Friday, May 29, 2009

Deputy Secretary Congratulates HB 185 Supporters for Making History

Rick Martinez, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration, the powerful budgeting arm of the Governor, congratulated the mutual domestic water associations of Berino, Desert Sands, La Mesa, Mesquite, and Vado, and their supporters, for their achievement in passing HB 185, converting them into a regional Authority. "You made broke the are the first mutual domestics ever in New Mexico to join together to become a Water Authority...The state has waited a long time to see this happen and you are the ones who did it," he said at a dinner celebration of the event at the Hotel Encantada on Friday evening to strong applause from a large crowd of South Valley supporters of the bill.

Martinez had encouraged the organizations to join together in a process that began several years ago and culminated in the unanimous passage of House Bill 185 and the signature of the governor making it law.

"When we started this process, we thought it would be easy. It wasn't," said Rep. Joseph Cervantes, who sponsored the bill, referring to last-minute efforts by Pat Banegas, manager of the Anthony Water and Sanitation District, and Frank Coppler, an attorney for the Anthony Water and Sanitation District, to derail the bill and, after it passed, to get the governor to veto it.

"Ten years from now, looking back, I'm sure that those who suspected our motives in passing this bill will say it was a major step forward for the South Valley," Cervantes added. "We have a tradition of selflessness in the valley, and the people in this room who got behind this project did so in that selfless spirit."

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, who co-sponsored the bill and, with Sen. Cynthia Nava, helped maneuver it through tricky parliamentary procedures in the Senate during the last moments of the session, thanked the hundreds of people who worked to pass the bill, including Deputy Secretary Rick Martinez, who, she said, would faithfully answer voice mails she left on his phone identifying herself only as "the thorn in your side," as part of her efforts to get the legislation enacted.

Olga Morales Sanchez, with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, who helped organize the local effort that joined the five mutuals together, said the achievement in passing the bill merited bringing it to the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency with a presentation she made at an EPA meeting last week in Seattle. "You are leaders not only at the state level but also at the national level," she said.

Rep. Mary Helen Garcia and Dona Ana County Commissioner Karen Perez, were also at the dinner, and were mentioned with gratitude by several of the speakers, for their support in getting the bill passed.

Marty Nieto, president of the Lower Rio Grande Mutual Demestic Water Association and president of the Mesquite mutual domestic water association, and Martin Lopez, who played major leadership roles in the long process of seeking agreement for the bill, acknowledged their gratitude for the hard work the legislators had performed and for the strong public support that was needed in order to pass the bill.

The celebration continued after formal ceremonies with a concert by the Mariachi Espuelas de Plata

Who Is Getting Kidnapped in Juarez?

From Norte: There have been two to three kidnappings per day in Juarez since the beginning of the year, according to the Citizens Institute on Insecurity. This probably understates the real number, since many families never report a kidnapping incident.

Suppliers have been hit especially hard, as well as owners of construction firms, used car dealers, maquila managers, package store owners, and other businessmen.

Miguel Galindo Figueroa, president of the board of directors of the Supply Center, told Norte the owners of supply stores have suffered an average of one kidnapping per week

Yesterday the body of a man kidnapped two days earlier by hooded men on Plutarco Elias Calles was found with bullet wounds to the head and other signs of violence. Apparently the kidnappers had established contact with family member, who paid the requested ransom, but he was killed anyway.

On may 14 a kidnap victim managed to escape from the safe house where he was held, by jumping from a second story window. Kidnappers had amputated one of his thumbs which they sent to his family.

The manager of Lear Corporation was rescued from a safe house earlier this year. On April 29 the owner of a junkyard was killed when he resisted efforts by kidnappers to take him at his place of business. On May 12 the body of Jorge Nicolás Fonseca was found dead, shot in the back; he had been kidnapped three days earlier from his business. The family paid a large ransom and were told he would be found safe at the location where his body was found.

The business community is growing increasingly frustrated by the apparent inability of police forces to crack these rings of kidnappers. They have been requesting the formation of a joint, interagency anti-kidnapping team combining local, state, and federal agents with intelligence capabilities as well as adequate law enforcement training.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Army To Stay in Juarez Through December

When President Felipe Calderon visited Juarez two weeks ago a delegation representing a cross section of Juarez society petitioned him to keep the troops quartered in the city until the end of the year, to give the city time to recruit 3000 police officers. Diario reports this morning the petition has apparently been granted.

It is unclear who will pay for the extra stay of the army. Until September, the city of Juarez is paying for the troops.

City officials expect that by September only 2700 out of the authorized 3000 will have been recruited. Mayor Reyes Ferriz said he hoped the troops will stay six months longer, rather than just three.

715 our of about 1500 municipal police have been fired. Some have been murdered, and others have simply deserted in the wake of the spike in violence that began two years ago.

The presence of military troops in Juarez to assist municipal police began in January 2008, with the introduction of 500 troops to patrol the city. On March 27 2008 Joint Operation Chihuahua was announced, and an additional 2000 troops were brought to Juarez. Earlier this year, in response to another spike in violence, another 5000 troops were assigned to Juarez.

Twentieth Lawyer Murdered

Norte reports that Víctor Manuel Bejarano Hernández, 34, an attorney, was assassinated yesterday at 2:30 p.m. as he was driving a blue Ford Windstar 2001 yesterday in the col. Ex Hipódromo. No shells were found near the scene, raising the possibility a revolver was used, possibly by someone in his vehicle at the time. He was shot in the temple and the back side of his head. Mr. Bejarano had been in the armed forces at one point, and was close to a number of military persons. He often defended persons accused of drug offenses.

Mr. Bejarano is the twentieth lawyer killed so far. None of the crimes has been solved.

Mr. Bejarano is the 84th person murdered in Cd. Juarez in May, and the 612th victim of assassination so far this year in Juarez.

Brother of Treasurer Had Refused to Pay Extortion

óscar Eduardo Urías Cantú, 50, (see below), brother of the city treasurer and cousin of Oscar Cantú Murguía, the owner of Norte, was killed apparently because he refused to pay an undisclosed amount of money to a group of extortionists, according to stories in Diario and Norte this morning.

A men in a black compact car (a Tempo or Honda) parked in front of Mr. Urías' house got out to confront the victim at 1:30 p.m. as he was getting into a black and gold 2007 Ford Lobo pickup with Texas plates. The assassin was only about 4 feet away as he started shooting. A witness said he heard four shots initially, then, after a pause, more. Ten 9 mm spent shells were found near the scene. Mr. Urías lifted one arm and a leg to try to defend himself. He was shot in the left collarbone, chin, abdomen, left side, left elbow, and pelvic region. One of his sons was seen crying over the body after it had been covered with a sheet.

A witness said he was the fifth person assassinated in the neighborhood (Las Misiones) in the last year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Violence in Juarez: A live "encajuelado!" More executions

Diario reports an extremely unlikely discovery when police caught up to a driver who fled from traffic police and crashed into a tree. In the course of arresting the driver, federal police opened the trunk and discovered a man, alive, bound and gagged, his face and head covered with blood, and whip wounds on his back. Police suspect the driver was transporting the man to some place suitable for his execution. Diario shows a photgraph of a message written on a piece of carboard found in the trunk which says, "This is what happens to people who talk..."

Violence: Oscar Urías Cantú, 50, brother of the Juarez Municipal Treasurer, was gunned down as he left his home Wednesday afternoon. He was getting into a late-model Ford pickup with Texas license plates.

At about 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday an unidentified man was shot at Sierra Maestra and Montes Himalaya. Seven spent shells were found near the body.

A little earlier, at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the charred body of a man was found in an empty lot at Ramón Rivera Lara and Oscar Flores, near a Del Rio convenience store. Employees of the store said they noticed smoke coming from the lot in back of the store last Sunday, but since it seemed to be extinguishing itself they did not call firemen. The body was later identified as belonging to Ambrosio Almeda, 45, who had been missing since Saturday.

