Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Beat: Mother Killed in Front of Daughters, 8, 10 Years Old

At about one p.m. yesterday Xóchitl Rodríguez Casillas, 32, left a grocery store (The Súper González) with a sack full of groceries and her two daughters, ages 8 and 10. As she got into her vehicle, a black 1999 Lincoln Navigator with Oklahoma plates, gunmen appeared and shot her four times. Her daughters were uninjured. She was the 25th woman killed in July 2010 in Juarez. Click here for story in El Mexicano

U.S. Consulate Closed Due to Bomb Threat: Businesses Near Consulate Will Suffer: The Fear Factor Has Just Escalated To a New Level

Yesterday the delegate of the Mexican Foreign Office, Eduardo Rodriguez, confirmed that the closing of the U.S. Consulate was due to the threat of a car bomb. On Thursday morning the Consulate was evacuated after it received a bomb threat, and a decision was made later to close the Consulate indefinitely. For story in Diario, click here. The U.S. State Department at first simply stated they had closed the Consulate for a "security review" without stating the cause, perhaps not wishing to cause undue alarm. However, this morning citizens have been warned to stay away from the immediate area surrounding the building.

The U.S. Consulate is located in an area known as the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone), a newly developed, wealthy sector in Cd. Juarez, just East of Triunfo de la Republica, a major artery which continues to the airport. The Consulate is the major economic engine for this sector of town, inasmuch as every citizen in Mexico who wishes to obtain a permanent resident visa to the U.S. must interview in person there, and many thousands of persons visit the Consulate each year for other kinds of visas. Nearly 2000 applications of one kind or another are processed there daily and it is estimated that one million persons enter the building each year. It is the largest U.S. Consulate in the world.

Given the escalating violence over the past two years, the Consulate was one of the few places left in Juarez drawing large daily concentrations of people, and the area is surrounded by ten hotels, at least 20 restaurants, a major shopping mall (Las Misiones, with about 50 businesses and a movie complex), bars, and other establishments that cater to Mexicans from out of town who have business at the Consulate. As long as the Consulate remains closed, these businesses are likely to suffer huge losses, and hundreds of jobs are in jeopardy.

Perhaps even more important, if one wanted to do something that would emphasize the lack of normality in Juarez, that would underscore the relative impotence of law enforcement to provide security, and that would stimulate even more widespread fear in the city, it is hard to imagine an act more efficient at doing so than this one.

This morning the municipal government announced it would begin inspecting all vehicles entering the parking lot of the municipal building and other high-profile facilities in the city. Yesterday El Norte, a daily newspaper, received a false bomb threat which disrupted business there. The threat of car bombings has now engulfed Cd. Juarez, placing it for the moment in the same category as Bogota, Colombia, some years back, Beirut, Lebanon, for many years, Baghdad, and other notorious places. Until now most Juarenses continued to believe if they weren't involved in drug trafficking or the victim of extortion, the violence was highly unlikely to strike them, except as a lightning stroke of bad luck. The threat of car bombing, which can kill dozens of bystanders, has just changed the equation of fear in Cd. Juarez.

Meanwhile seven persons were killed Friday afternoon; four in a barbershop in Col. San Felipe del Real; and three in front of a residential home in Col. Postal.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sinaloa Cartel Leader Killed Near Guadalajara: Ignacio Coronel Villareal. But Juarez Narcomessage Repeats Warning

He was called the King of Crystal because he had strong control over methamphetamine production and traffic in Mexico. At one time he was a specialist in moving cocaine by boats from Colombia to Mexico and across the Texas and Arizona borders. The U.S. State Department had a price of $5 million on his head for information leading to his capture. He started out with Amado Carrillo Fuentes, head of the Juarez cartel, but moved out to the West Coast to join the Sinaloa cartel after Carrillo's death during plastic surgery operation on his face. He was apparently a talented operator and rose to become, with Chapo Guzman and "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel.

But on Thursday morning Nacho Coronel, 56, was killed by military troops who raided several houses in Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara, where Coronel resided. It was perhaps the biggest downfall of a drug lord since Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in Cuernavaca last December.

