Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chronicle of Another Kidnapping and Rescue in Juarez

Compiled from a story in Diario: Leonardo Enriquez, 20, was leaving the preparatory school he attends last night, and getting into his red Volkswagon Beetle, when several men jumped him and put him into the trunk of his car. He lost consciousness and when he came to he realized his hands were tied and a tape was across his mouth. He was also missing the little finger of his left hand. Later he was left on Montes Eliseos near the Monterrey Technological Institute, without his car. Persons passing by reported his presence to authorities and soon municipal police, soldiers, and paramedics from the Red Cross arrived and took him to General Hospital.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where New Mexico Stands One Year Before Gubernatorial Elections: The Transition

The following commentary written by Yours Truly will be published in Capitol Report New Mexico (, a magazine, early next week. The title is: The Transition

As the summer wears on power slips away, silently, invisibly, from the ruling structure that governed (or dominated) the state during the Richardson administration, already referred to in the past tense. Movers and shakers, fundraisers, the funded, and the wannabe funded are moving on, seeking inclusion in the as-yet unshaped ruling structure of tomorrow. The transition will be difficult.

The prestige of the political class is badly damaged as the public absorbs the depth and breadth of corruption in the state. It's not just a voracious governor granting too many favors after money is received. Equally disturbing are cozy relationships elsewhere: Smiley Gallegos, indicted for fraud, conducting business in the Speaker of the House's office; the Metro Court construction theft, which convicted former Senate President Manny Aragon and others; the Wi-Fi scandal in Sandoval county, where contracts for work never delivered were doled out to people with powerful connections but no Wi-Fi experience; the indictment of PRC Commissioner Jerome Block Jr., for embezzlement and tampering with evidence, along with his father, a former commissioner; the $17,000 party in Las Vegas that led to convictions; the sweet deal from Pat Lyons for contributor and land developer Philip Philippou; the Wackenhut contracts under Republican Governor Gary Johnson. It is not difficult to think of other examples. It was the political class as a whole--party activists, legislators, newspaper editors, etc.--intoxicated, or cowed, by the larger-than-life-image of Bill Richardson in those free-flying days of yore, which enabled such excesses by ignoring the tell-tale signs. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves if we are underlings: Act I Scene II, Julius Caesar.

Now the state is broke, after a spending spree for which there is little to show. Education spending, which gobbles up almost two thirds of the budget, increased 40% under Richardson, while student scores languished at the bottom of the national barrel. Taxpayers, says Paul Gessing, are subsidizing $16.89 for every rider on the Rail Runner train, after forking over $400 million on a rail system losing money at an accelerating pace. The recession slashed revenues, forcing cutbacks in state agencies. But only an extremely small fraction of the political class dared to raise these issues when the governor was insisting on doing it his way. And they tended to be ostracized not only by the governor but also by the political class as a whole.

Out next governor will come to office without the personal stature Richardson enjoyed, without a strong financial cushion, and without the level of public trust state government has enjoyed for the last two decades. The 800 lb. gorilla in the room today is not Richardson: it is the potential reaction, still unknown, of the public to a ruling class that continues to insist everything is fine, really, the public doesn't care about these things.

Normally this would be roll-up-the-sleeves time for Republicans. The GOP would offer to clean up, fix the finances, and manage the state with responsibility and purpose. But Republicans in New Mexico squandered their watchdog role in recent years, focusing instead on divisive national issues just when a Republican White House was abandoning classic Republican principles, fighting an unwise and expensive war, and not managing the store when Hurricane Katrina blew in. The Republican Party is out of touch with New Mexico, as the public made clear in last year's clean sweep.

Sensing this weakness, Republican outsiders, each attractive, stepped up with what amounts to unauthorized bids for the governorship: Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, of this year's web-cam fame, in her fourth term as a state legislator; District Attorney Susana Martinez, one of the few elected Hispanic Republicans; and Doug Turner, campaign manager for Gary Johnson and public relations specialist. The only insider is Allen Weh, Republican party chair since 2004. Will one of these find a voice that resonates with the public? Gary Johnson and David Cargo came out of nowhere to win nominations and governorships; it can be done. Not to be discounted is old-pro Heather Wilson, a Rhodes Scholar, should she enter the race.