Compiled from stories in Diario this morning.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two More Executions in Juarez

They were apparently shot at close range in the back of the head, hands tied behind their backs, heads covered. Four empty 9 mm casings were found next to the bodies. One man, about 35, was wearing a white checkered shirt, blue denim pants, and cowboy boots. The other, about 40, was wearing a white striped shirt, blue denim pants, and cowboy boots. They were found in a remote area, 300 yards from the intersection of Avellano and Granado, on the road to Granja Santa Elena.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Southern Legislative Conspiracy? No Movida Here: Just a Wedding, Really

From left to right: Sen. John Arthur Smith, Chair, Senate Finance Committee; Rep. Andy Nunez, Chair, House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee; Rep. Joseph Cervantes, Vice Chair, House Judiciary Committee; Sen. Mary Kay Papen, Vice Chair, New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Interim Committee; Rep. Dona Irwin, Member, Water and Natural Resources Interim Committee; Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, Vice Chair, Economic and Rural Development Interim Committee; Sen. Tim Jennings, President Pro Tem, New Mexico Senate

What looked suspiciously like a conclave of powerful Southern New Mexico legislators conspiring in Cloudcroft to seize more power for South of I-40 turned out to be much more benign. The occasion? The wedding of Sen. Mary Kay Papen's daughter, Allison Kuper to Gregg Smith on Saturday morning. Eyewitnesses who wish to remain anonymous assure me that during the entire three-hour event not a peep of political gossip was overheard. Do you believe that?

Indios of Juarez Finish First Season

The Indios of Juarez finished their first season as a professional soccer team in Juarez last night at Estadio Hidalgo, with a win 3-2 win over the Tuzos de Pachuca. They were, however, eliminated from the finals by a loss to the same Tuzos on Friday night.

Readers in El Paso or New Mexico who would like to see professional soccer should consider taking in some games next year. In spite of all the problems in the city, Juarez got behind the team and supported it strongly.

In the longer term, the Paso del Norte region should think about creating a border soccer league, perhaps based at universities, say, between UTEP, NMSU, UACJ, and UACh, or perhaps creating a local pro team, like the Diablos in baseball, to compete in the same league as the Indios.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

El Paso, Cd. Juarez Police Departments Compared

With Cd. Juarez dramatically increasing its spending on police forces this year in the midst of a public security crisis, it might be useful to compare Juarez with its sister city, El Paso, in matters of public security.

Population: The population of Juarez is estimated at anywhere from 1.5 million to about 1.7 million. For the sake of this comparison, let us choose the more conservative figure of 1.5 million. El Paso county (which is larger than the city, just as the municipality of Juarez is larger than the city of Juarez) has a population of just over 742,000, almost exactly one half the population of Juarez.

Size of police force: Until earlier this year, when the Mexican army stepped into the role of municipal law enforcer, Cd. Juarez had a police force of about 1500 active officers. The city intends to double that to a force of 3000 by the end of the year.

El Paso has a city police force of about 1100 officers, and the county has 628 professional law enforcement officers, for a total coverage of 1728 officers. In other words, until earlier this year, El Paso, with half the population, had more police than Juarez. El Paso, it should be noted, has one of the lowest crime rates for any city in the U.S. in that population range. Juarez has one of the highest crime rates in Mexico, and, given the presence of large-scale drug trafficking, is the site of a good deal of violence related to these activities.

Assuming Cd. Juarez is able to train 3000 police officers by the end of the year, at this time next year the city should be in the ball park with El Paso in personnel size on a per capita basis. At present El Paso has one officer for every 429 persons living there. Juarez will have one officer for every 500 persons living there, not a dramatic difference. This ratio is probably the best single, overall indicator to use in comparing police forces in the two cities. Issues of quality of training, technology, public perception, and the like are valid, but difficult to compare across the cultural divide without extensive research.

Budgets: The El Paso city police budget is $114,823,289 for FY 2009, slightly down from 2008. The El Paso county budget for public security for 2009 is $101,103,671, for a combined total of $215,926,960. If we use the current exchange rate of about 13 pesos to the dollar, the Juarez budget for 2008 ($239 million pesos) was about $18,384,615 in U.S. dollar terms, 11.8 times smaller than the combined city-county budget for public security in El Paso.

This comparison is not too revealing, since it does not take into account different standards of living and in the purchasing power of money in the two cities. Wage rates are about 7-8 times more in El Paso than in Juarez, so if we multiply the U.S. dollar-converted budget for Juarez by 8 times, this would yield a budget, in purchasing power, of slightly more than $147 million dollars per year. Translated into per capita terms, this would mean El Paso spends $291 in local law enforcement for each person living in El Paso, while Juarez spends the equivalent of about $98 in law enforcement expenses for each person living in Juarez. If Juarez doubles its local law enforcement budget as planned in the next few months, and if our adjustment is reasonably accurate, it will be spending the equivalent in purchasing power of almost $200 in law enforcment for each person living in Juarez, still shy of the $291 per capita figure for El Paso.

This methodology is not perfect The purchasing power adjustment I made at 8 is based entirely on maquila-level wage rates, which does not tell the whole story. Professional salary differences are not quite as pronounced. Changing it to 7, for example, would be reasonable, and would lower the per capita figure from $98 to $86. But it provides a ballpark point of comparison. Another problem, as noted above, is that the methodology does not take into account differences in the training and experience levels of the two police forces, nor does it take into account public confidence in the ability of police forces to actually provide security, or other contextual differences.

Juarez Municipal Expenditures on Security Are Double Last Year's

Norte reports that last year the municipal government of Juarez spent about $239 million pesos on public security; this year the bill will be more like $460 million, with additional sums provided by the federal government. Training and salaries for the 3000 police officers now being recruited will cost about $300 million. The project to put thousands of video cameras on the streets, about $200 million pesos, will be paid for with grants from the federal government.

Four more executed in Juarez

The man killed on Thursday night in front of a beauty salon (see photo) was a state police agent who worked in the Special Unit for Stolen Vehicles. The body of Jonathan Francisco Fabián Martínez, 22 years old, was found next to a pickup with 19 .223 caliber and 7.62 mm spent casings nearby. He had gunshot wounds to the head, back, and shoulders. He was the fourth state police agent killed so far this year. Two state police agents were killed by gunfire on January 20 as they were driving on Ave. de la Raza and Fernando Montes de Oca. A third police agent, Manuel Lorenzo Saucedo Delgado, was killed on February 28 (see story on March 1 here) by army troops while driving in a an official vehicle with two other agents in a case that is still under investigation

Four others were executed on Thursday evening and Friday. Fernando Reza Zambrano, 32, was killed by 9 mm. gunfire to the chest and side in El Porvenir at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday. Jorge Alfredo Díaz Muños, 18, was killed by a gunshot wound to his left side at the intersection of Cactus del Desierto and Vibora, A charred body was found in a home in col. Granjas de Santa Elena late on Thursday night. And Juan Carlos Rodríguez Flores, 28, died at 5:37 in the morning on Friday in a hospital after sustaining gunshot wounds on May 16.

Compiled from stories in Norte and Diario

Friday, May 22, 2009

Muckety Puts Up Map of State Investment Council Relations

Muckety, a web site that specializes in producing interactive maps showing relationships between various inter-connected networks in politics, business, news media, and show business, has put up a map with inter-relationships between the New Mexico State Investment Council and other entities. To view it, click here. If you click on some of the nodes of the network you can follow some of the relationships that have been written about in the coverage of scandals associated with the way in which taxpayer investment funds have been handled in New Mexico. You need to fiddle around with it for awhile to get used to it, and there is some information overload associated with it, but you can refresh the screen and go back to the original simple diagram with just a click.

