Mexico headlines of the day: mixed messages?

April 12, 2011

Two headlines in the Public Secrets morning intelligence report caught my eyes today. Let’s see if you, too, can spot the problem.

First:

Juárez mayor says residents feel secure

Six months into his tenure, Juárez Mayor Héctor Murguía Lardizábal has a surprising public message for outsiders: Juárez residents generally feel safe.

“I cannot speak for everyone,” Murguía told the El Paso Times while in Austin on Monday. But he added, “I feel that as a whole many people feel secure. Of course, with certain precautions.”

Second:

Woman’s body found in Juárez; homicide toll surpasses 700

Chihuahua state authorities said the body was in a sitting position, leaning up against a wall.

Her face was beaten and her bluejeans were pulled down to her knees.

The woman had not been identified but appeared to be in her 20s, with light skin and dark shoulder-length hair.

I guess the woman and the 30 others killed since Friday didn’t take “certain precautions.”

Oh, and that’s 700 murders for this year alone.

If that’s an environment in which Mayor Lardizábal believes people can feel safe, I’d hate to see what he considers “dangerous.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Businesses fleeing Ciudad Juarez

March 5, 2011

Can you blame them? The city is descending into a Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all. Small wonder businesses are looking to get out:

About 80 business owners in Ciudad Juarez, a border city that has become Mexico’s murder capital, attended a seminar on how to move their operations to neighboring El Paso, Texas, business networking group La Red said.

The seminar, which took place on Tuesday and featured immigration lawyers, real estate agents and bankers from El Paso, provided participants with information on visa application procedures and requirements for establishing new corporations or moving companies currently based in Ciudad Juarez, La Red, which organized the event, said.

About 300 bars and 4,000 restaurants have closed in Ciudad Juarez since 2009 because of the violence in the city, the Restaurant and Prepared Foods Industry Association says.

Business owners have been targeted by attacks, kidnappers and extortionists linked to drug cartels and other gangs.

Many businesses have closed out of fear or lack of customers in the city’s increasingly empty streets.

Ciudad Juarez has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.

This is part of a larger process of depopulation taking place in the area, as people try to find safety and the region effectively becomes ungoverned outside the range of a rifle.

Mexico isn’t a failed state yet, but the risk is growing — for us as well as the Mexicans.


Baghdad on the border?

March 5, 2011

Veterans of Baghdad or other Iraqi cities from just a few years ago might feel a disquieting sense of déjàs vu on reading this report:

“All-out fighting” was reported Friday afternoon in several areas of Matamoros, sources with knowledge of criminal activity there said.

Officials at the three international bridges in Brownsville said they were open as usual.

At approximately 5 p.m. gunmen began fighting each other along Calle Sexta, one of Matamoros’ main avenues, and also hijacked tractor-trailers and other large vehicles to block off main roads to keep the Mexican military away, stated a Mexican law enforcement official.

The blocked roads included the Calle Sexta and Calle Canales area, Calle Primera and Lauro Villar, Sendero Nacional, Marte R. Gomes, Avenida Manuel Cavazos Lerma, Calle Sexta and Diagonal, and Cuauhtemoc.

Heavy fighting was reported along Calle Sexta and Sendero Nacional. The fighting reportedly lasted more than two hours. The number of casualties was not available at press time Friday.

Chases between the Mexican navy and members of a criminal organization also were reported on the Avenida del Niño.

(via Borderland Beat)

But that wasn’t Baghdad or Mosul or Baquba. It was in Matamoros, just over the border from Brownsville, Texas:

And this isn’t just an isolated incident in one torn up border city. Battles like these are taking place in towns all along the border, as cartels fight each other and the Mexican military — when the latter aren’t working for the cartels. Juarez at the other end of the border with Texas recently saw the massacre of 14 people in gangland hits on bars and nightclubs. The situation has grown so dangerous for residents that many are fleeing their homes and abandoning their farms, leading to wholesale depopulation in some places:

A violence-ridden stretch of Mexico’s border with the United States has become virtually deserted due to intimidation from violent drug cartels, which have killed hundreds in that area in recent years, scared away local law enforcement and forced countless businesses to close shop.

