From Frontera NorteSur:
It says a lot about the condition of a place when a story in a popular
newspaper about a man seriously injured by a machete blow to the head
might be viewed as a positive development. But the headline in the April
10 edition of the daily PM newspaper, Ciudad Juarez’s most sensationalist
rag, was noteworthy for another reason: not a single murder had been
officially tallied the previous day in the world’s most violent city.
As of the evening of April 12, about 655 people had been reported murdered
in Ciudad Juarez since the beginning of the year, according to the latest
press reports and statistics compiled by New Mexico State University
researcher Molly Molloy.
Last Friday’s lull in the killing came a day after a tactical tweak to the
much-criticized government security operation, Operation Chihuahua, was
announced. Beginning Thursday, April 8, Mexico’s Federal Police assumed
control of local policing from the Mexican military, which managed a
somewhat purged police force during much of the current municipal
In a statement, Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz announced that
Federal Police officials would take over the responsibility of running the
municipal police and transit departments. According to the mayor, the
2,500-member local police force will be greatly augmented by 5,000 federal
Reyes thanked retired General Julian David Rivera Breton and Lt. Col.
Efren Rodriguez Torres for their recent stints at the helm of local law
“The residents of Juarez recognize (Secretary of Municipal Public Safety
Rivera and Director of Transit Rodriguez) for the will, labor, dedication
and affection they have shown for our city,” Reyes Ferriz said, “even when
they were not from this piece of desert in the north of Mexico.”
Reyes said he would appoint the Federal Police officials who will
supervise the local police, but no names had yet been revealed as Frontera
NorteSur went to press. The new officials will also report to Federal
Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.
Members of the Juarez City Council, including representatives of Reyes’
own PRI party, complained they were not fully apprised of the switch-over
from the army to the Federal Police, and unaware of any written agreement
laying out the federal role.
“The truth of the matter is that I do not know what’s going on and why
Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz decided to go over the head of the City Council,”
said Arturo Dominguez, PRI city councilman.
“(Federal involvement)has to be regulated,” chimed in Gustavo Munoz Hepo,
coordinator of the conservative National Action Party (PAN)in the city
council. Munoz insisted that Reyes must clarify the new rules guiding the
security operation, in order to avoid abuses against the citizenry.
Indeed, less than 48 hours after the command change in Operation Chihuahua
was announced, fresh controversy emerged after the press reported that
federal policemen stole about $800 from a junkyard manager. Allegedly
threatened, the man reportedly fled Ciudad Juarez. The incident wasn’t the
first time members of the Federal Police involved in Operation Chihuahua
have been accused of criminal acts in Ciudad Juarez.
The ascendancy of the Federal Police does not mean that the army is
halting its operations in Ciudad Juarez. Three days after the change was
announced, soldiers were still stopping and searching cars and trucks
entering the city at the Stanton Street Bridge and doing the same to
vehicles exiting the city on Avenida Juarez leading up to the Santa Fe
Bridge to El Paso.
In some instances equipped with mounted .50 caliber machine guns on their
vehicles, soldiers were busy patrolling downtown Ciudad Juarez last
weekend. Truckloads of ski-masked federal officers also scoured the zone.
“The militarization in this city is going to last a long time, because the
strategy of Felipe Calderon is to militarize the cities,” said Gero Fong,
an organizer for the Frente Ciudadano Plural, a left-leaning network that
demands a halt to human rights violations and the withdrawal of the army
from Ciudad Juarez.
Developments in Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico indicate the army is
digging in for a long campaign in the so-called narco war.
Last week, Defense Secretary General Guillermo Galvan raised a political
ruckus when he urged the Mexican Congress to approve legal reforms that
would translate into a virtual suspension of constitutional guarantees.
Galvan requested that lawmakers allow soldiers to legally detain suspects
for 24 hours without turning them over to civilian authorities, permit
troops to enter homes without a search warrant, sanction military highway
blockages, and give the armed forces a green light to tap personal
communications. The army’s participation in the fight against organized
crime is likely to last another five or ten years, he said.