Nevertheless, in Juarez this morning a new narcomessage was painted on a wall saying (in Spanish), "the 15 days are up and we haven't seen anything, take care of yourselves those who cover for Chapo..." and signed "La Linea." Two weeks ago a car bomb went off in Juarez, killing several persons and narcomessages were hung out claiming the bombing was retaliation from La Linea for the alleged protection law enforcement officials provide for Chapo Guzman's activities in Juarez. A bloody rivalry between the Juarez cartel (also called "La Linea") and the Sinaloa cartel has raged in Juarez for the past two years. For more than a year members of the Juarez cartel have claimed authorities in Juarez were not targeting their rivals, the Sinaloa cartel. These allegations have been firmly denied by government authorities. Apparently Nacho Coronel's death has not convinced La Linea they are strongly pursuing the Sinaloa cartel.

U.S. Consulate in Juarez Closes Unexpectedly

The U.S. Consulate closed unexpectedly in Cd. Juarez yesterday, pending a security review. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City announced the consulate will "remain closed until the security review is completed" and said it would reschedule appointments for visa applications. The Juarez Consulate is the largest U.S. consulate in the world. Nearly two thousand applications for U.S. visas are processed there daily. All persons wishing to obtain a permanent resident visa for the U.S. are required to go to the Consulate for an interview.

On March 13 Lesley Enriquez, who worked at the Consulate, was shot and killed as she left a children's party in Juarez in a white SUV. Her husband, who worked as a guard in the El Paso County jail, was also killed in the attack, leaving a 7-month infant orphaned. The husband of another U.S. Consulate worker was killed simultaneously after leaving the same children's party in a white SUV. There have been several theories about the case, and one person has confessed (click here for story) that he ordered the attacks on both vehicles to make sure Enriquez was killed. This still leaves questions unanswered, inasmuch as the person killed in the other SUV was a man. Why would the killers, if the target was a woman, kill only the man in the other vehicle? There has also been speculation Arthur Haycock Redelfs, Enriquez's husband was the true target of the attack, given his work at the county jail.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

State Airplane Rides: Who Gets to Fly at Taxpayer Expense: Do You Sense a Cavalier Attitude Toward the Use of Your Money?

The Las Cruces Sun News today runs a story from KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque (click here for KRQE link to two stories on this by Larry Barker; the other story is called "Reduce State Aircraft Costs? What Memo?"), who has uncovered the frequent flyers on the state airplane during the middle of a serious recession in New Mexico.

According to Barker the most frequent flyers in the past four years are:
Johnny Cope, DOT Commissioner: Cost to Taxpayers: $241,063
Diane Denish: Lt. Governor: Cost to Taxpayers: $149,103
Bill Richardson: Governor: Cost to Taxpayers: $124,297
John Hummer: DOT Commissioner: Cost to Taxpayers: $105,420
Jim Franken: DOT Commissioner: Cost to Taxpayers: $47,713

The per-person cost for the governor is lower even though he used the plane more because he always travels with an entourage of staff and security.

But that leaves Johnny Cope, who owns his own airplane, and who is a strong fundraiser for Richardson as well as a member of the DOT (Highway Commission); Lt. Governor Diane Denish; John Hummer, owner of Steinborn Realty in Las Cruces, who served as chief cheerleader for raising taxes in Dona Ana County on behalf of the governor's pet project at the Spaceport; and Jim Franken, a banker from Las Vegas.

According to the Barker story Lt. Governor Diane Denish flew on state planes (the state has a fleet of three planes) 39 times in violation of state regulations that require cost-efficient use of aircraft. A spokesperson for her claims she was unaware of the state regulations and GSA Secretary Art Jaramillo claim the Lt. Governor is exempt from aircraft regulations. Barker questions this, saying there is no document that exempts the Lt. governor from the regulations. Whatever the case, she has not flown a state plane since January. Given the governor's many and lengthy absences from the state, requiring her to step in as governor, it is not surprising she would be using the plane with some frequency.