The choice of Javier Gonzalez for Democratic chair suggests Diane Denish is sticking to her all-establishment strategy. Gonzalez, a former president of the National Association of Counties and a former county commissioner, has far greater stature than outgoing chair Brian Colon, whose major claim to fame was that he was handpicked by Bill Richardson. And Gonzalez's presence, since he has ties to Richardson and Speaker Lujan, suggests his role is to offer comforting assurances to richardsonistas they will not be ostracized if they convert, like Gonzalez, into denishistas.

The contest for governor next year shapes up to be a classic battle. Representing one camp is a party accustomed to governing, cushioned as it is by a disproportionate number of Hispanics, but recently sullied by scandals and poor leadership. Can it reassure a skeptical public it still deserves to govern? In the other camp candidates running under the flag of a locally dysfunctional party, and sullied by poor leadership at the national level, will likely argue that their very lack of insider connections qualify them, in this context to do the job at hand. A lot is riding on the nature of that conversation and given the seriousness of the problems the state faces it is likely the public will pay attention, as it did last year, if the candidates find something meaningful to say.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chronicle of a Kidnapping and Rescue in Cd. Juarez

The man is about 55 years old, but understandably he asked for his identity to be witheld. He owns a pharmacy. At 8:25 a.m.last Friday (August 21)he was driving to work in his Honda when three men stopped him at the intersection of Ave. Gómez Morín and Pedro Rosales de León (near the Campestre, a well-heeled neighborhood) and forced him at gunpoint to get out of his car and into the SUV they were driving. They treated him well, did not hurt him or even use foul language. When they got to the house he would be held in, at 3418 Rancho Las Aguilas (Col. Pradera Dorada), they offered him food, but he refused to eat at that time and during the entire time he was being held captive.

They began talking on the telephone to members of his family about payment for his release. They asked for a large sum of money, but had not yet reached an agreement with his family on Saturday afternoon when a large deployment of military troops arrived at the house at around 5 p.m. The men fled. Soldiers found him handcuffed and lying on the floor of a closet in one of the bedrooms.

Apparently someone had called the Second Artillery Regiment headquarters with information that a captive was being held at that address.

Compiled from a story in Norte by Félix A. González and a report in Diario.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Retraction: Car Theft in Juarez not Better, Much Worse Than in New Mexico, Comparable to Washington DC

In a story posted earlier this month I tried to estimate car theft rates in Cd. Juarez with car theft rates in the U.S., concluding that the rates in Juarez were lower than those in New Mexico. I have now pulled the plug on the story, since it was based on incorrect statistics.

I goofed, apparently misreading a report by Herica Martinez Prado, confusing a one month talley by her with a six month talley, and probably confusing her carjacking rate (theft with violence or threats of violence). In any event, her story has not been archived, so I have lost it. I noticed this error a couple of days ago when I posted a story on August 14 about carjackings, and ended with overall car thefts of 1604 in June and 1711 in July.

Revised Estimate: If we take 1600 car thefts per month as a reasonable average, we arrive at 19,200 per year. If we estimate Cd. Juarez' population as 1.5 million (it is probably within 100,000 of this figure), we would get an estimated car-theft rate of 1280. (previously I had estimated 215)

According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports the New Mexico rate in 2007 was 453.8, California was 600.2, and Nevada was 870.5, making it the highest state rate in the nation. Washington D.C. was 1291.9. Albuquerque ranked No. 8 in the nation among cities, with a rate of 730.81 and Las Cruces ranked 161 with a rate of 231.64.

Military Barge Into Home of Manuel Espino, former PAN President

On Saturday a military convoy barged into the family home of Manuel Espino, former President of the national PAN party, and current president of the Christian Democratic Organization of America. In a story in Norte by Armando Delgado Sifuentes, Espino is quoted as saying this act constituted "an abuse which, unfortunately, like in most cases, will go unpunished."

Espino recounted that on Saturday his family was celebrating the birthday of a nephew when, at about 2 a.m. a military convoy entered, without asking permission or giving any warning. The soldiers startled several youths who were leaving the party as the convoy arrived. They finally were allowed to inform Mr. Espino about the arrival of the soldiers.

I told the officer in charge, "hey, you are entering a private home, you should have rung the doorbell instead of barging in with guns. You've frightened these young people for fifteen minutes. The officer said they were responding to a complaint about noise, but Espino pointed out there is only a gasoline station, some businesses, and a parking lot for trucks in the vicinity, and no houses where people could be bothered.

