Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Funeral and the Bruce King Legacy

The sea of about 1800 aging faces at the funeral was a representative sampling of the surviving members of a political class that shaped New Mexico for over 30 years, including some fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

There was James Martin, a freshman legislator with Bruce King in 1959 and member of the 1969 constitutional convention and later a judge. His son, also at the funeral, is a judge today. There was Myles Culbertson, Executive Director of the New Mexico Border Authority in the early 1990s, today director of the NM Livestock Bureau. His father served in the legislature with King and his daughter worked for Sen. Dominici; Diane Denish, presenting the flag of New Mexico to the King family at the grave site, whose father ran against Bruce King for governor in 1970; Brian Sanderoff, one of King's top aides from 1978-1982, now the top pollster in the state; Linda Kehoe, now with the LFC, formerly King's chief of staff; Ed Romero, former Bernalillo County Democratic Chair, former ambassador to Spain; John Garcia, formerly Secretary of Economic Development under King, now Secretary of Veterans Services; Carol Robertson Lopez, former King staffer, later Mayor Pro Tem of Santa Fe and longtime mover and shaker there. The list could go on and on, including Ben Alexander, born before the Great Depression, and the relative youngsters born after the death of Jack Kennedy who joined the King administration in the early 1990s.

The achievements of this political class are remarkable. It drew up a new constitution (Bruce King of course chaired it) in 1969 and when voters turned it down it helped Governor Jerry Apodaca make the needed changes through constitutional amendments. It facilitated, indeed was part of, the serious entry of women into the New Mexico political scene. It improved the representation of minority groups. It created the best school funding formula in the U.S., insuring an equal share for each student. It stimulated a golden age of university performance, vastly increasing the proportions of college graduates while making our best universities nationally competitive. It created a severance tax on our extractive industries, putting the proceeds into an interest-bearing fund that supplements state expenditures. It opened up the Santa Teresa border crossing, paving the way for the surge of commerce we see there today.

The latter, done during King's third administration, was not atypical of the Bruce King style. When red tape jammed up the project King authorized Myles Culbertson and Jack Pickel, unpaid volunteers, to build the crossing by themselves, while Charlie Crowder crossed onto the Mexican side, unauthorized, to move dirt. Poorly funded and held together with bailing wire, nevertheless, it worked.

Bruce King cannot and would not take responsibility for all of the above. Jerry Apodaca, Toney Anaya, and David Cargo played their roles and so did our strong Washington delegation and our powerful senate and house leaders, like Aubrey Dunn and Raymond Sanchez. In truth, the achievements of that age were the work of a broad-based political class, feeling its baby-boomer oats.

King's most lasting achievement was that he was the master assembler, and often maestro conductor, of this political class. And it was the quality of that relationship--hardball, but decent, honest, at its core--that we miss today. Make no mistake about it. That political class had a mind of its own. It kept returning to King for leadership because King understood it better, and, in turn, he reflected its values more authentically, than anyone else. Beneath the self-parody of a country hick, the cowboy boots and rancher's accent King understood Los Alamos managers and university presidents as well as he understood the effect of weather on the profitability of beef. He understood the chili picker's longing for dignity as well as he understood the resentment of Little Texans against a certain Speaker of the House. He knew where New Mexico was headed and knew how to get what was needed to move it there.

The relationship between King and the political class was complex, and not always smooth, but the interaction made New Mexico a far better, fairer, place to live. At bottom it was cemented in King's deep understanding of New Mexicans and our trust in his integrity, a trust so deep you laughed without resentment when you heard he had told a supporter, "I know I promised but I didn't make it a commitment." Deep down you suspected Bruce had probably made the right decision. You knew he was right when he said, frequently, "you know, it is amazing what people can accomplish if they don't worry about who gets the credit." His funny stories often had a hidden point to them applicable to the moment at hand. And, compassionate, he was nevertheless a master at the prudent exercise of power.

The Clinton appearance was genuine and his eulogy was a work of art. He knew the Bruce we all knew and, like us, he was delighted by his inimitable personality and his underlying seriousness of purpose.