On Saturday, April 10, the 91st anniversary of Emiliano Zapata’s
assassination, The Frente Ciudadano organized a small protest in Ciudad
Juarez to honor the revolutionary hero and oppose militarization. In an
interview, Fong criticized human rights abuses during the various phases
of Operation Chihuahua, escalating violence and the possibility of greater
US military involvement in Mexico.
Since the start of Operation Chihuahua, Fong and other activists have
reported a pattern of harassment, intimidation and worse.
Fong told Frontera NorteSur that soldiers installed a checkpoint outside
his neighborhood for the first time only hours after the first protest in
2008 against the army’s presence, an event the activist helped organize.
Three days later, Fong said, soldiers surrounded his home for 20 minutes
before departing. About three months ago, another group of soldiers came
to his house and tried to enter without a search warrant, Fong complained,
adding that he immediately contacted fellow activists who helped mobilize
scores of people to his home. After the press arrived on the scene, the
soldiers left, he said.
Fong speculated that last January’s murder of Josefina Reyes, a former
elected official from the center-left PRD party and a well-known army
critic from the Juarez Valley, could have been the prelude to the recent
wave of violence in the rural zone south of the city in which scores of
people have been murdered and numerous homes burned down by bands of
presumed drug cartel gunmen operating with seeming impunity.
“We ask ourselves if the murder of our friend Josefina wasn’t preventative
repression,” Fong said, “because the massacres in the Juarez Valley were
being planned and (gunmen) did not need people who would protest and get
in the way.”
In recent weeks, many people have fled the strategic valley bordering the
US. “When the place is being watched by soldiers, this has to be
characterized as a social cleansing,” Fong contended.
At their protest, Fong and other activists passed out copies of the
Juaritos Times, a sassy publication that features articles such as a
play-by-play account of the running battle between protesting youths and
Federal Police during President Calderon’s last visit to
Another piece discussed a March forum held at Mexico City’s National
Autonomous University which was attended by relatives of students
massacred in Ciudad Juarez’s Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood in January,
as well as family members of murdered and disappeared young women and
“We are rebelling against death in the most violent city in the world,”
proclaims the Juaritos Times.
Julian Contreras was among numerous youths who traveled to the Mexico City
event, where common cause was made with striking miners and utility
workers, relatives of the Atenco prisoners and parents of the children
killed in the notorious ABC daycare fire in Sonora last year.
Young people in Ciudad Juarez, Contreras said, live in a violent city
lacking employment and educational opportunities. Social circumstances,
Contreras asserted, encourage many youths who do not study or work to
engage in a “certain degree of criminality” to survive.
“There’s no real war against drug trafficking,” Contreras said. “There’s
no real combat of organized crime, at its highest levels. What
(government) is doing is combating the lower strata of the population.”
According to one recent estimate, as many as 70,000 young people in Ciudad
Juarez do not attend school or have jobs.
The good news, Contreras said, is that Juarenses are beginning to shake
off the fear that’s dominated for the last two years. Politically, more
and more young people are speaking out, while socially, youths are
starting to go out again and patronize the local anthros, or nightclubs,
Contreras said. Massacres like the slaughter at the house party in Villas
de Salvarcar, he added, convinced many young people they might as well go
out since nowhere was safe, anyhow.
Contreras urged a drastic re-altering of economic policies in addition to
a better redistribution of wealth.
“We are in a country where there is no future for us as young people, and
this (situation) is blowing up and radicalizing us,” the young activist
said. “We are disposed to struggle for a better future, for a better
planet, and the only way to do this is to be in the streets denouncing,
acting, informing and organizing ourselves. This is going to be the way to
construct a better future.”
Additional Sources: Norte, April 10 and 12, 2010. Articles by F. Lujan,
F.A. Gonzalez, editorial staff, and El Universal. El Diario de El Paso,
April 11, 2010. PM, April 10, 2010. IMER (Mexican Institute of Radio),
April 8, 2010. La Jornada, April 8, 2010. Article by Roberto Garduno and
Enrique Mendez. El Diario de Juarez, March 31 and April 12, 2010. El
Universal, March 30, 2010.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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