Mr. Espino said he wanted to make public his questioning of the utility of the strategy used by the Army in our streets, inasmuch as there are no visible authorities available to complain to, and because many complaints that are made go uninvestigated. "I know many cases of many friends who have gone through this kind of thing or worse. People are afraid to complain, and if they do, it doesn't do any good. I hope there is a change in attitude, a revision of strategy, because we can't go on living in Juarez this way. We are absolutely unprotected in Cd. Juárez. For me, the army is no guarantee of protection."

The decision to bring military troops into Juarez was made by the municipal government about a year and a half ago. The municipal government is controlled by the PRI party.

Bloody Weekend Again: 43 Executed

Forty three persons were executed between Friday and Monday in Cd. Juárez, in one of the bloodiest weekends on record. In one instance, at the Seven and Seven bar on Ave. Tecnologico, twelve persons were shot, killing eight persons including the owner of the bar, and wounding four.

One female witness, according to a story this morning in Diario, called television channel 44, between sobs, asserting that the killers selected some of their victims randomly. They entered the bar, the music stopped, patrons dropped to the floor, and the killers began selecting their victims at random. When they were finished they remained ten minutes more while some people tried to attend to the wounded. The witness said several persons tried to dial the 066 (emergency) number but no one answered.

Law enforcement authorities asserted there have been 21 cases of executions in bars and nightclubs this year, often leaving more than one dead. On January 25 five motorcycle drivers were killed at a restaurant, and on February 8 three more were killed in the parking lot at Bandoleros, a popular night club. Then on July 20 three more were killed in the parking lot at the Onix nightclub. On July 31 six persons were killed and two wounded in a killing at Bull's Sports Billiards. That same day two men were killed in the parking lot of a nightclub called Discoteque Rodeo, on Ave. Lincoln, and one month ago five men were killed at the Amsterdam bar on Ave. de las Americas.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Carjackings and Auto Theft in Juarez: Some Statistics

The number of carjackings (vehicles stolen at gunpoint) rose from 167 in June to 217 in July, according to a story in Norte this morning by Hérika Martínez Prado. The areas of town where carjackings are most frequent are Ave. Gómez Morín, near the Coloso Valle shopping center, and around the Campestre area.

In July a total of 1711 car thefts were reported, up from 1604 in June.

Female Police Agent Executed

Bertha Olivia Rodríguez González, 43, an agent in the state police's unit specializing in stolen vehicles, was killed in a heavy volley of gunfire as she was driving to work yesterday morning a little before 8:00 a.m. in a gray 1997 Nissan Pathfinder. She was driving on Adolfo López Mateos and apparently noticed she was being followed. She tried to evade her pursuers but was stopped just after she turned off at Simona Barba. Her face and a hand were destroyed by multiple gunshots. Investigators found 115 spent cartridges (7.62 x 39mm) near the scene. She was wearing a bullet proof vest and was carrying a handgun.

Ms. Rodríguez was the subject of an internal investigation being conducted in relation to the murder of Jonathan Francisco Fabián Chávez, who worked with her. She had been recently suspended for ten days. She is the 58th female murder victim in Cd. Juarez since the first of the year, and the 38th police officer to be executed so far this year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Decapitated Man Identified: The Beat

The fifteenth man decapitated so far this year in Cd. Juárez and Valled de Juárez has been identified as Raúl Heberto Gutiérrez Peña, 46. His body was found in the trunk of his vehicle, which had been abandoned in the same location where another decapitated body was found two weeks earlier.

Hérika Martínez Prado reports this morning that 21 men were murdered in Juárez over the weekend: 11 on Saturday, 8 on Sunday, and 2 in the early hours of Monday. At about 3 p.m. on Sunday Eduardo Gabriel Guevara Olmos and Miguel Antonio Cárdenas Quiroz were shot in Col. Rincones del Seminario while driving in a gray1998 Mercury Grand Marquis. Six .40 mm spent shells were found nearby.

A 13-year old adolescent boy was shot in Valle de Juarez on Sunday evening, along with another man, in his late 20's.

At 10:35 p.m. on Sunday in Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, Raymundo Garcia Flores was found dead, with 48 9 x 7.6 x 36 caliber (used by AK-47) spent shells nearby.

Early Monday morning, at the Onix bar, on Triunfo de la Republica and Fray Junipero, Iván Morales Bautista, 27 was shot and killed at the entrance to the bar, and Alejandro Acevedo Hidalgo, 26 años, was shot and killed in the parking lot. 12 9 mm spent shells were found nearby.