Cope, Hummer, and Franken are all members of the DOT (Highway) Commission, which makes decisions affecting hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. It has often been reserved for wealthy fundraisers, and a kind of clubbish, self-important aura has tended to surround the job. Cope, in particular, fits the classic profile of a Highway commissioner, mainly a history of wealth and power (with a few shady elements in the past to add spice and intrigue) and very likeable. He has been a major contributor and fund raiser for Bill Richardson; his wife was appointed to the racing commission; he is the head of Amigos and went to Cuba with Richardson; he has a long history with Democrats, including Toney Anaya. I know of several politicians who caved into requests by Richardson, in spite of their better judgment, on the promise that Johnny Cope would offer a fund raiser. He owns an airplane in partnership with Congressman Harry Teague, which was loaned out to Richardson for his presidential campaign. Like I say, the classic profile of a Highway Commissioner.

Cope claims commissioners have traditionally been flown around the state at taxpayer expense and he was continuing the tradition. This is almost certainly true. But given the taxpayer funds expended to treat often already wealthy men like royalty, it is time to quit using "security" as an excuse to keep things secret. Perhaps it is time lawmakers required complete transparency about the use of the planes. Security issues are no longer relevant after the trip has been made, so that should not be an issue. In the past four years the state planes have cost taxpayers over $1.6 million. We have every right to know exactly what we got for that money.

Hummer, who lacks the stature of Cope, is quoted in the article as saying, "We have our own personal businesses and our personal lives and we donate our time and we commit our time to the state." Well, John, I've served on two gubernatorial boards, and never got more than mileage and per regular per diem expanses paid. I have as my business teaching university students, and I have my own personal life too, and I donate my time and commit my time to the state too. What makes you think your business, personal life, and time are more valuable to taxpayers than mine, John?

People Vulnerable for Arrest Flock to Immaculate Heart for Safe Surrender

Ashley Meeks of the Las Cruces Sun News has a front page article this morning (click here) about the first day of the Safe Surrender program at Immaculate Heart Cathedral (1240 S. Espina). She notes that 201 persons were handled on Wednesday, and in her interviews with persons who turned themselves in the strain of always looking over your shoulder as a fugitive was a high motivator to get the problem taken care of.

Magistrate Court was pleasantly surprised by the unexpectedly high turnout and has responded by increasing the number of judges assigned to the program, which runs from 9 to 4 through Saturday.

Under the program those persons who have ignored legal citations can turn themselves in without fear of arrest, and take care of pleas, payment schedules for fines, and other legal issues. This is the carrot motivating attendance. The stick is that law enforcement officials are gearing up to make sweeping arrests of persons with outstanding warrants immediately after the safe surrender program ends, in other words the long arm of the law.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LFC Charter School Report Available Online: Paints a Dismal Overall Portrait

Those wishing to read the new LFC charter school report online need only click here. See for yourself what the study says. It has some technical information on there (I couldn't understand a chart depicting "charter schools impact on MEM and program cost--FY2010") that may be tough to follow, but the overall picture is pretty clear: there is little oversight of these schools, which results in mismanagement of public funds in more than just a smattering of charter schools; the performance of students in basic reading and math, compared with their public school counterparts, is not demonstrably better, and it is apparently worse for Native Americans and Hispanics; graduation rates are lower than in public schools; and charter schools are clearly more expensive to taxpayers: to the tune of $1900 per student. More than enough evidence to warrant a serious reappraisal of whether the program should be continued or at least drastically curtailed and brought under better management. Perhaps those charter schools that excel might be sustained even though they may cost more.

Most of the conclusions are pretty much along the same lines as other studies that have been done nationwide on charter schools. For a Stanford University study that includes New Mexico, click here. Mismanagement is a common thread nationwide. The schools insist on independence so they can innovate, but independence too often breeds a lack of accountability and mismanagement and, ultimately, poor student performance.

The LFC doesn't recount some of the scandals that have broken out in New Mexico over mismanagement of public funds in charter schools. In my blog comments on July 24 I note that "Danny Moon, for example, highly touted as head of Albuquerque Charter Vocational High School by Gov. Bill Richardson and Reader's Digest as a model leader for charter schools, was indicted for racketeering and fraud; he died this year just after his trial began. He was being paid $175,000 to oversee two schools. Another Albuquerque charter school superintendent was being paid $204,000 for overseeing 500 students. The Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent gets paid $256,000 for overseeing 94,000 students." The LFC report does discuss questionable expenses discussed in audits, such as the instructional money that paid for a student prom.