Violence in Juarez

Diario reports this morning an unidentified man, about 35-40 years old, was killed last night at about 9 p.m. outside a beauty salon at Lopez Mateos and Zampoala. The man, wearing black pants and a pale blue shirt, was found by the driver's side of a late-model pickup.

The El Paso times reports today U.S. resident with a gunshot wound he suffered in Juarez was taken at 6:30 a.m. to Thomason Hospital. No other details were released.

Alleged "Chapo" Money Launderer Arrested in Parral

Román Valenzuela, alleged launderer of money for the Chapo Guzmán organization headquartered in Sinaloa, was arrested by the Mexican army in Parral, Chihuahua, last Monday, along with six other persons accused of collaborating with him. The army believes Mr. Valenzuela laundered over $100,000 through banks in El Paso and Los Angeles.

New Water Commissioner Named

The Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE) has named Roberto Fernando Salmón Castelo to become the Mexican Commissioner to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC/CILA). Mr. Salmón until a few days ago served as the head of the National Water Commission of Mexico, the highest national authority in water management. The U.S. Commissioner has offices in El Paso and the Mexican Commissioner has offices in Cd. Juarez.

Luis Antonio Rascon has been serving as interim commissioner since the untimely death last fall of Arturo Herrera, who died in a plane crash with his U.S. counterpart, Carlos Marin, while flying over flooded areas near Ojinaga, Mexico. On the U.S. side President Bush last November named Bill Ruth to replace Carlos Marin.

Formed in the late nineteenth century, the IBWC is the oldest binational institution on the U.S.-Mexico border. It's charge is to manage binational water issues along the border and to enforce the Water Treaty of February 3, 1944.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Auto Assembly Plant in Juarez? How Do We Get There?

In New Mexico instead of thinking about our role in the global economy we are currently bogged down what seems to be a revival of cronyism and systemic corruption in state government, diminishing public confidence in our institutions. At the tail end of a swine flu outbreak, in the middle of a major recession, with two-hour wait times on the bridges, and with the city occupied by 8000 troops to combat the spike in violence, it is a sign of an indomitable spirit to see that business leaders in Juarez are still thinking strategically, ambitiously, and with an eye on collaboration with El Paso for future economic growth. Norte is my source for this story.

At a presentation yesterday of a proposed "Accord for Society and Prosperity" between the non-profit Desarrollo Economico de Juarez and the City of El Paso, the president of the Juarez Association of Maquiladoras, Soledad Maynez Bribiesca outlined steps Cd. Juarez will have to take before the city can attract a plant to build finished automobiles.

"An auto assembly plant would create 35,000 jobs, and it doesn't make sense for us not to have an assembly plant since we are already making 80% of an automobile in component parts manufactured here in Juarez," she indicated. But she outlined four steps Juarez must take before the city might attract an automobile manufacturer.

First, the city must improve its police forces and overall security conditions. Second, a manufacturer will have to know they can export finished automobiles without impediment to other countries. Third, government regulations will have to be drawn up to speed up the installation and operation of a plant. And fourth, the railroad network in the borderlands will have to be improved.

Out of the four conditions Ms. Maynez mentioned, the one most likely to reach rapid fruition is the one that seemed to be the most difficult to achieve five years ago, the improvement of the railroad infrastructure. See my interview of Jerry Pacheco for a summary of what is happening on that front

She indicated her organization has not yet begun a project to attract an assembly plant, and believes this would be much easier to accomplish as a joint effort with the city El Paso.

Robert Andrade, an assistant to Mayor John Cook of El Paso, spoke at the meeting, saying that the time has passed when El Paso and Juarez see themselves as distinct cities from two different countries. "Juarez is important to us, not only for trade, but also because together we can create a business complex, similar to the Detroit-Canada region, where industrial production and commerce are intertwined." The goal of the accord is to provide value-added for regional production and to reactivate economic activity, he added.

The president-elect of Desarrllo Económico de Juárez, Jorge Contreras Fornelli, said the economic and security crisis "requires us to...compete at the global level as a single Juárez-El Paso-Las Cruces region. México is more competitive than China in costs, and we need to take advantage of the fact that Juárez is one of the cities most capable of competing in manufacturing, due to the price of skilled labor."

An auto assembly plant in Juarez would create a huge potential for suppliers on the U.S. side at Santa Teresa, Sunland Park, as well as El Paso.

Only one execution yesterday in Juarez

Driving a green Cherokee Jeep at the busy intersection of Centeno and Ave. Tecnológico during the afternoon rush at 4 p.m., José Antonio Gaudillo, 35, apparently noticed he was being followed by a vehicle behind him. He stepped out of his Jeep at the intersection, trying to flee, but gunmen in a red vehicle got down, chasing him, and shot him dead at point blank range. The gunmen then fled the scene.

Summarized from a report in Norte by Carlos Huerta

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mexican economy shrinks 8.2% in First Quarter of 2009

INEGI, the Mexican government statistical agency, revealed today (to see report click here) the Mexican economy has had negative growth for the second consecutive quarter, which by definition puts Mexico's economy into the category of recession. In the fourth quarter of 2008 the economy fell 1.6% and in the second quarter it fell 8.2%. Some sectors were worse than others. Commerce was down a whopping 17.2%, and manufacturing was down 13.8%. These two categories weigh heavily in the economy of Juarez, so if we add to the downturn of the economy the effect of the swine flu scare and the quasi-martial law in Juarez, overall business conditions must be extremely poor in our sister city to the south.

Finance Minister Agustin Carstens today indicated he believed the economy would not recover until the end of the year, and he revised previous estimates of Mexico's economic growth in 2009 down to a decline of 5.5% from previous estimates of 4.8%. The effect of the swine flu scare is estimated to generate a .3% decline in gross domestic product.

Retraction: 911 Was Called, and Spill Incident Reported

In connection with the story I posted yesterday about the Mesquite ammonia spill, I have been informed from an anonymous email apparently sent to me from the New Mexico Environmental Department that:

"The management of Desert Air Cooling DID call 911 and DID report the incident immediately after its occurance (sic). The Fire Chief for Mesquite states that Desert Air Cooling was very helpful when they arrived following the incident. The Las Cruces Sun will make the announcements about its mistake in the 05/21/09 issue of its newspaper."

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the report from the NM Environmental Department, although the misspelling of "occurence" and the anonymity of the email did raise my suspicions. I will assume it is accurate. Therefore, my highly negative reaction to the Meeks story should be considered, in the famous euphemism of Richard Nixon, inoperative. I have incorporated the email into the comment section, but I think it is only fair to give this retraction a stronger line.

The Mother's Milk of Politics: Richardson Style

California Speaker of the House and Jesse Unruh is credited with coining the phrase, "money is the mother's milk of politics," back in 1966, right after he and Ronald Reagan cut a deal to do away with open primaries. This move protected incumbent liberal Governor Pat Brown against the threat in his own party from Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty, a moderate Democrat, who ran against him that year hoping Republicans would cross over and vote for him, and it protected conservative Reagan from the danger of a moderate Republican primary opponent who might attract moderate Democrats. By "closing" the primaries against these threats, it meant smart money in each party would flow to Brown and Reagan, respectively. As it turned out both won their primaries and Reagan beat Brown in the general election. When reporters asked Unruh to explain the contradiction that he, a liberal Kennedy Democrat, would cut a deal with the most conservative Republican politician in California in a relatively undemocratic move, Unruh replied with his famous phrase.

Yes, politics is about determining who gets the milk, when, and how much.

But what happens when the milk turns sour?

So sour that access to profitable favors time and again is given to a small group of insiders, often at taxpayer expense?

New Mexicans are beginning to get a glimpse of the answer to this question as the Albuquerque Journal uncovers one outrage after another in the "pay-to-play" culture that reigned during the Richardson administration.