This was not a funeral you had to go to. King had been out of office for 15 years; no gain in seeing and being seen, and many kingistas have been supplanted by younger cohorts in the contemporary political class. The group at the funeral was subdued, self-confident in an understated way and, I thought, not ambitious to govern again. All in all it looked more like a composite of New Mexico, ethnically, geographically, economically, than any crowd I've been in for a long time, a commentary on how truly representative the ruling class in New Mexico really was during that time period. It will almost certainly never gather again under the same roof. But don't underestimate it. It's faculties are intact, it knows how to get things done, it's children are getting active, and it is fully aware of what is happening on the political scene. If it gets unhappy, watch out!

Goodbye Bruce, and thanks!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Beat: Twenty Today

Bloody Friday: twenty persons were murdered in what appears to be narco-related executions in and around the city of Juarez today. Six died yesterday, including four police agents killed in two incidents. If the count of twenty holds up today the toll this year is around 2280 so far, with nearly six weeks left in the year. At this rate the year will end with about 2568 murders, for a rate of 171 per 100,000.

Fed Speech Covers NM Economy: Ouch! This Looks Serious! Call Sen. John Arthur Smith and Tell Him He Was Right!

Winthrop Quigley of the Albuquerque Journal covered a speech given yesterday in Albuquerque to the Economic Forum by an economist, Mark Snead, for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, which covers New Mexico. The graph on the right is taken from the web site of the Bank. Click here for story.

Bottom Line: New Mexico is now in the first serious recession it has experienced since World War II. The major driving force is the price of energy, which is depressed. Quigley quotes Snead as saying, "I think we hit the life-time low in oil prices last summer." With natural gas prices at $1.90 per thousand cubic feet, "that's shut-down levels...Gas prices drive (economic growth) in the region." There is nothing out there that looks like it will reduce output. "I'm very concerned about that," he said.

Given New Mexico's heavy reliance on oil and gas for state tax revenues, it seems to me the fiscal situation of state government may not be improving significantly for a while. Sen. John A. Smith has been saying this, not just in the past few months, but for several years. He came to one of my classes two and a half years ago with this message, for which he has been unfairly demonized by people who felt it was in their political interests to ignore these realities. Smith's power as Chair of Senate Finance has prevented even worse fiscal disasters for the state, and he is owed the gratitude of the citizens of New Mexico not only for doing what was right but also doing so when it was not popular, and politically dangerous.

Another serious cause for concern is the housing sector (see graph) which, in New Mexico, is not recovering as strongly as it has in many other places. Employment (see graph) is also down in New Mexico, and Snead explained to his audience yesterday that federal unemployment figures tend to very wrong is energy states and New Mexico was probably not growing as fast as the data indicated.

The data in the charts to the right are serious cause for concern. Goods producing sectors are down about 15% from last year, and manufacturing and construction are down even more.

One clear lesson from this unhappy experience? The state needs to do something about it's reliance for revenues on non-renewable energy. The state has diversified its economy considerably in recent years, and our taxation system needs to reflect these new realities. We can argue over whether the overall level of taxation and revenue collection is appropriate or not, but we certainly can agree to shift the tax structure so that state government is not as badly hurt when energy costs, which are very cyclical, go down.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Road to Sta Teresa Now Paved All the Way: The Road to Sanity is Not

Ciudad Juárez is just not the bustling, alluring city, teeming with that infinite, energetic norteño charm it once exuded. It used to remind me of the Alexandria of the Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell, one of the great novels of the 1950s, where the protagonist is not so much the people of the novel as the city itself. The late Ricardo Aguilar, a friend and colleague of mine at NMSU, captured the tempo and spirit of Juárez, especially the voice of the common tipo on the steet. His short stories still rivet my attention, and some are translated into English.

Traffic is down to a trickle in most parts of the city. The hundreds of racks of used clothing and old appliances for sale on the streets remind you of the toll the recession and violence have taken. People no longer congregate in large numbers on the streets downtown to gossip with one another. And in the expensive shopping malls your footsteps echo as you walk past a deserted parade of stores, an eerie commentary on the fear of kidnapping among the upper classes. Night life? Forget it. As they say, don't even go there.

The city will recover, make no mistake about it, and when it does, it will be a pleasurable feast again. But things will have to happen before it can recover, and the next few months will clarify a great deal about how long this might take and how it might come about.

