chacon Ricardo Ruiz de la Pena and Luis Mario Dominguez Garcia.

The Federal Police was also not safe from such executions after two of its agents, Edgar Flores and Ramon Enrique Romero Sotelo Saucedo were also executed in June in Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez. Villa Ahumada saw a very violent night on May 18 when three of their policemen identified as Commander Jose Armando Rodriguez and Detectives Adrian Zuniga Oscar Dávila and José Luis Quinones Suarez were killed by heavily armed commandos along with four other civilians.

The "settling of accounts" or retaliation from organized crime weakened the resolve of the Mexican society when even the family of several lawmen were not spared. This was the case of local commanders of Ciudad Juárez and Parral, Alejandro Martínez Casas and Carlos Gómez Sáez respectively, were shot while in company of their children, in which the eldest son of Martinez Casas, a child of eight years was slain along side his father.

Another loss to law enforcement occurred on the south of the capital when municipal agent Omar Flores Martinez was shot dead when he was conducting a traffic stop. The responsible killer was captured and turned over to the Attorney General's Office, who declared in his defense that had did not intent to kill Flores Martinez. The month of May registered the biggest number of losses of police officers with fourteen, while the month of June had eleven and March had ten.

In the last months this year the deaths of police officers continue to be a common occurrence in different parts of the state of Chihuahua, with an average of one police officer killed every four days.

President Calderón has sought to revamp and professionalize the federal police force, using it, with the army, to mount huge interventions in Juarez still controlled by drug traffickers.

But no one can deny that the result has been total mayhem: a street war in which no target has been too big, no attack too brazen and no resistance to the cartel without mercy.

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