The latest outrage is reported this morning in the Albuquerque Journal by Thomas J. Cole. It seems Santa Fe contractor Sonny Otero was able to sell a 12 acre piece of property to the state (that is, to us, the taxpayers) for $5.9 million, $3.2 million more than he paid for the land 28 months earlier. And (are you surprised?) he also made a contribution of $50,000 to Richardson's re-election campaign two months after the sale closed in January 2006. The state has done nothing with the land ever since. As Coles puts it, "The state never needed the property, doesn't need it today and may never need it."

Yes, money is the mother's milk of politics, but when access to that milk comes to depend much too heavily on one's contributions to political campaigns, taxpayers are justified in their distrust of the motives behind the actions of state government officials across the board, and justified in their feeling taxpayer money is being wasted in ways that undermine our confidence in the integrity of state government.

Two More Executed Last Night: Juarez

Three men between the ages of 20 and 25 were standing outside a residence in the col. La Cuesta near Cordillera de los Andes and the Casas Grande highway last night at about 7:30 p.m. A gray Pathfinder pickup and a white Stratus were driving by when the men in the vehicles began shooting at them. One of the victims, Daniel Cervantes Devis, dressed in an orange polo shirt, black shorts, and white tennis shoes, tried to get under a Lincoln Town Car that was parked near him. He did not survive the attack. The second victim, named Alfredo (surnames not identified), wearing a dark T-shirt and denim pants, was killed nearby. The third victim, Alejandro Cervantes, received multiple bullet wounds to a leg and was taken to a hospital on the Casas Grandes highway just a few yards from the scene. Witnesses said at least 30 gunshots were heard during the attack.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Encajuelado ("'Trunked' Man" Found Early This Morning

From Diario this morning: The body of an as-yet unidentified man was found "encajuelado" ("trunked," referring to a dead body being found in the trunk of a car, a common signature in the non-verbal vocabulary of death in Juarez) this morning (Tuesday May 19) at 12:45 a.m. in the trunk of a white 1998 Nissan on Globo Street (near Insurgentes) in La Chaveña. A sign on the body read, "for being an extortionist."

A conflict over jurisdiction occurred after elements of the Army took over the crime scene and state police arrived to investigate. State police authorities were told by army personnel to leave the crime scene. It is the responsibility of state government to investigate homicides, but it is also the responsibility of the federal government to investigate narco-related crimes, including homicides. After a lengthy discussion state officials were allowed to enter the crime scene and look for evidence.

Bar Reopened After Executions

The San Martin bar, in the tourist section of Juarez at the corner of Lincoln and Hermanos Escobar, reopened on Saturday after Friday night's shooting, which left two men dead. José Alberto Holguín Rascón, 26, and Roberto Acosta Franco, 36, were killed at 9:15 p.m. by a group of men who entered the bar apparently looking for the men. 17 9 mm. spent shells were found in the bar. An investigation determined that the bar owners and managers had no responsibility for the shootings so the bar was reopened.

13 persons were killed on Friday, May 15, 5 were killed on Saturday, and at least 2 were killed on Sunday, marking the bloodiest weekend so far since the army was deployed to Juarez in February and March.

Mesquite Ammonia Spill Is a Test for State Government

The ammonia spill at Desert Air Cooling Co. in Mesquite last Thursday evening is a test case of just how adequate the state's environmental law enforcement system is. From what I have seen in the Las Cruces Sun News coverage by Ashley Meeks of the event, Desert Air did not comply with their legal obligation to call a hot-line within 24 hours of the event, nor, according to a witness, did employees of the company allow firefighters into the plant to investigate, nor did they call 911. If these indications are true there was an extremely serious breach of trust between company employees and the public, and we will monitor to see what the state--the responsible agent in this case--will do to punish infractions and what steps it might take to prevent such incidences from reappearing here or somewhere else in the state.

As covered in the Sun News, a valve malfunctioned on an ammonia tank at Desert Air (a company that chills lettuce for shipping), causing pressurized, liquid ammonia to escape into the air, at about 7 p.m. on Thursday evening. A number of residents reported serious symptoms from breathing the contaminated air, and there is the possibility that the spill could affect groundwater supplies. Meeks reports that Desert Air has refused to state what happened, referring questions to the manager of a different company, Charles Johnson Co., who has been unavailable. It is unclear why firefighters who were refused entry to the plant did not call FEMA and seek federal assistance during the incident.

Citizens of Mesquite have for many years found, to their dissatisfaction, that the wheels of justice in the area of environmental law turn very slowly, if at all, and only when the entire community is mobilized, something that requires enormous amounts of time and energy.

It should not be this way. No function of government is as important as providing for the safety of its citizens, and when this is threatened, state intervention should be swift, decisive, and automatic. This is not a liberal or conservative issue; it is much more fundamental than that, and goes back to the very reason for the existence of government in the first place. Thus, the action of the state in response to this incident should be of concern to all New Mexicans.

I emphasize this only because many citizens of the south valley are not pleased at the apparent lack of concern by state environmental authorities as these have handled complaints about landfills, chemical plants, and other potentially damaging environmental threats. If the state's environmental laws don't carry enough bite in them to act as a serious deterrent, this would be a good time for environmental officials to make some strong recommendations to the legislature, including the imposition of criminal charges for failure to abide by legal requirements.

The state of New Mexico owes it to the citizens of Mesquite, and, by extension, the rest of the state, to explain clearly just which laws, if any, were broken, and, if so, what the penalties will be. Just as Desert Air should be held accountable to the state for its actions, or lack of actions, on Thursday night, the state of New Mexico should be held accountable by the citizens of the state for its responsibilities in assuring the safety of each community.

Tomorrow: Data on the Mexican Economy to be Released: Industrial sector down 9.9%

During the first four months of 2009 Mexico's industrial sector contracted 9.9%, the worst trimester contraction since the last trimester of 1995, when the it fell 10.8%. In 1995 the economy collapsed as foreign investors withdrew their holdings in Mexico following the 1994 assassination of popular presidential candidate Donaldo Colosio, and the Chiapas rebellion, drawing attention to the low level of legitimacy of the Mexican state under the guidance of the ruling party, the PRI.

Manufacturing was down 13.8% in the first trimester of 2009, an indicator of what might be happening in Juarez, which relies heavily for jobs in the maquila sector, which in turn relies on the U.S. economy. Construction, which government action can control some, was down only 7.7%.

Tomorrow the government will release gross domestic product data for the first trimester. Given the effects of the U.S. recession on the Mexican economy, and the beginning of the effect of the swine flu crisis, experts expect gdp to be down at least 8%.

Monday, May 18, 2009

President Calderon Promises to Keep Troops Longer in Juarez

President Calderon met with government officials in Cd. Juarez on Thursday morning, and with businessmen in the afternoon. The businessmen complained about the effect of the current security situation in Juarez. He gave a brief speech at Army Headquarters near the airport, saying "this is ground zero in the fight against drug cartels." The armed forces, which now number about 8000 troops, will remain in Juarez, not for a long time, but long enough to give the government time to purify ("depurar") state and local law enforcers, and to train new police officers.

More Violence in Juarez: 20 killed over the weekend; 580 so far this year.

I've been out of town for a few days so I missed one of the bloodiest weekends so far this year in Juarez. A total of 20 persons were murdered, two of them decapitated, one of them a student at Coronado High School in El Paso. Some of the cases are summarized below.

The body of David Olivas Aguilera, 25-30 years old, was discovered without a head at 10:02 p.m. on Friday May 15, in Porfirio Parra. The same day the decapitated body of Freddie Perez was identified by police, also in Porfirio Parra. Cause of death was determined to be strangulation. In both cases the victims had their hands handcuffed behind their backs and their heads were nearby.

At 10:02 p.m. on friday night at the corner of Tarento and Golfo Alaska (Ciudad Moderna) the body of a man about 22 years old was found seated in a blue 2001 Mustang convertible, with bullet wounds to the head, back, left arm, and abdomen. He was wearing a blue and white polo shirt, blue pants and white shoes. Investigators located 13 9 mm spent casings nearby.