Some have complained that the sample size, 16 out of 72 schools, is too small to stand as a valid portrait of the whole, but most of the report deals with more than just the 16 schools, and the report is careful to be appropriately modest in its conclusions. Yes, further study is required before final action is taken, but when school superintendents supervising 500 students get paid almost as much as a nationally selected Superintendent of Public Schools in Albuquerque, for a school that is not demonstrably better than the average public school, more than fifteen years after charter schools began in New Mexico, you begin to wonder whether our political system is capable of supervising two parallel school systems for both management of funds and student performance. Can we really afford to continue an expensive experiment that after 17 years has not lived up to its promise?

What we can be certain of is that the 72 charter schools will have paid and unpaid lobbyists slurping at the trough, making campaign contributions and attacking the messengers of bad news. Already expressions of outrage from the charter school community have been covered amply in the media and we wonder whether the outcome of the debate will be determined on the basis of what legislators think is good for public policy or on the basis of a vocal advocacy group that plays its political cards right.

I repeat: can anyone give me a good reason to continue charter schools in New Mexico? I'm open and I will give you equal time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Congressional Democratic Leaders Lose Lead Over Republicans in Public Opinion

A poll released by the Pew Research Center shows that Congressional Democratic leaders, who enjoyed a 19 point approval lead over Republican leaders just a year and a half ago, as the Obama administration began, have squandered the lead down to just 2 points. Moreover, the outright disapproval level is higher for Democratic Leaders than for their Republican counterparts. Even more ominously, Independent voters are more disapproving of Democrats than they are of Republicans. Watch out, there, Heinrich and Teague. For the whole poll, which also shows greater support for Obama's economic policies than Bush's economic policies, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stimulus (ARRA) Money in New Mexico: Who Gets What

So does it surprise you that the richest county with the lowest unemployment rate in NM gets the most stimulus money? Under the watch of the president Fox News accuses of being "socialist?" In a country where the richest one percent of wage earners gobbled up 23.5% of all the money doled out in 2007 as income?

Let's take a peek at the numbers. Click here and you can see them all on a web site called Propublica. So far Santa Fe County, one of the richest counties in NM, got almost one third of the total, nearly one billion dollars out of $3.2 billion given to New Mexico. This works out to $6493 per resident of Santa Fe county; it was almost $17,000 per resident in Los Alamos. In contrast, Dona Ana county got less than one sixth that amount, $981 per capita. Luna county, with the highest unemployment rate in the state, 16.5% (one out of six workers cannot find a job), got a whopping $418 per capita. Mora county, the poorest county in the state, with the second highest unemployment rate, got $531 per capita. Torrance county got only $299 per capita.

Santa Fe doesn't really count since, as the state capital, many state jobs are there and part of the stimulus funds are designed to make up some of the shortfall to states. But should Guadalupe county, with a population of 4200 get $10 million more than adjoining San Miguel County, with a population of 28,000?

Well, maybe the money evens out in the different regions of the state. So let's take a look.

Greater ABQ: (Bern., Sandoval, Los Alamos, Valencia counties): $1240 per capita
Hispanic North: (Taos, Guad., Rio Arriba, Mora, S. Miguel--NOT Sta Fe): $1464
Little Texas: (Lea, Eddy, Otero, Chaves, Lincoln, Roosevelt, De Baca, Curry, Quay, Union, Harding Colfax): $1269 per capita
Northwest: (San Juan, McKinley, Cibola): $1098 per capita
Southwest: (Catron, Socorro, Torrance, Sierra, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Dona Ana): $811
Santa Fe: $6493

Do you sense a little geographic bias here? Southern New Mexico by far has gotten the least amount of money, in spite of having some of the poorer counties in the state. Chaves county: $381; Lea: $612; Grant: $480; Luna: $418.

Tim, Mary Kay, John Arthur, Howie: you guys got any clout over this process? There is still some stimulus money left. Can we dole some out to the South?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Charter Schools: Time to Pull the Plug?