Northern Mexico’s Juarez Valley, a cotton-farming area located on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, has become increasingly desolate, with its three towns having lost between 30 percent and 45 percent of their residents since 2005, according to census figures.

The exodus is blamed on the ever-growing presence of the Juarez cartel, headed by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, and the Sinaloa mob, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, in that coveted drug corridor, where army patrols are intermittent and the occasional rumble of a late-model SUV carrying several heavily armed men is a stark reminder of who is in control.

According to some experts, the cartels want to empty the area completely to facilitate their drug-smuggling operations.

All of which is leading to an increasing number of refugees, both internal and those who flee north.

But it’s not a national security problem for us. Hey, people are still planning to go there by the thousands for spring break! What could go wrong?

I think I’d feel safer taking mine in Baghdad.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The war down south

February 27, 2011

Here’s some data to chew on this Sunday evening, while America’s biggest narcissists engage in a public act of self-congratulation. In the last year, more civilians have died in Ciudad Juarez than in all of Afghanistan:

More civilians were killed last year in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas, than were killed in all of Afghanistan.

There were 3,111 civilians murdered in the city of Juarez in 2010 and 2,421 in the entire country of Afghanistan.

On a per capita basis, a civilian was 30 times more likely to be murdered last year in Juarez, where there are 1,328,017 inhabitants according to Mexico’s 2010 census, than in Afghanistan, where there are 29,121,286 people according to the CIA World Factbook.

The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan was compiled by the Congressional Research Service and published in a CRS report released on Feb. 3. The number of civilians killed in Juarez was compiled by Molly Molloy, a research librarian at New Mexico State University who maintains a count of murders Juarez and published it on the Frontera List Web site. Molloy’s work on civilian murders in Juarez was also referenced in a recent CRS report on Mexican drug cartels.

Much of the violence in Juárez is sparked by drug trafficking organizations battling over one of the major smuggling corridors into the United States.

In other words, you’re safer in Kabul 7,500 miles away than in Juarez, just over the border from El Paso.

But there’s nothing to be concerned about.

via Fausta

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Even for Juarez, this is bad

February 21, 2011

While our eyes are riveted on revolution in the Islamic world and the struggle between labor unions and representative democracy in Wisconsin, the cartel wars in Mexico rage on — 53 dead in Juarez in the last three days:

The El Paso Times reported Monday that the 53 victims, between Thursday and Saturday, included a police officer, a municipal patrolman and a state investigator.

A shootout Thursday in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, left a police officer and two alleged hit men dead. Chihuahua police identified the slain officer as Ricardo Torillo Sandoval.

Later Thursday, state police investigator Jesus Manuel Cruz Landin was shot and killed on his way home. A suspect has been arrested.

On Saturday, Patrolman Benjamin Nunez Nunez was shot and killed by a driver at a traffic stop.
Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia said Saturday that police will keep fighting crime.

I’m sure that’s reassuring to the people of your city, Mr. Mayor, since you’ve done such a bang-up job, so far.

MEANWHILE: You may have a hard time catching a taxi in Acapulco, since a dozen cabbies were killed over the weekend:

At least 12 taxi drivers were murdered during the weekend in Mexico’s touristic coastal city of Acapulco, Guerrero, officials said Sunday.

On Friday, five taxi drivers were found dead in or around their vehicles, and on Saturday, one driver was found dead and tied to his taxi with several gunshot wounds. Later that evening, two others were found shot dead inside their vehicles, one of them being decapitated.

In a separate incident, a group of gunmen opened fire against another taxi cab, killing the driver and three passengers.