Carlos Olivas Méndez, 21, was found dead in Zaragoza, between Chamizal and Ignacio Allende. There were gunshot wounds to his left thigh, right armpit, and a head wound that exposed part of the brain. Several 12 mm spent casings were found nearby

Tania Lozoya, a 15-year old girl at Coronado High School in El Paso, was shot to death at a birthday party in Juarez, at a home located at Ignacio de la Peña and Brazil in col. Partido Romero. She was with her parents at the time when a shooting broke out and she was wounded in the neck. She died later Saturday night. Two young men were badly wounded in the attack. Six 9 mm spent casings were recovered for investigation. Ms. Lozoya was the 29th female assassinated so far this year. As I write there have been 580 murders in Juarez so far this year, and 48 so far this month.

Alicia Enríquez Méndez, 45, died on Saturday night at a Social Security Clinic No. 35, after being attacked by a man who shot her in the left shoulder and shoulder blade region.

A man about 25 years old was executed on Sunday afternoon, May 17, at the corner of Carlos Dickens and Infonavit Casas Grandes while driving a white Nissan Maxima. The killers drove next to the vehicle, which apparently was stopped. One of the assassins got out of the car, went to the car of the victim, and shot at least four times at the head and body of the man.

Summarized from a story in Norte by Pablo Hernandez Batista, and from stories in Diario de Juarez

Thursday, May 14, 2009

El Paso, Dona Ana County Populations

The Census Bureau has released figures reported this morning by Ramon Bracamontes in the El Paso Times and by Steve Ramirez in the Las Cruces Sun News, indicating that El Paso now has a population of about 742,062, and Dona Ana County has a population of about 201,603. Cd. Juarez had a population of 1,301,452 four years ago. Together, this adds up to a population of about 2,245,117 for the Paso del Norte region as a whole. In contrast, New Mexico had an estimated population total of 1,984,356 on July 1, 2008.

El Paso has a population that is about 82% Hispanic, while Dona Ana County is 65% Hispanic, compared to about 45% for New Mexico as a whole. If you assume the Juarez population is 100% Hispanic, this would mean that 2,039,250 citizens in the region are Hispanic, almost 91% of the total, the vast majority of whom are spanish-speaking.

At the U.S. national level 15% of the total population is Hispanic, up from 14% just a year or two ago. And as a forecast of what is to come, fully 25% of all children under age 5 today are Hispanic. When other minorites are added to the mix, 47% of all children under 5 are minority.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

President Calderon Due in Juarez Tomorrow

After postponing his trip to Juarez a few weeks ago due to the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico City, President Felipe Calderon has rescheduled, and will visit Cd. Juarez tomorrow. He will discuss the impact of the current economic downturn in Mexico on the local Juarez and border economy, as well as meet with officials to discuss the effectiveness of Joint Operation Juarez, which began more than a year ago but which was beefed up considerably in February and March as a result of a spike in violence.

Commentary: What brings President Calderon to Juarez--problems with the border economy and public security in Juarez--are not irrelevant to the border region on the U.S. side. The Paso del Norte, which includes Juarez, El Paso, and the Mesilla Valley south of Las Cruces, is highly interdependent and for many years before the outbreak of influenza it has been a local cliche that when Juarez sneezes, El Paso catches a cold, and vice-versa. In recent years the South Mesilla Valley has become part of the border economy, and with the introduction of Foxconn, the largest maquila plant in Mexico, adjacent to New Mexico, and the expansion of Cd. Juarez to the West along the border, Southern New Mexico is more heavily invested in this interdependence. Likewise, virtually all of us living in the Paso del Norte region have been affected by security issues, as a minimum through the inconveniences of wait lines at the border crossing, or making the marginal decision not the cross the border to visit a friend, dine out, or talk business with someone.

For a more personal and universal statement about interdependence, you might click here to read the words of a famous Englishman writing a famous passage in 1623 that includes the following phrase: "And therefore never send to know..."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Only 40 Percent Attendance in Anapra Schools

Children in pre-school, primary, and secondary grades returned to school on Monday in Juarez. Diario reports this morning that parents, teachers, and administrators stood at the gates of the schools checking on the apparent health of each child, sending those who appeared to have symptoms to medical specialists for evaluation. No child, out of 300,000 total, was suspected of having swine flu, and between 60 and 80 were sent home with sniffles and allergies. It is unclear how long this parental and teacher filtering system will last in public schools. In some private schools parents are required to sign a form checking off whether their child has certain symptoms, such as headache, fever, and sniffles.

About 98 percent of the students returned to classrooms, except in Anapra, the small but rapidly growing community just south of Sunland Park. For reasons not explained only 40 percent of the student population has returned to school.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Major Story: Teague Speaks in Las Cruces About Rail Transportation in the Region

On Saturday morning Congressman Harry Teague spoke to a crowd at the Las Cruces train station about extending the Railrunner commuter train service to the leg between Las Cruces and El Paso. Here's what he talked about:

Teague (D-NM) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) have sponsored national legislation, called the "Southwestern Transit Corridor Planning and Fuel Use Reduction Act." This provides for a feasibility study to look into additional public transportation options between Las Cruces and El Paso along with a study to extend the Rail Runner south from Belen to El Paso with stops in between. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which Teague serves on. If it passes DOT will actually begin the feasibility study. Incidentally, Teague has already helped secure funding to widen I-10 between El Paso and Las Cruces, a significant improvement.

Commentary: A rapid transit commuter train between Las Cruces and El Paso is a major idea, with important regional implications. It would stimulate traffic between El Paso and Las Cruces and between Juarez and Las Cruces; it would create a corridor of economic development in the path of the rail system; and in general it would tend to integrate Las Cruces much more firmly as a component element in the Paso del Norte region. Thus, this is a first-rate region-building project and a major investment in the region's future.

Given the growing power of Congressman Silvestre Reyes, the enthusiasm and hard work we've seen so far in Harry Teague, and what appears to be a positive chemistry between the two, the feasibility studies will probably be funded soon. It may take a while in the current economic environment to get this project, as they say in the jargon of the moment, "shovel ready," but it is likely to be well within affordable limits. One would hope the feasibility study contemplates this as a first class project, designed to make it people-friendly and region-enhancing as well as commerce-stimulating. It is in the interests of the small communities in the valle del sur to stay on top of developments in this project, and, where possible, to participate in its design and execution. It would also be important, since Juarez is the largest city in the region, for Mexico to be consulted, and possibly to be an active partner, so we hope the Office of New Mexico Office of Mexican Affairs will be an active participant in this long-term project.

Anthony Texas Mayor Re-elected. Arsenic In Water An Issue in Elections

Darren Meritz and Adriana Gomez report in the El Paso Times this morning that Art Franco, who has been mayor of Anthony Texas for 16 years, was easily re-elected over his challenger, Mayor Pro Tem Orlando Garcia. Franco sees roads, parks and a sewage plant upgrade as important issues for voters. Recently the Texas Water Development Board gave Anthony a grant of $5.6 million to build a new sewage plant. Problems with arsenic in the water in the Anthony region have plagued small communities in the region both in Texas and New Mexico, including Anthony New Mexico.

In other Anthony elections alderman Rosie Holguin was re-elected for place No. 2, and Eduardo Chavez. In the Anthony Independent School District, Eduardo Chavez, Angel Cuellar and Soledad Flores won the at-large seats for the board of trustees.

In Vinton, Alfredo Lopez and Victor Carrejo were elected to places 3 and 5. In place 4, Juvencia Rios Ontiveros defeated Carla Garcia after accusing town council representatives of misusing taxpayer funds.

Juarez One of Major Four Gateways To Mexico For Illegal Arms Shipments

Corrected at 9:30 a.m. in response to a comment.