The LFC has issued a report highly critical of the cost-to-benefit ratio of the charter schools. Among the recommendations are to cut funding for existing schools and stop funding for new schools. There are currently 72 charter schools in New Mexico. According to a survey of 16 of the schools, the graduation rate is only one out of two for charter schools (51%) while it is two out of three for state schools. The study also found excessive costs, poor management of taxpayer funds (one school spent instructional funds for a high school prom), and poor achievement scores in comparison with state schools. Charter schools spend $9200 per student while school districts spend only $7300 per student.

The bottom line is student performance. If charter schools have low achievement scores and poor graduation rates, taxpayers should stop funding them. This seems especially urgent, given the $2000 extra per pupil taxpayers are shelling out now for poor performance. This would be true in good economic times, but in the kind of fiscal environment we are in now, it seems to be a good time to pull the plug.

Can anyone give me a good argument to keep them going?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"El 35": Official Biography of a Captured Killer

From an official government communique issued a few days after his capture: Jesús Armando Acosta, 35, was a major operative in Cd. Juarez, involved in trafficking of drugs, assassinations, kidnapings, and other activities for La Linea. He spent part of 1999 and 2004 in the municipal jail of Juarez for drug violations, and was in jail on February 19 of this year. According to national Public Safety Department in Mexico City press release, he received orders directly from José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias “El Diego,” second in command behind Juan Pablo Ledezma, alias "El JL," a top operator for Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who heads the Juarez cartel.

Jesús Armando Acosta, alias “el 35”, was responsible for coordinating and operating kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking in downtown Juarez and Anapra, as well as in various bars in the city such as Arriba Chihuahua, V-Bar, Mirage, Club 16, Aristos, El Rodeo, and El Ghost.

He is believed to have planned and executed assassinations against rival gangs, especially the "Artistas Asesinos," (tragically a.k.a. Doble A in the case of the high school football team), who work for the Sinaloa cartel. He is believed to have participated in at least 25 murders, the last of which were two members of "Los Mexicles," who also work for the Sinaloa carte. He is said to have ordered the narco-messages that threatened the federal police, and to have ordered the execution of law enforcement officials of various police agencies, such as the murder of two federal police killed in the vicinity of the Arriba Chihuahua bar.

He is also said to have been in charge of bribing local, state, and federal authorities to obtain institutional protection or to get confidential information about his organization. In this effort he is said to have provided over $1000 (U.S.) per week for each cell in his organization to a source known as "the legend," who was in charge of getting the money to authorities.

He also supervised security protection to safe houses and wholesale points of sale for illicit drugs. He was in charge of finding military weapons, ammunition, and radios for members of his organization.

His capture last week is believed to have precipitated the car bombing on 16 de Septiembre, in which four persons were killed and eleven wounded. Narco-messages put up after the event threatened more car bombings.

Source: Dirección General de Comunicación Social. Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, (SSP). For internet access to this communique click here.

Yes, the Federal Government Is Making Significant Arrests of Suspected of Organized Criminals

The federal government of Mexico's Department of Public Security has revealed that so far this month several hundred arrests of persons believed to be associated with drug cartels have taken place. Three hundred four persons associated with the Sinaloa cartel have been arrested; 622 from the Gulf cartel, 65 from the Tijuana cartel, 517 from the Familia Michoacana organization, 84 from the Juárez cartel, and 34 from the Norte del Valle cartel (Colombia). that adds up to 1626.

Locally, in Juárez, fourteen alleged members of "La Linea" (the armed force for the Juárez cartel) have been arrested, and four alleged members of the "Artistas Asesinos" (an armed gang working for the Sinaloa cartel).

Among those arrested in Juárez this month was Jesús Ernesto Chávez Castillo, "El Camello (aka "The Camel) who confessed his direct involvement in the murders of the U.S. Consulate employees. He was a member of the "Azteca" gang, hired by "La Linea."