The killing spree continued into Sunday, and reached the touristic areas of Acapulco. Five vehicles were set on fire and a chopped up body was later discovered in an apartment building

But there’s no security problem just past our southern border…

Remind me to take my next vacation in some place safe, like Baghdad.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Residents abandoning Juarez

September 16, 2010

From an article in Borderzine, a student journalism project of the University of Texas at El Paso. The war between the drug cartels has grown so serious that residents are abandoning the city:

According to newspaper records, a historical record was set for monthly and annual homicide totals was in 1995 with 34 victims in the month of August and 294 for the whole year. Fifteen years later, homicide rates have increased nearly ten fold. In 2008, 1,623 murders were recorded, with a much larger number of 2,754 in 2009.

“No longer is the violence in Juarez out of our lives but intricately part of it,” said Diego Acosta, a junior at UTEP.”

“I miss my old life very much, a city one that was once my home. I have built my life here [El Paso], my friends are here, or they come over often, and most importantly I feel safe here; I cannot say the same about Juarez,” lamented Esmeralda Zazueta, a current UTEP sophomore.

Despite the fact she misses Juarez, Zazueta explained that after violent threats to her family, they “panicked, began packing that afternoon, and were living in El Paso within two weeks.”

The violence in Juarez has also affected the housing market. According to Brandi Grissom of The Texas Tribune, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz reported an estimate of 20,000 homes have been abandoned since 2008, with the estimates of those who fled, and continue leaving the city, ranging from 100,000 to half a million or 38% of the city’s total population.

“While some have fled north to seek safety and prosperity in America, many more have gone back to their homes in southern Mexico,” Reyes Ferriz said.

According to a survey by the Observatorio de Seguridad y Convivencia Ciudadanas, seven out of ten Juarez citizens reported they have modified their everyday lives and routines due to the intolerable fear. This study showed 63% of the Juarez population perceives the city as dangerous and citizens of the downtown area reported feeling more at risk.

When does “illegal immigration” become a “refugee problem?”

(via Latina Lista)


Cartel Wars: 25 dead in Ciudad Juarez

September 15, 2010

…in three hours:

Drug-related violence continues to consume Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. Last Thursday’s toll of 25 killed over a three-hour period rattled a city that is already accustomed to numerous deaths a day.

It was the highest single-day toll recorded in the border city since the violence erupted there more than two years ago. Victims in Thursday’s shootings range in age from 15 to 67. They were mostly ambushed inside their homes, reports the El Paso Times.

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said the killings were believed to be acts of retaliation by the Juarez cartel for an alleged kidnapping of a child by the rival Sinaloa cartel. What’s not clear is what all those victims had to do with the alleged kidnapping.

Does it matter why, anymore? Public safety is all but nonexistent in several Mexican cities thanks to the gang wars and the government’s failures to rein them in. Reynosa, at the other end of the Texas-Mexican border from Juarez, is described as being under the open control of the Gulf and Zeta cartels, which are battling over the city like pirates over a captured woman, while the Mexican Army sits by, impotent.

Not only is there the human tragedy of people living in fear of their lives from bloodthirsty criminals, but what happens on their side of the border affects us, too. Not just from illegal immigration as people understandably look for a safer place to live, but also physical security. Already cartel violence is spreading into our cities. Do we have to wait for another raid on Columbus to take our border problems seriously?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bombs on the border

July 18, 2010

A car bomb exploded two days ago, killing police officers and civilians in a terrorist attack. The attack didn’t occur where one might expect, Baghdad or Kabul, but in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso:

Investigators in Mexico say a deadly attack by suspected drug cartel members in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez was a car bomb set off by mobile phone.

It is believed to be the first attack of its kind since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, promising to curb powerful drugs gangs.

Two police officers and two medics answering an emergency were killed.

Police said the attack was retaliation for the arrest of a leader of the La Linea drug gang, Jesus Acosta Guerrero.

La Linea is part of the Juarez drug cartel.

Here’s a video report from al-Jazeera’s English-language service:

(via Big Peace)

Since Calderon came to power nearly four years ago, roughly 25,000 Mexicans have died in violence related to the drug cartels. So far as is known, this is the first car-bomb attack. President Calderon claims that the violence shows the cartels are panicking, feeling the pressure put on them by his government’s security measures. That may be, but it’s nonetheless true that parts of Mexico, especially the areas that border the United States, are looking more like war zones and out of the central government’s control.