Military Will Begin Withdrawal from Juarez on September 15

Mayor José Reyes Ferriz announced yesterday 1000 out of the 2400 remaining soldiers assigned directly to municipal police units will leave beginning September 15. On that date the Juárez municipal is scheduled to have 2750 police officers trained and ready for duty.

Mexico's Supreme Court: Military Personnel Accused of Human Rights Abuse Will Be Tried in Military Courts: Margarita Rosales Comments in Juarez

In a six to five decision the Supreme Court of Mexico has ruled against a woman who sought to prevent military personnel accused of killing her husband from being tried in military courts. She was hoping the Court would permit civilian courts to try them. Her husband and three other men were killed on March 26, in Badiaguato, Sinaloa, by soldiers in an incident at a military roadblock.

The substantive issue was whether article 13 of the Constitution limits the protection military personnel enjoy to be tried by their own institution only in cases in which military discipline has been violated, or whether it includes protection in cases where offenses against the civilian population are involved.

The court did not rule on the substantive issue itself, but ruled instead that the woman, Reynalda Morales, did not have the legal standing to seek this particular constitutional protection under Mexican law.

This case is not irrelevant for Cd. Juárez, where over 7000 troops have been assigned functions which place them in contact with the civilian population, and where there have been multiple allegations of human rights abuse by military personnel.

I reported here, for example (April 11, 14, and July 16) the case of Javier Eduardo Rosales Rosales, 21, who was kidnapped by soldiers on April 7 of this year, along with a U.S. citizen, Sergio Fernandez. Rosales' dead body was found a few days later by his family, and the state forensic service declared he had been severely beaten. His mother (see my post on July 16) expressed gratitude his case was being pursued instead of forgotten.

in a story written by Martha Elba Figueroa, for Diario this morning, Margarita Rosales, Javier's mother, is quoted as saying, "it's not fair. I thought my son's case was moving forward, but now with this news I don't think anything will be done because they will protect their own."

María del Refugio Ramírez, the mother of Eduardo González Ramírez, who was kidnapped by soldiers and later found dead, said the Supreme Court's decision did not surprise her. "I have resigned myself that everything will stay the same," she said. The military presence "isn't helping anything. All you see is more and more dead and they don't catch the guilty ones. Nothing has improved with their presence."

Monday, August 10, 2009

PGR Chief in Juarez Sees No Quick End to the Violence

Hérika Martínez Prado in Norte this morning quotes from an interview she had yesterday with Héctor García Rodríguez, the PGR (Attorney General) delegate, the top federal law enforcement officer in Cd. Juárez. In Mexico the federal government assigns a "delegate" to distinct jurisdictions of the country to enforce federal law; delegates have much the same functions as the U.S. Attorney in the U.S.

The conflict between rival criminal organizations has generated serious violence manifested through the actions of local street gangs, he said. "Thousands of persons are involved.

Asked about when the war in the city might end, Garcia asserted that there is no short term solution but hopefully a medium-term way out. You cannot determine the exact moment when the spike in crime might go down, and a lot depends on what happens in the next few months.

"I feel it is very possible that the intensity of violence has reached its maximum level and that we will begin to see a reduction soon, probably next month, in all this criminal activity,"
he said.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Life of a Paramedic in the Most Violent City in the Western Hemisphere: Hérika Martínez Prado Reports

Hérika Martínez Prado has a beautifully written story in today's Norte. Here are parts of it, my translation:

"You never get used to seeing the wounded. You grasp what you see, you accept it, and you go on, but you don't get used to it. To see men dead or wounded is routine, but to see a seriously wounded woman, a young woman severely beaten, that bothers you a little. The children you never forget. To be honest they will always be with you," a paramedic told Martínez.

"Many of us have children and afterwards it enters your mind your child could be there, innocently at the wrong place when something happens they don't deserve."

"Psychological therapy sometimes helps when you get stressed out. Some of my co-workers have asked for a break from work." Last month a group of paramedics were sent for some psychological counseling "because we were all wandering around with a screw loose, but you try to finish your work as quickly as possible when stressed because you know there will be more work to do and periods will come up when all hell breaks loose ("se suelta el chamuquin")."

He said the worst thing he's seen was an explosion on a bus at with a lot of children on the outskirts of the city. "You could see a mother hugging her child, protecting it, both bodies completely charred, hugging each other; that hits you, honestly it affected me and I had to chill out ("despabilarme"), as they say."

