Drug War 40

The global war as seen from the center of North America

“Behind the army or together with the army, the Sinaloa cartel comes”

From Frontera Norte Sur:

“Behind the army or together with the army, the Sinaloa cartel comes,” de
la Rosa told his audience. “We don’t know or can’t affirm if they came to
an agreement, but that’s the reality we are suffering,” he said.

“It is a war in which three armies participate-the army of the Juarez
cartel, the army of the Sinaloa cartel and the Mexican army,” de la Rosa
asserted. “The people of Juarez aren’t going to gain anything if the
Juarez cartel or the Sinaloa cartel falls.. I can assure you that the
salaries of the people of Juarez won’t go up even a dollar if one of the
two cartels falls.”

According to De la Rosa, the violence in his city has gone through three
distinct stages, with the first one devouring well-off people driving nice
cars and sporting fancy clothes. “It was obvious that the dead people and
the executioners were people linked to the cartels, cartel professionals.”
In the second stage, he said, a large number of young people, presumed
small-time drug dealers or members of the “reserve army” of the rival
cartel, were slaughtered by armed commandos. In the third phase, he
continued, a “terrible massacre” ensued of family members of rivals.

De la Rosa called a group of murder victims consisting of an estimated
300-400 drug addicts “invisible beings” whose deaths didn’t “serve
anybody.” Noting that family members of the slain addicts did not even
bother to press cases, de la Rosa concluded they were “invisible” even to
their own relatives.

Editor’s note: The following story was made possible in part by a grant
from the McCune Charitable Foundation for ongoing coverage of the southern
New Mexico borderland.

April 28, 2010

FNS Feature

Solidarity with a Besieged Sister City

New Mexico State University criminal justice Professor Cynthia Bejarano
has long heard the painful stories and seen the sorrowful faces from the
violence raging away in Ciudad Juarez just forty-five minutes south of her
Las Cruces campus. Lately, students have had loved ones attacked and
normal back-and-forth family visitations disrupted in their binational
community. And academic relationships between Mexican and US scholars have
suffered, as schools like New Mexico State warn their staff and students
about visiting dangerous areas in Mexico.

So when colleagues at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ)
proposed publicly airing their deep concerns in neighboring New Mexico,
Bejarano and fellow scholars were quick to jump in support of a sister
city.

“What happens there also affects us on this side of the border,” Bejarano
told Frontera NorteSur. “What we’re afraid of is that this is breeding a
sense of normalization, of normalized violence, that people understand as
part of the everyday routine, which is really worrisome and
disconcerting.”

Together with the UACJ, New Mexico State’s Department of Criminal Justice
and other divisions of the university sponsored a recent public forum in
which sometimes overlooked dimensions of the much-publicized violence in
Ciudad Juarez were analyzed and discussed. More than 100 people attended
the event, including a large number of individuals who indicated they had
personal ties to the Mexican border city.

UACJ researchers Hector Padilla and Hugo Almada examined the
socio-psychological ramifications of a violence Padilla said was becoming
a “socializing” factor in the development of the future generation.
Children and adolescents, the political scientist said, are first
introduced to a pervasive violence as spectators, graduate to serving as
its executioners and finally become its victims.

The more than two-year-old “narco war” has left an estimated 10,000
children orphaned and 40,000 relatives of victims impacted in one way or
another, sociologist Almada said, as well as a large number of people who
have suffered extortion and kidnapping.

Ciudad Juarez has an estimated population of 1-1.3 million people.

Clusters of depression, anxiety and panic attacks are spreading among the
population, Almada warned. “This is even leading to physical ailments in
the people,” he added.

As if to underscore the chilling points made by the two scholars, new
episodes of violence have riveted Ciudad Juarez in recent days, according
to local media reports. For instance, on April 22, the same day of the Las
Cruces forum, a man was shot to death outside Ciudad Juarez’s Luis Arnoldo
Gutierrez School right as the elementary schoolchildren were preparing for
morning recess.

The next day, several federal police officers, a female municipal cop and
a 17-year-old youth were slaughtered in a well-organized ambush. On April
27, 13 people were reported murdered. The morning of April 28 started on a
horrific note when armed gunmen mowed down 8 people outside a bar near
downtown Juarez and close to a place where federal police officers
reportedly are lodged.

According to New Mexico State researcher Molly Molloy, more than 800
people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez during 2010 so far. The current
pace of killings is only slightly less than the murder rate for 2009, when
about 2,600 victims-a record number-were registered.

Speaking in Las Cruces, Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson, investigator for the
official Chihuahua State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) analyzed the
evolution of the violence in Ciudad Juarez since 2008, when a war for
control of the city broke out between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.

Concurring with other panelists, de la Rosa defined the war as one that
was imposed on the people of the city. The state official said the
anti-drug Merida Initiative negotiated between the Bush and Calderon
administrations assured the Mexican army a central role, which soon became
controversial when the violence actually increased after troops were
officially deployed to halt the carnage.