I've been explicit in writing about the circumstances of violent death in Ciudad Juárez. The major news media in New Mexico cover it only intermittently when something happens that is picked up by the national media. I thought it might be useful to convey the staccato rhythm of daily death as it comes, startlingly fast, through an automobile windshield on a busy intersection, or just outside a victim's home as he leaves for work, or in a nightclub parking lot. I was hoping this way to make the reader wonder what might be behind the killings and, yes, what our relationship might be, should be, to our neighbors to the South.

Ciudad Juárez is 35 miles from my home in Las Cruces as the crow flies; it is closer to Albuquerque than Denver and within a mile of the racetrack at Sunland Park. These are our neighbors. New Mexicans gave illegal sanctuary to hundreds of refugees from Central America during the 1980s and today Albuquerque politicians speak piously about the plight of immigrants. We think nothing of flying off to Africa or Honduras to dispense eyeglasses to the blind or medicine to the sick or crutches to the lame. But we don't think as often about our neighbors on the other side of the fence, and our government certainly spends a lot more time thinking about the security of the residents of Baghdad than it does about the people of Juárez.

Politicians in New Mexico love to speak at border conferences about doing business with Mexico. We have an office of Mexican Affairs and a Border Authority. We brag about our closeness to Mexico, ethnically and economically, and exalt our cultural ties to Mexico in the fiestas of Santa Fe each summer and mariachi conferences down here. But, with the occasional exception of Bishop Ricardo Ramirez, I haven't heard a peep from public figures, not even an official voice of empathy, about the crushing violence and deadly gunfire within earshot of a casino at Sunland Park raking in profits and taxes, in significant part, from prosperous citizens who live, or used to live, in the most violent city in the world.

I will continue to describe the violence but focus more on the larger political context in Cd. Juárez. There are mayoral elections coming up next July, and the presidential campaign of 2012 will begin in earnest next year. The violence will not go away, but it now becomes more visibly part of the wider political world. Partisan interaction will, in turn, shape the overall climate within which violence will ebb and flow.

I was in Cd. Juarez yesterday and, as usual, I checked out the Santa Fe bridge for traffic before deciding to cross back at Sta. Teresa. While the four-lane highway is not yet finished, at least two lanes are paved all the way, and you can do 50 mph (I got up to 70) safely on most of it--there is virtually no traffic--after Anapra, so the trip from downtown is only 20 minutes. More minutes will be shaved off when access streets linking downtown to the road are finished. Waiting lines at Sta. Teresa will go up. Yesterday only five cars were in front of me, but the wait in both lanes was painfully slow. On the other hand I have noticed an improved professionalism in recent months by border officials monitoring your passage. The attitude is more respectful and you realize from the quality of their questions they are actually thinking, discreetly, while making reasoned judgments about you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Transparency International Drops Perceived Corruption Level in Mexico Down 17 Places: New Mexico is Not Ranked

Transparency International, an NGO that tracks corruption, has downgraded Mexico from 72nd to 89th out of 180 (No. 1, New Zealand, is the most honest) countries in its 2009 annual index of perceived corruption, roughly a measure of what elites who live in each country believe to be the case in 13 different types of potential corruption. The methodology is complicated, but the website has an excellent explanation of how the index is derived. Mexico is tied with Rwanda, Lesotho, Morrocco, and Moldova, hardly known as bastions of Lincolnesque honesty.

The U.S. is ranked 19th, below a number of European countries, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, and Hong Kong. Iraq and Afghanistan, both supported by U.S. troops in multi-billion dollar exercises, score 176 and 179 (out of 180), respectively. Several Latin American countries scored below Mexico, including Paraguay, Venezuela, and Haiti, near the bottom of the list.

Unfortunately, New Mexico is not ranked along with the 180 countries. You think it might score above Afghanistan?

Man Bleeds to Death Waiting 30 Minutes for Ambulance

According to PM, a Juarez newspaper, an unidentified man, stabbed in the chest with a vegetable cutting knife by presumed thieves, bled to death at about 7:30 p.m. last night while a police patrol composed of soldiers and municipal police stood by, waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. When police arrived on the scene the man was screaming for help and complaining about his pain. The report gave no explanation for the delay in the arrival of the ambulance, nor whether police tried to give first aid (are they trained for this?) to the victim, who was wearing white tennis shoes covered with blood, dark trousers, and a black jacket. His hands were covered with blood as he died and blood was dripping from three steps of the concrete stairway above his body. There have been numerous complaints about the effectiveness of the emergency call number in Cd. Juarez in recent months.

