Monday, March 17, 2008

No country for old men

I am certain that everyone involved is proud of Juarez becoming number 1, especially Nuevo Laredo.


Juárez is the newest narcotics war zone
Sean Mattson: Express-News

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — The latest hot zone in the country's unending drug wars is El Paso's neighbor, Ciudad Juárez. The border city has claimed the bulk of Chihuahua state's nation-leading 150 gangland slayings in the first 21/2 months of the year.

The tally was boosted by the discovery there last week of 33 bodies at a property federal authorities have linked to the Juárez narcotics cartel. Most of them were buried about five years ago, they said. But it was the more recent bloodshed last week that was prodigious even by Mexican standards. A shootout in Chihuahua City left six alleged cartel gunmen and one soldier dead.

In Guadalajara, seven people were shot dead Thursday at the office of a law firm whose principals counted accused drug gangsters and corrupt officials among their clients.
Two men were discovered shot to death Friday afternoon on a downtown Juarez street, their bodies left in a truck bearing Texas license plates.

Chihuahua state's death count remains nearly double that of the next-highest state toll, according to Reforma newspaper.

This year is on pace to set a nationwide record, with close to 600 killings in under three months despite President Felipe Calderón's deployment of thousands of soldiers to violence-prone regions.

More than 2,000 people have been killed in Mexico in each of the past two calendar years as narcotics gangs pummeled each other for turf and targeted soldiers and police.

Ciudad Juárez, a rough factory city of more than 1 million, came under international scrutiny for the disappearance and killings of some 400 women since the 1990s. Human rights groups have accused the state and federal governments of not acting more forcefully to solve the killings.
Gangland violence had waned in Ciudad Juárez in recent years as the bosses of the city's drug-smuggling organizations were killed or arrested.

But the bloodshed has increased again. Reports suggest the homegrown Juárez Cartel is fighting off challenges for smuggling routes from other criminal organizations including the Sinaloa Cartel, a Pacific Coast-based gang recently at war with the Gulf Cartel over smuggling routes into South Texas.

The tale unfolding in Juárez is similar to the recent experiences of other cities near the Texas border, such as Nuevo Laredo and the industrial metropolis of Monterrey. Both had spikes in drug-related violence in recent years, during which local police forces dwindled and state authorities shrugged off investigations of killings to disinterested federal prosecutors.

In January, a floral arrangement with a list of police targeted by drug gangs was found at the base of a statue dedicated to fallen officers in Ciudad Juárez, according to media reports.
At least nine police officers have been killed in attacks in the city this year, including a lieutenant on Friday, according to news reports.

As it has in other drug-troubled regions, the Mexican military has led the assault on gangs, making highly publicized drug and weapons busts.

In spite of implementing what is considered the most advanced criminal justice system in the country, state authorities are trying, with little success, to get federal authorities to take over the cases.

"The homicides are the product of organized crime and we initiate the early investigations" before urging federal authorities to assume responsibility, said Patricia González, the state attorney general.

But federal prosecutors have only taken a handful of cases, mainly the ones in which police officers were targeted, she said. The state did bring charges for an execution-style multiple slaying and prosecutors won a conviction on a single count that is currently under federal appeal.
Rodolfo Acosta, the chief justice of the state's supreme court, said judges are rethinking their security and considering bodyguards. A state judge who tried organized crime-related cases in the border state of Nuevo León was slain earlier this year.

"We haven't had ... a single threat," Acosta said. "But we can't rule out that in difficult cases, judges can be threatened."

"We're not going to wait until they kill one like it happened in Nuevo León," he said