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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Safety Strategic has Failed

In the sate of Chihuahua the evening is just beginning when all activities start to slow down to a crawling pace. Paralyzed by daily assaults and murders, people do not dare leave the safety of their homes. They feel insecure because violence is prevalent throughout the state and no one has any respect for anyone anymore.

For example last Tuesday two gunmen (sicarios) executed the college professor Michael Etzel Maldonado, the main spokesperson for the PRI and the state government. The murder outraged the political establishment and the business community of Chihuahua, knowing that they are also vulnerable.

Governors of Chihuahua José Reyes Baeza and of New Mexico Bill Richardson

"I feel angry and frustrated," said Gov. José Reyes Baeza. By concentrating resources for police to fight against organized crime, he says, the state has neglected other basic services such as health and education. The governor admitted that the strategy in the fight against crime has failed. The government cannot denied that the growing spiral of violence this year is out of control. In the last ten months there has been 2,250 murders, while in the whole year of 2008 there were only 1,863.

“¡Son chingaderas!” ("They're shit!") said the secretary Sergio Granados Pineda, when reminded of the death of his friend Michael.

"Don't shoot, family aboard"

Now Chihuahuans move cautiously avoiding any type of altercation, especially when they encounter a traffic jam. They don't dare sound the horn as they did in past times, now they just wait quietly for vehicles to move on. They fear that a "sicario" might suddenly appear out of nowhere and start shooting.

"This did not happened two and half years ago," the Governor Reyes Baeza told a reporter during an interview in his office. He is concerned about the criminal act against Etzel Maldonado because it really forces the government to stop and to reflect on what is happening during these difficult times.

"We cannot seem to break this climate of violence that exists in the state and across the country. A murder so pitiful, so cowardly as the one committed against a person known for his honesty, his integrity and moral rectitude, and for his ability to reach political balance only to become part of this cycle of violence," says the governor.

He insists that the tranquility and peace to which they were used to in Chihuahua has been disrupted; "These undisputable antagonistic criminal cartels seeking to take over our communities, the corporations of brokers in the trafficking of drugs have made the state of Chihuahua very insecure."

It is not enough even with the 2,000 people arrested in connection with the drugs cartels during the joint operations of the Army and Federal Police, added the governor.

And he insists: "We must stop and find out what is happening. I think in this case we must recognize that we as a society have failed ... We have a sick body that we have not been able to diagnose in time ... I am referring to society."

"We have a sick patient who needs to be properly diagnosed so that we start getting the proper treatment. We understand that there is a tumor, but we now realized that it has spread to other parts of the body. The treatment we are providing now should enable us to correct the problems in the future, and allow it to heal."

"This is an important task that the Mexican state has not been able to resolved. And when I say treatments, I mean police strategies. To tackle the problems we need to change the habits of the patient, to show it how to live healthier. In our case, the police strategy must be accompanied by education in values, we must ultimately take up the negligence of social behavior.

Local newspapers have confirmed that the country records an average of 10 assaults and extortion to businesses on a daily basis. Even worse: the culture of violence has reached an extent that when children play, they simulated executions and kidnappings with their toy cars.

Without realizing it, he explains, "we are breaking down our community, family, and society as a whole. When the family breaks down we make our children more vulnerable to crime. Criminal cartels take advantage of this situation. "

"Why me?

On Tuesday around eight at night the former deputy Etzel Maldonado arrived home, located in a middle-class neighborhood. When he got off his car he was approached by two sicarios and they fired seven bullets at him which lacerated his liver, lung and stomach.

Still conscious he was transported to the hospital where he underwent an operation that lasted over two hours. "Why me if I have never hurt anyone?" He told his wife before surgery. At two-thirty in the morning the next day he died.

Etzel Maldonado was a lawyer, a university professor, had been district attorney and was serving as legal counsel to the government of Reyes Baeza. a natural born negotiator, he was most recently the secretary of the PRI's electoral action committee for the state. His death sparked outrage among politicians, business and the academic community.

