Tuesday, March 16, 2010

President Calderon in Juarez Today: Third Visit in Six Weeks

President Felipe Calderon will arrive in Cd. Juárez today for the third visit in less than six weeks. His arrival demonstrates, if nothing else, an admirable courage: he will face the anguished and sometimes angry families of murdered victims one more time; he will be exposed to the U.S. media which, fueled by the death of a U.S. citizen working for the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, will be paying more attention than usual; he comes to town knowing that local, state, and federal agencies on the El Paso side, as well as larger sections of the public, are suddenly, after years of blissful ignorance, shocked--shocked I tell you--that a bloodbath is taking place in the largest sector of the largest international metroplex in the world, the Cd. Juárez-El Paso-Sunland Park perimeter. He will face the municipal, state governments of Cd. Juarez and Chihuahua fully aware of the deep-seated, embedded layers of corruption in law enforcement at all levels. He knows he is under the glare of disgust at the highest levels of the United States Government, which is increasingly, if belatedly, concerned about the dangers to U.S. national security inherent in the serious threats to the rule of law in the state of Chihuahua.

He also arrives as the death count has exceeded 500 murders so far this year, a higher daily average than last year, and double the level two years ago when a spike in violence prompted the deployment of the Mexican Army to Juárez in Joint Operation Chihuahua.

He arrives less than a week after one of the three major parties in Mexico, the PRI, currently in control of municipal government in Juárez and state government in Chihuahua, has just nominated as candidate for mayor of Juárez the same man who occupied the mayor's seat from 2004-2007, and during which time honest officials appear lost complete control of municipal police forces to corrupt, elements. For years the former mayor, now candidate for mayor again, has been accused in the national media of having close ties with cartel bosses. Never before has a former mayor ever been nominated again in Juarez for the same job. It appears to be a cynical consolation prize by the national PRI party for nominating someone else to be governor of the state, in view, ironically, of the negative image he might provide as governor. "But he was a popular mayor, a populist, and the people liked him," seems to be the official line.

In this context, yes, it takes a lot of courage to come to Juárez, facing up to a major failure of security in the fourth largest city in Mexico. The question, fairly simple, is this: do the people and institutions of the state of Chihuahua have the political will to join in with the president and retake control of Juárez? They certainly have the means to do so.

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