Paramedics have been criticized for not giving medical assistance until police arrive, but because of threats received these are the orders they must follow. After the wounded are taken to the hospital the paramedics are released for further duty.

"Right now the orders are for the ambulance not to leave without protection if the person is the victim of a gunshot because we've been told if we were anywhere near we would be sprayed with lead. These threats might not be serious, but you tell yourself, if they don't mind shooting children, why should they mind killing you in an ambulance."

Re-Beat: The Guns of August Are Active; More Decapitations

Since my last beat coverage last Tuesday followers of this story will not be surprised to learn that more of our neighbors in Cd. Juárez have died violent deaths since then.

Only five of Monday's (August 3) assassinations had been reported when I posted last Tuesday August 2. By the time they were all counted fourteen were dead. On Tuesday eleven were killed, followed by seventeen on Wednesday and another eleven on Thursday.

Namiquipa, again: On Thursday two dead bodies were uncovered in a shallow makeshift grave off a road near Namiquipa, Chihuahua. The foot of one of the bodies had protruded through the ground and was seen by a passerby. They are believed to be the bodies of édgar Artemio García and Ramón Humberto Oviedo Sáenz. Garcia was the chief of police of Namiquipa and Oviedo was one of his deputies. They disappeared last October. About three weeks ago I reported the killing of the mayor of Namiquipa, Héctor Ariel Meixueiro Muñoz.

Over the weekend the death toll has been as follows, so far:

Friday: Seven dead. In the early hours of Friday August 7 Carlos Rodriguez Heredia, 36, died at the Clínica Juárez, of gunshot wounds. At 12:40 p.m. municipal police officer Felipe Galindo Reyes, 39, was killed in the parking lot of the Galerias Tec. Shopping Center. José Apolonio Landeros González, 40, was found dead of gunshot wounds at 4:42 p.m. at the junkyard known as Yonke Pepe's 2, in Col. Aztecas. At about 6:08 Friday evening three men traveling in a late-model green Chevrolet Avalanche pickup were assassinated in after being chased by their assassins. The men were riddled with bullets when the pickup turned over.

Then around 10 p.m. on Friday night at Archy's, a bar on Ave. Tecnológico that has had trouble before, Manuel Antonio Pacheco Ortiz, 29 años, and Raúl Ramón Rodríguez Rucobo, 21, were killed from multiple gunfire wounds to the head.

Saturday: Five persons were killed yesterday (Saturday) afternoon in Cd. Juarez. At 5:30 p.m. a blue Dodge Intrepid was abandoned in front of the Monument to Workers on Ave. Tecnológico. A still-bloody, decapitated head was left on the trunk of the automobile and the driver's door was left open. Just below it federal police found, in Diario's language (click here) "what they believe is part of the reproductive apparatus" of the victim. The body has not yet been located. It should be noted that last Wednesday August 5, five dead bodies were found at the exact same location, with the decapitated head of one of the bodies placed on the trunk of the automobile.

At 5:30 yesterday afternoon a group of men with face masks arrived at a private residence in Col. Vicente Guerrero and killed Carlos Cornejo Medrano, 41, and Benjamín Dueñas Chávez, 31, in the front patio.

At about the same time and on the same street (Valentín Gómez Farías), an unidentified man was gunned down by a passing car without license plates. He was about 30 years old, dressed in denim pants and a green shirt.

A few minutes later on Ave. Municipio Libre, two men and a woman in a cherry-colored Buick were shot at from another moving vehicle. The Buick kept driving forward to the intersection with Luis Mayo street, when they were apparently rescued by drivers in a white car. Nevertheless one of the victims died on the way to the hospital and the others were taken to a hospital.

Compiled from stories in Diario de Juarez and Norte de Juarez.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Do Per Capita Incomes in the South Mesilla Valley Compare with Chihuahua's?

Yesterday I estimated Chihuahua (state) per capita incomes in 2007 to be the equivalent of $10,915 in purchasing power, compared to New Mexico's estimated per capita income of $30,706 in 2007. But since salaries and wealth levels are higher in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (nearly one half of the state's population) this raises the state totals significantly higher than per capita incomes in many parts of the state. Dona Ana County, the second largest county in the state, had an estimated per capita income in 2007 of only $25,106, more than 20 percent less than the state average. And even within Dona Ana County there is a wide disparity in incomes from place to place. Just in the South Mesilla Valley (SMV) of Dona Ana County, for example, Santa Teresa had a per capita income in 2000 of $24,561, while its next-door neighbor, Sunland Park had a per capita income of $6576. Also in the SMV, Anthony had a per capita income of $6674, Vado's was $6323, and Mesquite's was $7129. The year 2000 was the last time incomes were measured by the Census Bureau for these communities, so I had to adjust these figures to account for the growth of income that has taken place from 2000-2007.

