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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

4,000 Plead for Help to Make Juárez Safe

El Paso Times

Elena Hernandez, 50, and her grandson march with at least 4,000 Juarenses to ask their government to do more for peace in the city. Alicia Ruiz Hernandez, Hernandez's daughter, was murdered two months ago at a bakery, the elder Hernandez said.

Juarez, MX -- At least 4,000 people -- the same number of people killed in two years in Juárez -- united in Mexico's deadliest city Sunday.

Their message was clear: peace.

Adults and children carried white flags, white flowers and signs asking for a stop to the violence. They chanted, "Paz por Juárez (peace for Juárez)" and "Juárez unido, jamás será vencido! (Juárez united will never be defeated)."

They walked steadily, rhythmically and punched fists and peace signs in the air.

The demonstration began beneath the massive Mexican flag at Chamizal Park about noon. Protesters then walked more than two miles on Heroico Colegio Militar Avenue to city hall. Mexican federal, state and transit police with assault rifles lined the parade route.

Guillermo Asiain, of the organization Jovenes por Juarez, rallies marchers Sunday as they began to gather at Chamizal Park in Juarez.

At city hall, members of organizations urged Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz and other city officials to do more to stop the bloodshed.

The petition, which was compiled by more than 100 organizations from Juárez, asked for government accountability. The groups demanded the government form a program to assist victims of violence, restructure Mexican law enforcement and create citizen advisory groups to help authorities.

More than 100 groups organized the protest, which was called "Solución para Juárez (A Solution for Juárez)."

Candelaria Vasquez, 67, said she learned about the demonstration at her grandson's school. She said she wanted to be part of the march to support the families of innocent people who have died.

"I came to ask for peace for Juárez. There are too many injustices that are happening. Sometimes even innocent children are killed," she said as she waddled with the help of a cane beside the shouting masses. "We are asking for higher authorities to help us. To help us stop these injustices."

Members of the Seminary of Ciudad Juarez participated in Sunday's march in Juarez.

Elena Hernandez, 50, said she attended the protest in memory of her daughter. Her daughter, 30-year-old Alicia Ruiz Hernandez, was gunned down in October.

Elena Hernandez said her daughter was a lawyer. She said her daughter was a good person with morals who didn't deserve to die.

"The people who took her life didn't know what type of person she was. She was a very good person," she said as tears streaked her face. "I want them to bring her back. Who is going to bring her back? I cry every day and night. But who's going to bring her back? I ask myself, 'Why?' I want to ask those who killed her, 'Why?' But who will give me an answer. Nobody."

Alicia Hernandez left behind three sons, ages 8, 6 and 5. They ask for their mother every day, Elena Hernandez said.

Antonio Briones turned towards the City Hall of Juarez and demanded that something be done to stop the violence.

"I told her several times to leave her job because it was dangerous and she could get killed," she said. "She loved her job. She was completely dedicated to her job and her community."

Guillermo Asiain, 26, a member of Jovenes por Juárez, an organization dedicated to stopping the violence, said the protest was only the first step. He said much more will need to be done to stop the violence among drug cartels, reportedly the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels, battling for control of the area's drug trade.

The rally, he said, was organized because people are desperate.

"The important thing is tell the government, 'Government, we need this.' To tell the community, 'Community, we need you to do this. Which organization are you going to commit to? What are you going to do?'" he said. "What doesn't count is for you (the community) not to do anything. ... The question is, 'What are you going to do for Juárez?'"

Everyone, he said, has to do their part to stop the brutality.

Asiain said one of his friends was recently killed. He said he learned a valuable lesson at the funeral.

During the funeral, his friend's father said he repeatedly told his son not to go out at night for fear of something happening to him. His son always replied, he didn't want to be a "slave to fear."

"The gentleman told us youngsters, 'Don't be slaves to fear. Go out on the streets. We cannot be slaves to this violence and criminals,'" Asiain said. "All these organizations have decided to be free, not slaves. In El Paso, Ciudad Juárez -- wherever -- we must not be slaves to fear."

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