And that’s a problem for us.

We know that jihadist organizations such as Hamas and Hizbullah are trying to exploit our porous Mexican border. Recently Mexican police foiled an attempt to set up a Hizbullah cell in Tijuana. Decades of experience shows that terrorist groups will often cooperate with criminal gangs for their mutual interests and, indeed, the line between them often becomes blurred. With the cartels’ expertise in smuggling, an alliance with them would be attractive to our jihadist enemies. But what would they want in return?

How about a technology transfer?

Experts: Car bomb in Juárez mimics Middle East terrorist tactics

The car bombing in Juárez on Thursday in which three people were killed signifies an escalation of brutality and sophistication in the city’s 2-year-old drug war, officials said.

Juárez officials on Friday confirmed a car bomb with C-4 plastic explosives was detonated from a remote location.

Local experts said the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels apparently have adopted terrorists’ tactics that use suicide bombers and car bombs to kill foes or to make a point.

“It certainly seems like they’ve taken a page out of the Middle East,” said Richard Schwein, the former FBI special agent in charge of the El Paso office.

“The cartels read the news and they hear about what is happening in the Middle East with the use of car bombs and suicide bombers. I don’t think they will ever use suicide bombers here, but car bombs are easy to make and to use.”

This is the first time a car bomb has been used in the Juárez drug war, which has claimed the lives of nearly 5,800 people since in began in 2008.

Experts agree that the use of a car bomb with a sophisticated detonation system and C-4 is a new tactic, one that requires planning and deliberation.

(via Creeping Sharia, which thinks, contra Mexican authorities, that suicide attackers were involved)

Now, I’m not saying that Hamas or Hizbullah or any other jihadist group made this device for La Linea, nor that the cartel couldn’t figure out how to do it, itself. But the learning curve would be considerably shortened by training under a Hizbullah expert, and coming in the wake of a growing jihadist presence in Mexico is suggestive, at least.

And it’s something we should be very worried about.

RELATED: Mexico’s Zetas threaten to blow up a US dam? Cross-border collateral damage?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Call me naive, but…

July 1, 2010

Shouldn’t American buildings and civilians  coming under fire from across the Mexican border be considered just a wee bit newsworthy?

Several gunshots apparently fired from Juárez hit El Paso City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

No one was hurt, but nerves were rattled at City Hall in what is thought to be the first cross-border gunfire during a drug war that has engulfed Juárez since 2008.

El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said investigators do not think City Hall was intentionally targeted but rather was struck by stray shots.

“It does appear the rounds may have come from an incident in Juárez,” Petry said.

City Hall, whose east and west sides are covered by glass windows, sits on a hill about a half-mile north of the Rio Grande.

About 4:50 p.m., city workers were going about a regular day when a bullet penetrated a ninth-floor west side window of the office of Assistant City Manager Pat Adauto.

Police said the bullet flew through the window, then through an interior wall before hitting a picture frame and stopping.

And this isn’t the only incident, as Big Journalism reports: UT Brownsville was closed for a weekend when shots came from across the border, and incidents are happening so often that the Texas Attorney General has complained to the Federal government. While these shootings are the results of drug wars in Mexico and not direct attacks on the US, it’s only a matter of time before Americans are seriously killed or injured. Mexico has effectively lost or is losing control of its northern border cities, which is endangering our citizens as well as theirs.

But this isn’t covered in the major media, nor does the Obama administration seem concerned. (As with so many things)  I’d ask if it will take someone’s death for them to notice, but that mattered little in the murder of an Arizona rancher, a story briefly in the news and now largely forgotten.

A news media worthy of the name would be all over these stories, bringing the public a true picture of the increasingly troubled situation on our border. A president worthy of his office would make it clear to his Mexican counterpart that, if he can’t control his own cities, we’ll do it for him.

Call me naive, but is it too much to expect our political and cultural leaders to do their jobs?


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