Christmas Bonuses in Juarez Maquiladoras Will be Down 25% from Last Year

Antonio Rebolledo, Norte, (click here for story) reports that Christmas bonuses for maquila plant workers this year will likely be at least 25% lower than last year. Soledad Máynez Bribiesca, president of the Association of Maquiladoras explained that, while employment figures for the last quarter are up, the total number of maquila employees in Juarez is not expected to reach 2008 levels until the last quarter of 2010. Currently there is a chamber of commerce-sponsored media promotion labeled "If we Buy in Juarez We All Win," (Si en Juárez compramos, todos ganamos”) hoping to stimulate consumption by citizens.

In Mexico Christmas bonuses are far more widespread, because of legal requirements for them, than in the U.S., and employees tend to count on them to pay for Christmas shopping.

Monday, November 16, 2009

UN Peacekeepers, Narcosatanism, and Citizen Fronts: Political Discourse This Week in the Most Violent City in the World

Several indicators of frustration reaching desperation levels leaked out in public pronouncements over the past few days in Cd. Juarez, nearing the end of another bloody year.

The most interesting of these was an announcement by two business groups, the Cd. Juarez Association of Maquiladoras and the Juarez branch of the National Chamber of Commerce, Services, and Tourism, that they would submit a request to the Mexican government and to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to approve an appeal to the United Nations to bring a UN Peacekeeping group to Cd. Juarez to deal with the violence.

There is absolutely no chance the request will be acted upon (it would be an unacceptable embarrassment for both Mexico and the U.S. government), but the public announcement about it sends an unmistakable message to Mexico City, Chihuahua, and municipal officials in Cd. Juarez, that the business community is willing to plead publicly, to a world audience, that it is impatient for results. According to reports several thousand (conventional wisdom suggests about 6000 this year) businesses have closed due to the violence.

A more serious potential challenge for authorities is the initiative announced over the weekend by Citizen Observatory, the Association of Maquiladoras, and the National Chamber of Commerce, to convene a broad Common Front Against Violence, composed of a broad spectrum of civil organizations. Norte (click here for story) reports the Front hopes to "deliberate" about the results of public action so far against the violence, and forge a consensus about possible solutions that will be presented to federal authorities.

Should this broad Front materialize it could take on a life of its own, making and breaking a lot of political careers in Chihuahua and, possibly, shake up the major political parties. A low-key whisper campaign about the formation of what amounts to vigilante groups has been around for several months but has not materialized. This represents a different civic approach to the violence, but it poses a potential threat to the established political class since, so far, political parties have not engaged with citizens to sort out their responses. It is tough to be a public official in Juárez these days. This adds, deliberately, to the pressure.

Finally, the Bishop of Cd. Juárez, José René Blanco Vega, weighed in yesterday, as reported in Diario this morning (click here for story), asserting he believes the viciousness with which some of the women have been killed may be signs of a satanic cult. Referring only in part to news reports that two sisters, Maria Concepcion Guardado Flores, 15, and Maria Guadalupe Guardado Flores, 14, who were kidnapped from a party in San Isidro last week, tortured, incinerated, and dragged to an empty lot, the bishop suggested he thought some of the killers belong to a satanic cult that makes offerings to the devil. "We know that many traffickers are 'narcosatanists' (narcosatánicos) and there are indications a satanic cult has been torturing women," he said. Those who sell drugs "make pacts with Satan seeking power and they make human sacrifices, acting completely contrary to our Faith and love of God. We should firmly denounce these acts because they are the actions of agents of evil."

For several years now there have been rumors of a satanic cult responsible for the deaths of some of the Murdered Women of Juárez. Evidence is pretty sketchy at best for this proposition, and among the many women murdered this year in narco-related violence, satanism is pretty far down the list of likely motivations. Most people in Juarez are killed for pretty mundane reasons. There are a lot more men than women who have been found tortured to death this year, including many teenagers, but few rumors about satanic cults surround them. The real story in Juárez is not whether a few of the women-killers may have engaged in satanic rituals; it would be surprising if men who make their living killing others did not ritualize their activities. The real story, still largely untold, is how it came to pass that the War on Drugs ended up in Juárez with trigger men, representing various factions of Mexican society, on a shooting spree that will claim 2500 lives this year alone.