Hérika Martínez Prado reports today in Norte that Cd. Juarez is one of four major corridors through which illegal traffic in weapons crosses over from the United States. The corridor runs from Juarez to Chihuahua, from Chihuahua to Durango, from Durango to Guadalajara, from Guadalajara to Morelia (Michoacan), from Morelia to Chilpancingo (Guerrero), and it ends in Oaxaca. All along this route, illegal weapons are dropped off, reaching the hands of an increasing number of citizens, including minors. As of now authorities have not been able to identify any large-scale gun trafficking organizations. The traffic is small-scale and ant-like, with delivery of only a few weapons at a time.

According to the the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)90% of the guns introduced into Mexico come from U.S. traffickers near the border, mostly in Texas. The report in Norte asserts there are more than 100,000 persons near the border on the U.S. side who sell guns legally through gun shows, and President Felipe Calderon a few weeks ago indicated there are 10,000 points of sale along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Joint Operation Chihuahua, which began in March of 2008, thus far has confiscated 1548 weapons in the region, 805 of which are handguns.

First Swine Flu Death in the Region: Juarez

Sunday night at 8:40 p.m. swine flu claimed its first victim in the region, in Juarez. Diario reports the death of a high ranking military officer, 38 years old, who has been living in Juarez for several years. He also suffered from diabetes and hypertension, which created complications, and he had been in intensive care for several days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Town of Mesilla

Steve Ramirez of the Sun News reports this morning that the municipality of Mesilla is proposing a 21% reduction in the 2010 budget, which begins on July 1. This will enable city employees to have a 34-hour week. Municipal workers are now on a 32-hour week. Mayor Cadena was quoted as hoping economic conditions will improve enough to restore a 40-hour week.

At 6 p.m. on Monday the Mesilla trustees will meet at Mesilla Town Hall to consider placing a 120 day moratorium on installations of windmills and other issues. At the present time there are no regulations on the installation of windmills, and, apparently, there is some concern about various issues such as the appropriate height and number of windmills to be allowed on a property.

More Violence in Juarez

The owner of a used car lot at 7015 Capulin (near Blvd. Zaragoza) in Juarez was kidnapped on Saturday afternoon by four armed men who arrived at the car lot and forced Jorge Nicolas Fonseca Cruz, 47, to enter a late-model automobile they were driving. The men were wearing mouth covers like many people are now wearing to minimize the risks of contracting swine flu.

Two young men were killed by gunfire while they were parked in a black Ram-2500 pickup outside a Super Six convenience store on km 16 of the Chihuahua-Cuauhtémoc highway. Witnesses saw the assassins leave their vehicle, open the passenger side of the pickup and fire shots at the heads of the victims. Six spent shells were found nearby.

The body of a man was found on Friday afternoon in an irrigation ditch near km 38 on the Juarez-Porvenir highway. His hands were tied behind his back with duct tape and there was a cord around his neck.

Compiled from articles in Norte and Diario

Breast Cancer Rate Is Increasing in Juarez

In comparison with the rest of Mexico the state of Chihuahua and especially Cd. Juarez have the highest rates of breast cancer. Javier Barajas Figueroa, an oncologist in Juarez, reported to Norte that out of 600 women who visited the Hospital for Women in Juarez, 15 were found to have breast cancer. He adds that in 2007 250 cases of breast cancer were detected in Juarez, and preliminary data suggests there will be about 270 cases in 2008. The limiting factor is not a lack of money, since medical treatment is very inexpensive, or a lack of technology, which is available, but rather a lack of awareness among women and a fear of having mammograms. Only one in ten women understand the dangers of leaving cancer undetected for too long.

In New Mexico the rate of breast cancer for Hispanic women thirty years ago was far below the national average, but it has been slowly catching up to the national rate ever since.

14% of Chihuahua Men Believe Physical Correction Against Wives Is Justified

According to a statewide survey undertaken by the Chihuahua Institute for Women, summarized in today's Norte, 14% of the men in the state, ranging in ages from 21-61 years of age, believe physical punishment is justified ("manera justa") to correct the mistakes ("fallas") of their wives. The rate for men in the rural areas of the state, especially those without a primary school education, goes up to 24%. Among the most frequently cited justifications listed for such punishment are: when a woman goes out with another man, when the woman strikes or insults a man first, when they lie, when they are disobedient, or when they raise their voice. One out of four men admit that when they lived with their parents their fathers were verbally or physically abusive toward them.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mayor Cook and Liberals Kept in Office in El Paso

Mayor John Cook won a decisive victory last night in the mayoral race in El Paso, and liberal (they call themselves "progressives") city councilors who have backed him for the past four years were re-elected. Adding to his satisfaction, one of Cook's most outspoken critics, Melina Castro, came in second in the race for City Council in District 4 (Northeast El Paso) and will face a tough runoff election on June 6 against Carl Robinson. Robinson has a military background, an asset in El Paso, and Castro will have to defend her voting against the Northgate transit terminals to accommodate Ft. Bliss.

Should Robinson win, Cook will gain another vote in what appears to be a strong governing coalition backing Cook's agenda for the future of El Paso. There are four other city council persons, making for a total of eight, and the "progressive" faction normally includes Beto O'Rourke, Ann Morgan Lilly, Susie Byrd, and Steve Ortega. The El Paso City Council received a great deal of publicity in January when they voted unanimously to encourage a national debate about legalization of drugs, a move spurred by liberal councilor Beto O'Rourke, which was vetoed by the mayor.

Another controversial ballot measure, proposing to remove control over the stormwater utility from the El Paso Water Utilities and place it directly under the control of the city council, failed to pass by a vote of 2-1. The issue became heated after poor performance of the system in the extensive flooding in El Paso in 2006.

Among the elections for city council, the dirtiest was waged for District 3 (Northeast) between Emma Acosta, the incumbent, and former District 3 City Councilor Jose Alejandro Lozano. Lozano, who resigned in 2008 from this same seat to run for county judge, accused Ms Acosta of lying about her residential qualifications when she ran for the position against Lozano four years ago. Acosta filed a harassment suit against Lozano and his son for what she claimed were physical and verbal assaults against her grandson and campaign treasurer last month while Lozano was investigating her 2005 residential status. In addition Lozano apparently paid his campaign $1200 from his own 501C-3 charity, a criminal violation.

In the Eastridge Mid-Vally District 7 race Steve Ortega, of the liberal faction, was re-elected, beating his closest competitor, Trini Munoz, with a vote of 60%. And in District 2 (West Central El Paso) Susie Byrd, also of the liberal faction, won re-election handily, with 59% of the vote. In order to avoid a runoff election a candidate must win 50% plus one vote.

Cook's major opponent, Gus Haddad ran on a platform stressing a need for the city to be more business-friendly. However, he was not very articulate about his complaints against Cook and the evidence suggests many people believe the city is already too favorable to business in its effort to balance out conflicting interests. Interviewed on TV last night Cook said he thought his victory was a vindication of the manager-council form of government with four year terms and a provision for one re-election.

El Paso is in the midst of a major renaissance, driven by the $5 billion expansion of Ft. Bliss. Among the issues being tackled are downtown revitalization, removing the trains from the city, potential problems with BRAC in the new national environment, and especially issues dealing with mass transit.

Who Has Been Getting Killed in Juarez? Report from Norte

Herika Martinez Prado, writing for Norte, reports this morning that more than 80 percent of the victims of assassination in Juarez in the past two weeks were former police officers who had been accused at some point in the past of illicit activities, such as selling drugs at picaderos (places where drugs are sold). Many had connections with businesses that are sometimes associated with picaderos, such as workshops or used car lots. The neighborhoods where assassinations were most frequent during the recent spike in killings were the colonias Chaveña, Azteca, Hidalgo, Melchor Ocampo, and Infonavit Casas Grandes. According to the deputy prosecutor of Chihuahua for the Northern Zone, Alejandro Pariente Núñez, the killers are now using handguns and are driving in a wide variety of automobiles. In the past they were using luxury vehicles and long-barreled guns.