Since the Census Bureau's annual estimate of county per capita incomes is pretty accurate, I assumed that these communities had increased their incomes proportionately to the county as a whole. Using that criterion, in 2007 Santa Teresa had a per capita income of $34,586; Sunland Park had a per capita income of $9260, Vado had a per capita income of $8903, and Mesquite had a per capita income of $10,039. If these estimates are reasonably accurate, all of these communities except Santa Teresa had per capita incomes below the purchasing power per capita in the state of Chihuahua in 2007.

The good news here is that Chihuahuans have caught up to the standard of living of some New Mexican communities. The bad news is that there are some communities in Dona Ana county where the standard of living is equal to or below that of our Third World neighbor to the South.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

State of Chihuahua Falls in Economic Rankings

Our neighboring state to the south, Chihuahua, has slipped among Mexican states, from sixth place in gross state product in 2006 to eleventh place in 2007. In absolute terms economic production, according to a recent report by INEGI, the official Mexican statistical agency, fell by 1.35% during that year, to $371 billion pesos. Using the current exchange rate of 13.159 pesos per dollar this would translate to about $24.1 billion U.S. This compares with New Mexico's gross state product in 2007 of $75.2 billion U.S.

Chihuahua has a population of about 3.5 million, compared to New Mexico's 2 million. New Mexico's per capita income in 2007 was estimated at $30,706. Using the exchange rate conversion, per capita income in Chihuahua would be about $7531, about one fourth as much.

However, since the cost of living is lower in Mexico, economists have estimated a "purchasing power parity" (PPP) to adjust for this factor. In 2005 the PPP for Mexico was estimated at .69 by the World Bank. This would mean Chihuahuans had a purchasing power per capita equivalent to $10,915 U.S., compared to the New Mexico per capita income figure of $30,706. Adjusting for gross state product, this would raise gsp for Chihuahua from $24.1 billion (U.S.) to about $34.9 billion (U.S.), still less than half that of New Mexico.

While a per capita income equivalent to about $11,000 is not high, there are communities in New Mexico where per capita incomes are lower. Sunland Park, in Dona Ana County, for example has an income per capita that I estimate at about $9260 in 2007. I estimated this by assuming that the per capita income in Sunland Park grew in proportion to the growth in per capita income estimated by the Census Bureau for Dona Ana County as a whole between 2000 (the last year per capita incomes were tabulated for Sunland Park) and 2007. Using the same assumptions the per capita income of Vado in 2007 was about $8903, Mesquite was about $10,039, and Anthony was about $9398--all three of these communities are also in the South Mesilla Valley of Dona Ana County.

The maquila industry began to falter in 2007 in Chihuahua, accounting for some of the decline. I would expect the decline to get worse when the numbers for 2008 and 2009 come out, since Chihuahua has been more negatively affected by the recession in the U.S. than other states in Mexico, and, given that Cd. Juarez has about half the population of the state, there will almost certainly be a drop in production due to the public security crisis, the swine flu crisis, and a decline in the maquila sector.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Beat Goes On: Another Decapitation

According to a story in Norte this morning by Hérika Martínez Prado, the thirteenth decapitated body so far this year in Juarez was found yesterday morning (Monday) in Col. Parajes de San Jose. The victim's head was in a plastic bag between his arms and an ear that had been removed. The body was wrapped in two sheets.

Over the weekend twenty persons were assassinated; nine of Friday, five on Saturday, and six on Sunday.

On Monday (yesterday) five persons were murdered. The first was Manuel Chavez Pineda, 23, who died of gunshot wounds at the General Hospital, at about 12:42 a.m. At about 1:17 a.m. the decapitated body mentioned above was found. About fifteen minutes later Victor Fabian Martinez, 31, was found, dead of gunshot wounds to his head. At noon another man was found dead of gunshot wounds in Col. Municipio Libre. At about 2:20 p.m. a man shot at the corner of Juarez and Vicente Guerrero, the heart of the dowtown area, died at General Hospital.