What is fascinating about these three reports is not so much their face value as serious calls to action, but precisely the air of unreality that hangs over them. These expressions reflect the agony of civic leaders in a society under severe strain, with little hope for short-term relief, aching for a better day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bruce King Dies

Former Governor Bruce King, 85, died last night at his home in Stanley, New Mexico. He had been under hospice care recently, with cardiac problems. His wife Alice died nearly a year ago.

King is one of the giant figures in New Mexico politics, dominating the political scene for more a quarter of a century. He served as governor for three four-year terms, from 1970-1974; from 1978-1982; and from 1990-1994. He was first elected in 1954 as a member of the county commission in Santa Fe county, then got elected to the state legislature in 1958, where he rose quickly through the ranks to become Speaker of the House from 1963-1968. He also served as Chair of the Constitutional Convention in 1969, and party chair of the Democratic Party in 1968 and 1969. He was elected governor in 1970, defeating another giant-to-be in New Mexico politics, Pete Domenici, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. King was elected governor once again in 1978, narrowly defeating yet another giant-to-be figure in New Mexico politics, Joe Skeen, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980, by a write-in vote.

King was elected again to the governorship in 1990, and, for the first time was enabled by a constitutional amendment to succeed himself in office. However, in 1994 his Lt. Governor, Casey Luna, ran against him in the gubernatorial primary, splitting the party, facilitating the election of Gary Johnson as governor in 1994.

King had an exceptionally agile mind, and he could rattle off tactical advice on the practice of politics with the speed and precision of a great jazz player doing a riff. He never forgot origins as a rancher and ordinary citizens identified themselves strongly with him, and he with them. In spite of his Western drawl and rancher background, he was extremely popular among the state's Hispanic voters (who are mainly Democrats), who offered him strong electoral support. He was able to attract a pool of extremely talented and loyal staff members, many of whom went on to play key roles in public and private life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Death Count in the Most Violent City in the World: 2194 and Counting; Rate Now Stands at 170 per 100,000

After another bloody weekend, the body count as of mid-day today stood at 2194. With 51 days of the year left, should the present trend continue the homicide toll will be around 2550 at the end of the year. This would place the homicide rate per 100,000, (the most common measurement) at 170. The last time I calculated (see entry on September 23), the projection was for 2374 murders by the end of the year, so the homicide rate has stepped up some since then. At that time the homicide rate was 158. An article in Foreign Policy article in September 2008 listed Caracas at that time as the highest homicide city in the world, at 130. So Juarez is clearly above that.

A Time magazine article this year puts the Baghdad homicide rate at 48, slightly higher than St. Louis in 2008 which came in at 47. Global homicide rates per city are more difficult to get hold of than you might think at first. But there are places in the U.S. that aren't too far behind the worst cities in the world, such as New Orleans, which the FBI estimated in 2008 had a murder rate per 100,000 of 64. The U.S. average in 2008 was 5.6, one thirtieth of the rate I've projected for this year in Cd. Juarez.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Guns of November: Fourteen Executed Yesterday

Shortly after midnight Wednesday morning six persons were executed at the Amadeus nightclub in Cd. Juarez, including a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, David Booher Magallanes, assigned to Holloman AFB, who was on his day off, according to a story in the El Paso Times.

From Diario and Norte this morning:

Then at 2:50 a.m. the body of a man about 45 was found dead at Zaragoza and Independencia, with three spent 9 mm. cartridges nearby.

Then around noon four men, ages 18-24, were executed against the wall of a primary school in col. El Campanario. Click here for full Diario story. Witnesses told Diario the victims were taken out of a vehicle, lined up against the wall, and told to kneel down. One man tried to flee but was shot down about 15 meters from the others. About a hundred 7.62 X 39 spent cartridges were found nearby. The school has several hundred children and at least one class was outside doing physical education when the shooting started. Teachers screamed at them to lie down. When the shooting was over, children could see the dead bodies. One of the victims' head had been split in half by the gunfire. School was suspended for the rest of the day.