Cristian Rosado Mendoza, alias “El Cris,” and Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, alias “El 35”, were also arrested. Both are said to be implicated in the murder of Sandra Ivonne Salas, on June 30 of this year. She was the deputy prosecutor of internal affairs in Chihuahua. It is believed that the arrest of Acosta precipitated the car-bombing last Thursday, that killed four persons and injured eleven. Both are said to be associated with "La Linea."

So it is not true that there is total impunity in Juárez; many assassins have been arrested. The question is whether these arrests will disrupt the criminal organizations these people work for or deter others from replacing them within the organization. So far this has not been the case. But at least there is some satisfaction for the relatives of the victims to know that the killers have been put away.

Monday, July 19, 2010

La Politica New Mexico Award for Democratic Values Goes to Andy Núñez in 2010: Fix Municipal Court, Don't Wreck Magistrate Court

The local, well intentioned League of Women Voters (largely composed of Anglo women from Las Cruces) has been beating on the drum for a couple of years now to shift the current county system, which separates municipal and county courts, to a single Metro court system similar to the one Albuquerque has had for nearly a third of a century. Three fundamental distinctions between the two systems are (1) the Metro Court System requires judges to be attorneys; (2) Metro Courts are "of record," meaning every word of the proceedings are available for public inspection forever; (3) The Metro system greatly increases costs to taxpayers, largely due to higher salaries for judges and the requirement all proceedings must be recorded. The League has wanted to force citizens to merge both systems into one, forcing all proceedings to be recorded and forcing citizens to pick lawyers to judge their small offenses.

Fortunately for voters (especially the largely Hispanic population living in the South Valley and North from Las Cruces to Garfield) Representative Andy Núñez was able this year to pass legislation requiring a population of 250,000 in a county (instead of 200,000) to trigger an automatic requirement for the county to switch to a Metro Court system. We hereby award Rep. Núñez with our 2010 Award for Democratic Values, and we hope he will spearhead a movement to do away with the Metro Court system altogether in New Mexico in future years. We know enough now about the Metro Court System to know we don't want to be forced into adopting it ten years from now when the census shows us to be at the 250,000 mark.

Anyone who thinks Dona Ana County (or any other county) should shift to Metro court should read the devastating report written a few years ago by Zella Kay Soich in May 2000 for the Institute for Court Management, titled, "Improving Court Efficiency in New Mexico By Establishing a Metropolitan Court System: An Analysis and Assessment." I will make it available here in pdf format in a day or two.

Quotes from that report: (1) "based on current attitudes and experiences...the public and lawyers are still critical of long waits, delays, expense (in time and money) and frustration." (2) (quoting the Albuquerque Journal "people are getting a horrible view of justice in America..." and the next year one lawyer said the Metro System was (again quoting the Journal) "still a zoo." Still one year later the Albuquerque Tribune characterized the MCS as "chaos." (Soich Report, page 20.)

Since then little has changed, and every year or two a new scandal emerges, whether the corruption scandal which finally sent Sen. Manny Aragon to jail, or the judge who, when confronting a confessed wife beater asked, "did she have it coming?" or any one of a number of recent indiscretions committed by Metro judges, each of which has a law degree. Imitating the Metro Court System of Bernalillo County is an invitation to permanent disaster, and Núñez is to be commended for recognizing that fact and acting on it successfully.

The League of Women Voters means well. They are particularly concerned, with good reason, about the Municipal Court system in Las Cruces, which has been dysfunctional for a number of years. The court is very poorly managed, with long wait lines, inattentive service, arbitrary hours, and a give-a-damn attitude toward the public. Many municipal police, in fact, refuse to take their citations there, preferring to exercise their option to go to Magistrate Court instead, which then overburdens the magistrate system. An outstanding former magistrate judge, Patrick J. Curran, recently wrote an excellent letter to the editor in the Sun News explaining the problem. One of his solutions is simply for the city to drop the requirement that municipal judges should be lawyers.

The fact is, the City of Las Cruces has put up with this dysfunctional system for many years, and the mayor and city council could fix the system with a stroke of the pen, outlining new requirements for judges, and regulating the functioning of the court for the convenience of the tax paying public. The city should not be allowed to make excuses any longer. For years the city has hoped in vain that a highly politicized Supreme Court in Santa Fe (through its managerial wing, the Administrative Office of the Courts) would do something. But for years the AOC has passed the buck back to the city, asking the city to take action. City elections are taking place next February: this should be a serious issue on the agenda for city council and mayor. The League of Women Voters in Las Cruces should now change it's target from Metro Court, a battle they have lost, to one they can win: reform the municipal court by passing new regulations and dropping the requirement that judges there must be lawyers.