Sign of the Times: Hospitals in Juarez Take Defensive Steps Against Violence

A story in Diario today reveals some of the measures hospitals have taken to defend themselves against intrusions by assassins trying to complete their task. Among the measures are: limiting access into hospitals, hiring private security, locking and reinforcing doors, painting glass windows, and increasing the alertness of staff.

At the Hospital Juarez there was an internal conflict after administrators decided against treating gunshot wounds, resisted by a group of physicians who asked for a restraining order to avoid being fired there, after they continued treating those suffering from gunshot wounds. Last month a man wounded by gunfire appeared at the hospital but he was allowed to die without treatment because security officers would not allow him inside.

In May of 2008 a group of people in a black Hummer were attacked by gunfire; the ocupants managed to get to the hospital when they were again attacked by assassins. One man died outside the hospital. The others were admitted to the hospital but the assassins followed them and opened fire on them as they were receiving medical treatment. Another two persons were killed. On July 30 this year a man already wounded by gunfire was killed by assassins as he was receiving medical attention in the emergency room at Hospital General in Zone 35 of IMSS.

Major Change in Juarez Security Regime: The Military is Leaving, Gradually.

After announcing at various times in the past few weeks, first, that the armed forces would stay at least until December, possibly next March, and then, that it would stay indefinitely into the future, Mayor José Reyes Ferriz announced yesterday in a press conference that the army that has occupied Cd. Juárez for 18 months now will begin a gradual withdrawal from the city, as initially planned, beginning September 1 of this year. Last Thursday, according to a story in Norte today, by Francisco Lujan, Governor José Reyes Baeza had announced that the withdrawal of the armed forces would begin in January.

There have been ongoing discussions for several months now between the federal government, the army, and public security authorities in Cd.
Juárez about various matters, including the need to adopt new strategies and tactics in the face of a return of severe violence, and the length of stay of the army in Juárez. The municipal government is paying for the Juárez-based costs of Joint Operation Chihuahua (the army is operating in Chihuahua City as well) and there has been an increase in criticism that the presence of armed forces has been relatively ineffective in stopping homicides and a strong spike in other serious crimes as well. In addition there has been a rise in citizen complaints about misbehavior of soldiers. Apparently city officials have concluded it may be time for the armed forces to leave the city.

From the beginning Joint Operation Chihuahua was explained to the public as a temporary measure to give time for the city to train a cadre of about 3000 municipal police, doubling it's size, a measure that was scheduled to end in September of this year. The army in March of this year replaced most municipal police and took over all command positions within the organization. The city then began a crash program at the municipal police academy to train 2700 police officers in groups numbering about 600 at a time.

My rough calculation in late July was that the homicide rate for Cd. Juárez this year, when translated to a per-capita basis, is about 140 homicides per 100,000 population, making Juárez the homicide capital of the Western Hemisphere, surpassing Caracas, Venezuela, which had a homicide rate in 2008 of 130 per 100,000. Baltimore and Detroit lead the murder rates in the U.S., with rates of 45 and 46 per 100,000, respectively.

Yesterday it was announced that a cohort group of about 650 newly trained municipal police officers were merged into city patrol functions by the military, after receiving an additional four weeks of military training at a training center run by the defense ministry in Santa Gertrudis, Chihuahua. In a story by Hérika Martínez Prado today in Norte, with the incorporation of these officers 1176 officers have now received training this year at the military base, while a third group will be sent there in September. During the four weeks of training officers are trained in weapons handling, weapons assembly and disassembly, vehicle-to-vehicle combat, human rights, and map training to improve knowledge of the city. Each officer trained in Santa Gertrudis costs the city of Juárez $50,000 pesos, about $3700 U.S.

At the present moment there are 750 cadets in the police academy now, who will be graduating in the second week in September. This will raise the total number of trained officers to 2700 and another 400 are scheduled for training in October, raising the total number to 3100.

Mayor Reyes Ferriz indicated that as the army begins to withdraw from Juárez the police department will be managed by municipal police, not the armed forces, which is now the case. "This doesn't mean we don't need the army. The support we have received from the army has been extremely valuable in enabling us to restructure and fortify the municipal police," he said. "With our new police force in place, we will be able to ask the army to perform other functions which we are designing and which are important under the agreements we signed in Joint Operation Chihuahua," he added. The military convoys that have been prevalent during all of Joint Operation Chihuahua will end, replaced by civilian police officers who will patrol in their own automobiles, in pairs.