The University of Chihuahua and the PRI paid tribute to Etzel Maldonado, praising his political and academic achievement.

"A loss of a life should call attention to the state," says the governor, but Etzel was a person who had no history of association to any criminal group. "

"He left behind a sense of fragility ..." the governor tells the media.

"What we have experienced in recent months is not something that we have fostered. This situation occurs in different regions of the country and is the result of the fight between criminal groups. This generates a sense of fragility and vulnerability in our communities.

"But in this and in other cases it is important that impunity does not prevail because it generates more crime. And even though we cannot point our fingers to any particular group, we will investigate. This case has us very concerned. "

Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez said that the investigation is moving ahead. She indicated that most likely the crime was the result of the "professional activities" performed by Etzel Maldonado.

And although the prosecutor denies it, some officials think that the execution could be revenge, because the professor recently participated as a negotiator in the release of a relative of his wife kidnapped by a band of criminals. Two members of the gang were eventually arrested as the result of the operation.

Sergio Granados Pineda, Secretary General of Government, says there is no indication that the crime had any political motives or was related to electoral issues.

"Michael was a gentle man, never argued to the extent of losing his temper. Never hurt anyone. He was a person that was highly regarded, widely recognized in the official sector of the PRI. He was a gentleman; jovial despite the years he had ... ¡Son chingaderas! (is shit!)"

- Don't you think you have not done things well in the war on drugs?

"I think all the forces involved in Operation Chihuahua have done the best they can. Intelligence networks are working. There are people from human rights that feel that the Army should leave, but they are needed in order to fight the violent drug traffickers.

He adds, "Imagine what Juarez would become without the military. We must wait for the police to be properly trained before we think about removing the military.

"They have changed dramatically in the parameters of society and of ourselves as an authority. Two years ago we did not have this violence in Chihuahua and now, we're not talking about the same notions of respect for human rights, but the benefits of those who challenge the law or violate it. "

Withdrawal, Yes .. But gradually.

The prosecutor Patricia Gonzalez says that nothing is gained by removing the military and says that the joint operations with the state police have been successful. And she reiterates that the military will not leave Chihuahua: "I'm sure it will evolve in the actions of the Operación Conjunta detaining leaders of criminal acts."

For his part, Miguel Vargas, state leader of the PRD, said that the murder of Etzel Maldonado represents an attempt by organized crime to intimidate society as a whole. "If this can happen to a very recognized public presence, what can you expect from any ordinary person?" he warns.

The PRD says that crime is an expression of a failed policy set by the Federal Government which has failed to show any results.

"The military presence has not stopped the drug trade. Ordinary crime has grown, raids on shops, extortions and killings continue. What happened to Etzel Maldonado is an act of terrorism on society, "says Vargas.

Gov. Reyes Baeza said that the military should be careful in its actions against organized crime and help in preserving his image. He also suggested that if the armed forces are withdrawn from the streets of the cities, should do so gradually.

However, he points out, "the withdrawal of troops from the streets should not be done until the police take preventive control, especially in Ciudad Juarez, where security is the responsibility of the local government.

He acknowledged that the troops should never do the duties that are the responsibilty of the local police, but while this war lasts, he says, "the military must do the duties set forth in the Constitution. It is not substituting the civilian authority.

Is the authority being exceeded?" was asked of the governor.

"No, I do not accept that. Organized crime has one strategy, one aim: to seize control of the Mexican territories. They take aim to destabilize the institutions, undermine the strength of the Mexican state and that is not acceptable.

"There is a war whose dimensions we never imagined. We need time, perseverance, intelligence and caution. We will continue working with the strategy and with the conviction that we are doing the right thing. "

Nevertheless, he admits that there is already a generation of youth that has been lost in this war: "Something happened to us and we have to address these issues that have victimize us as a society and that is sending us a serious message."

And the deaths that occur daily, Reyes Baeza says "they cannot be explained." And while remembering the case of Etzel Maldonado says: "he was a good man and we are all very hurt by his death."

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