“Behind the army or together with the army, the Sinaloa cartel comes,” de
la Rosa told his audience. “We don’t know or can’t affirm if they came to
an agreement, but that’s the reality we are suffering,” he said.

“It is a war in which three armies participate-the army of the Juarez
cartel, the army of the Sinaloa cartel and the Mexican army,” de la Rosa
asserted. “The people of Juarez aren’t going to gain anything if the
Juarez cartel or the Sinaloa cartel falls.. I can assure you that the
salaries of the people of Juarez won’t go up even a dollar if one of the
two cartels falls.”

According to De la Rosa, the violence in his city has gone through three
distinct stages, with the first one devouring well-off people driving nice
cars and sporting fancy clothes. “It was obvious that the dead people and
the executioners were people linked to the cartels, cartel professionals.”
In the second stage, he said, a large number of young people, presumed
small-time drug dealers or members of the “reserve army” of the rival
cartel, were slaughtered by armed commandos. In the third phase, he
continued, a “terrible massacre” ensued of family members of rivals.

De la Rosa called a group of murder victims consisting of an estimated
300-400 drug addicts “invisible beings” whose deaths didn’t “serve
anybody.” Noting that family members of the slain addicts did not even
bother to press cases, de la Rosa concluded they were “invisible” even to
their own relatives.

Of more than 5,000 murders in Ciudad Juarez since 2008, less than 100 have
been prosecuted, de la Rosa affirmed.

According to the human rights investigator, other examples of the mayhem
during the last two years include 30,000 extortions and 1,000 kidnappings.
Prior to 2008, kidnapping-for-ransom was not a common crime in Ciudad
Juarez, unlike other parts of the Mexican Republic, including the states
of Mexico, Morelos and Guerrero, where former or current members of law
enforcement agencies and the military often have been implicated in
professional kidnapping rings.

A former director of the Ciudad Juarez prison and longtime social
activist, de la Rosa made international news when he was detained for six
days in El Paso last fall by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement after
telling US border guards he was fearful for his safety.

In the days leading up to the incident, de la Rosa had reported receiving
threats, possibly linked to his probes of human rights abuses implicating
Mexican soldiers, and one of his bodyguards had been murdered.

The CEDH, de la Rosa said, has investigated more than 22 Ciudad Juarez
cases against the military that involve 30 disappeared or murdered
persons. Overall, more than 170 cases have gone to military prosecutors,
he said, but not a single soldier has faced a judge. “The soldiers have
100 percent guarantees of impunity,” de la Rosa contended.

De la Rosa credited public pressure for forcing the withdrawal of the army
from regular policing duties in Ciudad Juarez. The soldiers were replaced
by beefed-up contingents from the Federal Police earlier this month. This
month’s indictments of 17 federal officers on extortion and theft charges
was a positive sign of possible change, de la Rosa opined.

The Las Cruces forum participants proposed structural economic changes,
human rights campaigns, non-violent problem-solving, ending impunity, and
local community development as possible answers to the Ciudad Juarez
crisis.

Representing the Maria Sagrario Foundation of Ciudad Juarez, Paula Flores
presented a slide show that depicted the numerous programs launched by the
grassroots, not-for-profit organization in the working-class Lomas de
Poleo neighborhood. The foundation is named after Flores’ daughter, Maria
Sagrario Gonzalez, who was brutally murdered at the age of 17 in 1998. “My
Sagrario hasn’t died,” Flores said. “She lives on, she continues living in
the people.”

Operating on a shoe-string budget, the foundation offers arts-and-crafts
workshops, sewing classes, income-producing, and cultural programs for
both young people and adults. Plans are afoot for museum excursions, music
appreciation classes and literary workshops, Flores said.

In an interview with Frontera NorteSur, Flores extolled a project with
25-30 youths, so-called “Ni, Nis” who do not attend school or hold regular
employment, as an especially promising endeavor.

“You can say that we are rescuing them from forming gangs,” Flores said.
“We see that they have a lot of energy and we want this energy applied to
something more positive so they can contribute to ending this violence.”

Flores, however, was critical of the official “Todos Somos Juarez” program
launched by Mexico’s federal government earlier this year to tackle the
root causes of the Ciudad Juarez violence. Although Flores and her group
are well-known, they were not invited to join the working groups set up to
advise the program, she said.

“I think that in order to say, ‘We are all Juarez,’ they should begin with
the most humble, where the problem and necessity really is at in order to
eliminate all of this.”

New Mexico scholar and activist Bejarano said the Las Cruces forum was but
one step in a process of educating the US public about the community
“fightback” in Ciudad Juarez, sharpening the binational dialogue and
building cross-border linkages between people .

“I think one thing as Americans we really need to be cognizant of is that
it isn’t a coincidence that this violence is happening along the border,”
Bejarano said. “And we haven’t had serious conversations about the drug
trafficking coming into the US, the drug consumption and some of the other
vices that seem to exist here in the US that are sort of swept under the
rug.”

-Kent Paterson

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

For a free electronic subscription email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu

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Filed under: Analysis, News

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