Don't Talk on Cell Phone While Driving in Juarez

Diario this morning reports that an average of 35 drivers per day have been fined for driving while talking on their cell phones. From January 1 to May 8 a total of 1493 persons have been cited.

US Surpasses Mexico in Swine Flu Cases. Nine More Cases in Juarez. Three Cases Confirmed in DAC

As of yesterday medical authorities had counted 1364 cases of swine flu in Mexico, and in the US the count has nearly doubled, from 896 to 1639, surpassing the total in Mexico. Illinois has suffered an outbreak, with 204 cases. Texas has 108 confirmed cases. In Juarez 8 new cases were confirmed yesterday, and in El Paso 12 new cases were confirmed late yesterday. In Dona Ana county a new case was confirmed yesterday, bringing the total up to 3, and in New Mexico as of yesterday the total was 31. In Chihuahua state according to Norte there have been 25 total confirmed cases. If these numbers are accurate it suggests that New Mexico, with one million fewer inhabitants than Chihuahua, has more cases than her sister state to the south. In Chihuahua city there are 11 new cases and in Delicias and Cuauhtémoc there is one case in each city. In Mexico patients with, or suspected of having, swine flu are no longer hospitalized, since the recovery rate appears to be approaching 100 percent in patients given anti-viral medication.

While the disease appears still to be spreading rapidly in the U.S. it appears to be abating in Mexico, due to the stringent measures the government of Mexico took to contain the spread.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Andrew Moralez Appointed Border Authority Executive Director

Governor Richardson has appointed Andrew Moralez to be executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority. Mr. Moralez, from Anthony, ran the small governor's office in Las Cruces from 2003 until it was closed earlier this year as part of a budget cutting move by the governor. After that Morales became head of the governor's constituent services office in Santa Fe.

The previous director, Jaime Campos, who resigned on April 7, had been the executive director of the El Paso Foreign Trade Association, president of the Cd. Juarez Maquiladora Association, vice president of CANACINTRA (the Mexican National Industrial and Transformation Chamber), and had extensive experience in immigration and customs issues on both sides of the border, before he became executive director of the Border Authority. He was well known to business, government, and academic leaders on both sides of the border.

Juarez Receives Anti-Flu Medical Supplies from China: Demonstration at Restaurant Against Chinese Government

Diario reports this morning the Mexican Army yesterday distributed 156 boxes containing latex gloves, mouth covers, glasses, disposable clothing, anti-bacterial soap, cotton, biodegradable paper towels, and supplies for 6450 anti-flu vaccinations to the General and to Social Security hospitals in Juarez. This material was donated by the government of China to the Defense Department of Mexico for use in anti-swine flu activities in Juarez as part of Joint Operation Chihuahua. Joint Operation Chihuahua is the name given to the introduction of more than 7000 troops into Juarez by the Mexican Army to counter the spike in narco-related violence earlier this year. In addition the Chinese supplies included 3000 vaccinations against pneumonia, which will be used to immunize troops in Juarez.

Yesterday a group of persons led by Mr. Ernesto Chávez Nápoles, head of an association of Tire Workers, demonstrated in front of a Chinese restaurant to protest the treatment Mexicans received in China after the alert went out that Mexico was the epicenter of an outbreak of swine flu last month. Representatives of the Jardin Oriental restaurant, at the corner of Oscar Flores y Plutarco Elías Calles, indicated that the Chang family which owns the restaurant are Mexicans by birth, although they have strong ties to China, and that it was inappropriate to demonstrate there. Mr. Chavez indicated that more demonstrations would be held at maquilas and other locations where there are Chinese citizens. Chinese citizens here "should know that while we have opened our doors to them, they practically expelled us from their country and humiliated us," he added.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

7 Cases of Swine Flu in El Paso, 3 in New Mexico, 2 More Likely in Dona Ana County

7 cases of swine flu were confirmed yesterday in El Paso, with 14 more cases still unconfirmed but deemed "probable" pending confirmation. Most of the cases were on El Paso's East Side. One was an 11 year old boy from Roberts Elementary School on the West Side, adjacent to I-10 between Mesa and Artcraft exits. Ages of the victims range from 11 months to 39 years. The CDC on Tuesday changed its recommended protocol from one of closing the school where children have been infected to simply asking the infected persons to stay home. There will be no school closures in El Paso. In Cd. Juarez. all schools were closed for 5 days, ending today.

In New Mexico 3 cases were confirmed, with a total of 24 probable cases located in 9 counties. Two of the probable cases are in Dona Ana County, one an infant girl, the other a 14 year old girl.

Worldwide as of May 5 there were 1786 confirmed cases in 21 countries, as reported in Wikipedia, the vast majority from Mexico (866), the U.S. (614), and Canada (165). Mexico stopped reporting deaths from swine flu on April 30, reaching 29, but there have been about 101 deaths from flu there so far. In the U.S. there have been 2 confirmed deaths. No other countries have reported any deaths so far.

The mortality rate from swine flu has not been high. Initially it was listed at around 6-8 percent of those infected, in Mexico, but appears to be less than one percent globally. Most of the early deaths in Mexico were from persons who waited at least a week before reporting to a hospital. Very few persons treated in the early stages of the infection have died, and with the anti-viral medicines available, which lessen symptoms and shorten the life span of the disease, the disease, as it is now constituted, appears to be just another mild to moderate form of flu. Officials are still concerned that the disease might evolve into a deadlier form, or return in the fall, spreading rapidly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From Juarez This Morning

**The body had two gunshot wounds to the back and two through the left wrist. It was located at 10 a.m. at Estaño and Emilio Carranza in the colonia Aldama, either the 19th or 20th violent death so far in May.

**School will resume on May 7 for universities, and on May 11 for grade and high schools, after being closed due to the threat of swine flu.

**Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz will travel this week to New York, where he will meet with editors of Business Week and other news media, to explain how the available infrastructure in Cd. Juarez and its location near I-10 and I-25 provide a competitive advantage

**The annual Feria Exposicion will be cancelled this year due to the flu epidemic. Normally it is held in June. The facilities of the fair will be used instead as a temporary market place.

Monday, May 4, 2009

About 25,000 Maquila Workers Laid Off Due to Flu Threat

The number of maquila plants shutting down in Cd. Juarez because of the threat of swine flu will increase from 27 as on Saturday to 33 today, according to the President of the Association of Maquiladoras, Soledad Maynez, who represents 188 maquila plants. This will affect over 25,000 workers. Most maquila plants will not close in deference to the threat of flu because they have fixed production schedules. Medical personnel at maquila plants are taking strong precautions with workers, doubling efforts to isolate workers with flu-like symptoms, and making sure higienic measures such as washing hands frequently, wearing face masks, and continual cleaning of door handles, telephones, and other items.

The Army in Juarez: Is it Worth the Expense?

The municipality of Cd. Juarez is paying the bill for the 5000 troops it brought in from the federal government to patrol the streets. The city will run out of funds for this in September and the troops are scheduled to leave at that time.

While many forms of crime have gone down since the arrival of the troops, the homicide rate, after dipping for a few weeks, is back to last year's record level. About 549 homicides have occurred this year, 29 against the police and 26 against women. In response to the violence this weekend troop commanders announced today they will initiate street inspections of automobiles. This will slow down traffic but it's effect on the homicide rate has yet to be proven. In spite of the city being virtually shut down the past few days due to the threat of the swine flu, whoever is committing the homicides is apparently undeterred by either the troops on patrol or the threat of swine flu. On the other hand the public unquestionably feels more secure with the visible presence of troops patrolling the city, and there appear to be behind-the-scenes efforts to find a way to keep the troops around a few more months. Don't be surprised at an announcement to that effect in the next few days.