At around 4 p.m. Jacinto Montiel Navarro was shot once in the face and killed inside an auto repair shop in col. Zaragoza.

At 9 p.m. two men were killed behind Galerias Tec, a shopping center on Pedro Rosales de Leon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

La Polaka Confirms Death of U.S. Air Force Man

A few minutes ago La Polaka reported that one of the persons killed last night at Amadeus was indeed in the U.S. Air Force, rank undisclosed. La Polaka identifies him as David Bohr. They also report that Alberto Arguelles, also in the U.S. Air Force, was wounded in last night's shooting and was taken to UTEP's emergency medical center in El Paso.

Six Executed Last Night at Amadeus: Unconfirmed Report Suggests a US Air Force Officer May Have Been Among the Dead

La Polaka (click here for story) reports this morning that six persons were killed by gunfire late last night at Amadeus, a topless bar.

The assassins arrived in various vehicles shortly after midnight and secured the parking lot, "apparently hoping to kidnap two persons in the bar." A gun battle broke out, leaving six dead and two wounded.

La Polaka reports that among the dead "may have been a U.S. Air Force officer who was in a VIP room with other persons." I wouldn't count on this report being true unless the story is confirmed. It is highly unlikely a U.S. military officer would find himself in a topless bar in Juarez late at night. Diario, reporting on the incident this morning (click here), states only that "it is said ("se habla") that two of the dead persons were U.S. citizens but this has not been confirmed by authorities."

Amadeus, just across the street from Sam's on Ejercito Nacional, is said to be the fanciest topless bar in Juarez and has a well guarded parking lot.

The Beat Back to Normal: Nine Executed Yesterday

From reports in Diario, Norte, and La Polaka

After a lull this weekend, perhaps out of respect for the Day of the Dead on Monday, Juárez's assassins were back to full-time work on Tuesday.

The body of a man about 30 years old, apparently left on a street in Col. Castillo Peraza, was found at 7 a.m. with multiple gunshot wounds. Then Juan Olivarez Campero, 26, was killed by gunfire to various parts of his body at around 10:30 a.m. in Col. Luis Echeverria, near an arroyo. At 2:30 p.m. the owner of a beauty salon, Victor Hernandez, was killed inside his beauty salon in Col. El Granjero.

A few minutes later a man was killed by gunfire as he was driving a white Neon in Col. Horizontes del Sur, accompanied by a woman and a young girl. Under gunfire, he lost control over his vehicle and ran into an electric post. The woman and girl were not injured.

Just before 4 p.m. another man was killed in col. Tierra Nueva, and at 4:40 René González Cabrera, 22, was killed outside a grocery store in col. Salvárcar. Two of Mr. González's brothers had been killed at the same spot. He lived half a block from the grocery store and was known by neighbors as a drug addict and burgler.

At about 7:20 a man identified only as "El Spider" was killed by gunfire outside his home in Col. Revolucion Mexicana. Family members who heard the shots found his body and covered it with a blanket.

Then an unidentified man was killed by two gunshots to the head at a filling station on Henequén and Independencia. He was about 25 years old, and was wearing running shoes and blue jeans.

Also last night Carlos Alexis Caraveo Prieto, 30, was killed by gunfire at the intersection of Poresta Pereira and Máximo Castillo, col. Revolucion Mexicana while he was walking with his mother. She was crying disconsolately when police arrived at the scene.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quiet Day of the Dead: Only One (Oops, Three) Murder(s)

Perhaps honoring the Day of the Dead (celebrated yesterday in Juarez), assassins in our sister city of Cd. Juarez contributed only one person to the realm of the dead, No. 2116 so far this year. A later edition of Diario informed me there were two more killed last night, so as of this morning we were up to 2118.

Norte and La Polaka report that at about 4 p.m. Jaime García Moreno, 35, and apparently a guard at Cereso prison, entered a beauty shop (Maghor) in Col. Torres del Sur, pursued by assassins. When the assassins entered he was clinging to a woman, as if for protection. After pulling him away from her they shot him nine times in the head.