Bloody Weekend: 19 Homicides in Juarez

Twelve persons were killed in Juarez on Friday. Triple homicides (reported below) were discovered both in Rancho Anapra and in Eco 2000. The Anapra victims have not yet been identified. The victims in the Eco 2000 shooting were Edgar Miranda Jimenez, 21, Samuel Aguirre Rentaria, 21, and Ernesto Pena Hernandez, 18.

At 1:35 p.m. a man was found shot on the corner of Ramon Aranda and Diaz Ordaz. Then Floriberto Cruz Miguel, 19, was found dead in Valle Dorado on the corner of Tampico and Tehuacan. At 5:30 p.m. an unidentified man was found dead at the corner of Trigo and Papaya in el Granjero. Another unidentified man was found dead on the Casas Grandes highway near Rincon del Solar. At 8 p.m. a police officer, Jesus Manuel Holguin Chairez, 33, was killed at a party. Half an hour later another unidentified man was found dead at Mauricio Corredor and Cobre in Aldama.

On Saturday the first victim was Jose Coronado Mendez, 38, killed at 3:30 a.m. in Villa Esperanza. Two hours later an unidentified man was found dead by police inside an automobile in Angel Trias, at Pina and Candelilla. At 6:33 p.m. Arturo Hernandez Sanchez, 36, was found dead in a gray Ford Focus in at Geranios and Selenio in colonia Paso del Norte. A little later Carlos Lopez Martinez, 45, was killed at the intersection of Poesia Indigena and Paseo de la Gloria. 9 mm and 38 caliber spent cartridges were found at the scene. A few minutes later Erick Puchetas Pio, 16, was gunned down at the Santa Maria clinic at the corner of Elisa Giensen and General Severiano Ceniceros in colonia Industrial II.

And in the early morning hours of Sunday Roberto Carlos Galindo Chaparro, 18, was found dead at the intersection of Buenos Aires and Puerto Mexico in colonia Industrial. Six 9 mm spent cartidges were found at the scene. An hour later at the corner of Caracol and Doctor Coss, in colonia Nueva Galeana, Efren Silos Diaz, 28, was found dead.

Compiled from news reports in Diario and Norte

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Political Leader in Tortugas Celebrates 80th Birthday

Maria Antonia Baldon, matriarch of a large and distinguished family in Tortugas, celebrated her 80th birthday on Saturday night, May 2, in the recreation Hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Tortugas. The dinner-dance function was jam-packed with family members, politicians, community leaders, friends, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Among the politicians in attendance were Sen. Mary Kay Papen, Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, Judge Oscar Frietze, Judge Olivia N. Garcia, Judge Kent L. Wingenroth, County Treasurer David Gutierrez, and former Sheriff candidate Ralph Misquez. Ms. Baldon is highly influential in Tortugas, active at monthly Saturday meetings held to discuss local community issues. Her advice and support are eagerly sought by politicians running for local, state, and federal positions. She often works with a small group of dedicated women living in or near Tortugas who support various civic causes and candidates.

Wait Lines at Ports Lengthen as Juarenses go to El Paso for Entertainment

At San Jeronimo the traffic was backed up nearly a mile and wait times were 40 minutes. At the other ports of entry, closer to El Paso, wait lines were over two hours for most of the day as Juarenses, on a national holiday, traveled to El Paso to have fun. Just about everything in Juarez is closed due to the precautions Mexico is taking against swine flu, including most government offices, theaters, schools, universities, museums, nightclubs, and bars.

While merchants in El Paso must have been happy to see the extra business, health officials, on the day the first two cases of swine flu were confirmed in Juarez, must have been worried that the extra traffic also increased the chances of infection of swine flu in El Paso. In truth, the probability is extremely high that swine flu will cross over into El Paso, either from Juarez or from any of the other 15 states in the U.S. where swine flu has been confirmed.

Breaking News: Chihuahua Swine Flu Victims Had Recently Traveled to Mexico City

About 30 minutes ago Governor José Reyes Baeza announced at a press conference that the persons in Chihuahua infected with swine flu (see below) had recently traveled to Mexico City, where it is presumed they picked up the virus. They are expected to recover fully within a week.

First Juarez Killings in May (Corrected on May 4, as clarified in news reports in Diario and Norte)

The first killings in Juarez in May were discovered a little after 11 a.m. when the bodies of three unidentified men between the ages of 20 and 25 were found on the corner of Salmon and Aguila in Rancho Anapra. Two of the bodies were found 60 feet from each other. The third was 1800 feet away. The first body had suffered a sharp wound on the left ear, scrape wounds on the left elbow, and two black eyes. The second man had been beaten and his head was badly shattered. The third man also had a cranial fracture with parts of his brain exposed.

Another triple murder occurred at 7:20 p.m. on the corner of Pino and Oaxaca in Eco 2000, when an armed commando group shot at five young men gathered together. Three died at the scene and two more were taken to the hospital.

At 1:35 P.M. on Diaz Ordaz and Ramon Aranda an unidentified man, 20-25, was killed by gunfire, and at 5:35 a man driving a gray 2001 Mustang was killed by gunfire behind a strip mall at the corner of Maíz and Piña near the airport. In another incident a municipal police officer, Manuel Holguin Cháirez, at a party in civilian clothes, was shot five times by a group of armed men. He received bullet wounds to the thorax, abdomen, and leg and is in serious condition at a hospital.

Norte reports that assassins are now using handguns rather than larger weapons, and are driving in older automobiles, apparently a concession to the increased presence of military patrols in the city.

Compiled by reports on May 2 and May 4 in Diario de Juarez and Norte de Juarez

15 Homicides in Past Two Days in Juarez: Summary of Juarez Killings This Year

While citizens of Juarez debated whether government measures to prevent the spread of swine flu were exaggerated or on target, the forces behind the high homicide rate were busy at work.

In spite of the presence of 7300 troops in Juarez (most arrived in early March), 5000 of which are assigned to municipal police protection, the homicide rate this year is double, so far, the rate last year. According to Diario de Juarez 530 persons were murdered between January 1 and April 30 of this year, compared with 267 persons in the same time period last year. In January 46 persons were killed, 49 died in February, 117 died in March, and 55 were murdered in April, according to official statistics. News reports indicate, however, that 81 persons were killed in April, a discrepancy that can be explained by the official distinction between narco-related homicides and non-narco homicides.

On Thursday night at 11 p.m. Lorenzo Fierro Santiesteban, 34, was found dead from gunshot wounds on the street at 6412 Delicias. Earlier, at 9 p.m., Gerardo Javier Loya Chavez was found dead, face-up, of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body, on the corner of Sodio and Margarita. José Elías Devora López, 18, died at the IMSS hospital at around 9 p.m., after being shot at 565 Jalisco. Also at 9 p.m. Alfredo Ramirez Bautista, 43, was shot to death at the corner of Sinaloa and Dr. M. Ruiz. Earlier, the bodies of Elmer Leandro Varela Varela and Raúl Emilio Colunga López were found at the corner of Manila and Bucarest. And Monica Gabriela Muñoz Garcia, 19, was shot to death at the corner of Plutarco Elias Calles and Vicente Guerrero.

First Two Cases of Swine Flu Confirmed in Juarez. Two More in Chihuahua. Cases Not Very Severe

The state of Chihuahua officially informed the public last night that four cases of AH1N1 Swine Flu--the first on record in the state--have been confirmed in the state, two in Chihuahua and two in Cd. Juarez. In all cases the patients are under care and are expected to recover fully. Authorities asserted that since current treatment procedures are highly effective, persons with symptoms of the swine flu--sudden fever, muscular pain especially in the back, irritated throat, cough, and fatigue--should call medical officials immediately to begin treatment and to assure that the disease will not spread.