Gerardo Salinas González, 38, was shot at around 9 p.m. as he was entering his home at 859 Gladiolas. He was shot four times with a 45 caliber weapon and 14 times with a 9 mm. weapon. Another man, unidentified, was shot and killed outside a store at an unidentified location at about the same time.

Salvadoran Man Loses Arm in Fall From Train: Bishop of Cd. Juarez Criticizes U.S. Deportation Policy, Bishop of Las Cruces Comments

Diario reports this morning that Rafael Martínez, 40, a Salvadoran who was deported by the U.S. through Juárez, lost his arm yesterday after he fell from a train at the crossing downtown at Carlos Amaya and Ramón Alcázar. The train apparently rolled over his arm when he fell. His arm was amputated at General Hospital. He said he had jumped onto the freight train hoping to hitch rides back to El Salvador.

Diario also reports this morning (for full story click here) that Renato Ascencio León, Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad Juárez, at a binational mass held yesterday near Anapra dedicated to those migrants who have died trying to achieve the American Dream, criticized recent changes in deportation policy in the U.S. He characterized such policies as the repatriation of Mexicans through desert areas of Presidio-Ojinaga, where there are few avenues of transportation, as "xenophobic," and criticized what he indicated were lukewarm responses by federal officials in Mexico. In the Mexican "government there are apparently no leaders who truly defend the plight of our migrant brothers," he said, specifically including the Foreign Secretary of Mexico (Patricia Espinosa).

Armando Ochoa, Bishop of El Paso, told reporters he thought, from media reports, that migration reform in the U.S. is important, but not a top priority this year for President Obama.

Ricardo Ramírez, Bishop of Las Cruces, asked God to forgive the rejection and treatment suffered by migrants who enter the U.S., as well as the racial prejudice and poor conditions they are forced to live with. He also prayed about the difficulty the community has in realizing we are all equal and the fear it has in reaching out to migrants to lend a helping hand. He said that for the Lord there are no borders, and therefore the eucharist is the moment of greatest unity in the community.

"The deaths (of migrants) have their roots in the insensitivity of the powerful who create structures that carry injustice within them," he said.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Beat: (Relatively) Quiet Weekend, Only Seven Murders

The official murder count this year in Cd. Juárez as of this morning was 2115 after seven persons were murdered late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

From a report by Félix A. González, writing in Norte.

An unidentified woman was found dead with seven gunshot wounds late Saturday night in the downtown area. She was wearing a gray jacket, black blouse, and brown shoes. Seven empty 9 mm. cartridges were found near the body.

Iván Monsiváis Domínguez, 25, was found dead at Óscar Peña y Fernando Montes de Oca, Col. El Sauzal, at 2:30 Sunday morning. He was shot in the throat and bled to death. Rufino Durán, 62, was found dead from a gunshot wound to the neck in Col. Torres del Sur. Ramón Chávez Montelongo, 32, was found dead at the intersection of Fuente de Trevi and Yepómera, Col. Santa Mónica. He was shot in the temple, collar bone, and chest. Twenty four empty cartridges, of 9 mm. and 40 caliber, were found nearby. Raymundo Díaz de León died while receiving medical assistance at the General Hospital at 11:10 p.m. on Saturday.

A man was found assassinated (the writer, Félix A. González, states: "apparently crucified," without further comment) inside a home in Bosques de Salvárcar.

New Technique for Car Theft in Juarez?

Hérika Martínez Prado writes this morning in Norte that an email is making the rounds, warning car owners of a new technique it claims is being used to steal autos from patrons of restaurants.

According to the email thieves identify an automobile they want to steal from a restaurant parking lot. They jot down the plate numbers, enter the restaurant, and ask likely owners whether the numbers correspond to their auto. When they locate the owner they explain that the car is blocking the exit of another car and ask the driver to move it. When the driver arrives at the car thieves explain this is a robbery, take the keys and quite likely the victim's wallet, and take off. The author of the email suggests that patrons should park only in places where there are parking assistants and to avoid parking in a spot that could possibly block others. If someone should ask you at a restaurant to move your car, it might be best not to comply. Interestingly, the email does not suggest calling the police, a reluctance that has a long history of cynicism about police in Cd. Juarez. It is of course possible that the email is simply an attempt to start a new urban legend. Hopefully someone will check out car theft reports to see if this particular pattern is emerging.