Magistrate Court is and has been (since it converted from the old, corrupt Justice of the Peace system) called "The people's court," for good reasons, since most citizens will never go before a district court, and since most citizens see our judicial system up close only in magistrate court. Disposition of justice for lesser offenses simply requires good common sense, disciplined through solid training, by ordinary citizens elected because they have earned respect, not because they have a degree. Requiring judges to be lawyers would severely cut down on the number of eligible persons, bring money and politics into the campaign, and in this county probably upset the currently representative ethnic balance (3 Hispanos, 2 Anglos) among magistrate judges--without a shred of evidence that lawyers are as good as ordinary citizens in dispensing low-level justice. Do you really want a court of record, where every word of testimony about your teenager's Saturday night indiscretion is recorded and available to all for all posterity? Do you really want an overpaid lawyer to look down at you and cite some obscure, hair-splitting legal principal when s/he declares you guilty even though you honestly think you're not? Do you really want to double the cost taxpayers pay for administering these courts when evidence suggests they aren't as responsive or efficient as the magistrate courts?

Saludos to Representative Andy Núñez: Our 2010 Award goes to you!

Full Disclusure: My wife is a magistrate judge. I formed my ideas about the People's Court, however, long before my wife became Magistrate Judge, when then-Magistrate Judge Ruben Maynez spoke to my class on New Mexico politics at NMSU.

The Car Bombing in Juarez: And, Narco-Message in Juarez Warns FBI and DEA

Last night someone, presumably members of the Juarez cartel, placed a narco-message on the fence of a primary school on the corner of Jesús Escobar and Municipio Libre, saying, "FBI and DEA, start investigating officials who give support to the Sinaloa cartel, because if not, we will use more car bombs (against) those federal agents."

The message goes on to say, "if corrupt federal agents are not arrested in the next 15 days we will load another car with 100 kilos of C-4."

Last Thursday, July 15, car bombing was introduced for the first time into the current Juarez war. While there are still details that are unclear, this is what I've been able to piece together from various published sources, including La Polaka, Diario de Juarez, Blog del Narco, and Alfredo Corchado's story in the Dallas Morning News. I was out of town for the past few days, often out of range of the news, so I didn't report on it.

Just before 7:30 p.m. last Thursday evening, Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, 50, a well known medical doctor, ran from his office with his son to investigate cries for help coming from an automobile parked on the street near the corner of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia, near the downtown area. A man inside the car had been shot and was screaming for help. As they reached the scene Dr. Ortiz asked his son to run back to his office to retrieve his medical bag. As his son entered the building car with the injured man blew up, from a dose of about 10 kilos of C-4 explosives, killing his father, two policemen who had just arrived at the scene, and a musician to happened to be in the way. Eleven persons were injured. The injured man in the car, also dead, was Cesar Gamiño, 31, the owner of an auto repair shop a few blocks away. He was dressed as a policeman, apparently a ruse to attract law enforcement officers to the scene. Military officials later said they believed the bomb was detonated through a cell phone that was in the car. The bomb went off at about 7:30 p.m., right after the arrival of two police cars.

Initial reports suggested the bomb was a reprisal for the recent arrest of Armando Acosta Guerrero (aka "El 35"), presumed top operative for "La Linea," the armed force of the Juarez cartel. Acosta is said to have been responsible for coordinating and carrying out kidnapping, extortions, and drug trafficking operations in downtown Juarez. The Juarez cartel did claim responsibility for the attack and warned of further such attacks. For some time now, narco-messages left in the city have complained that federal authorities are protecting or favoring the Sinaloa cartel, an accusation firmly denied by the federal government. Following the car bombing Mexican authorities invited DEA and FBI agents to Juarez to assist in the investigation.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gov. Duarte's Nephew Murdered

Mario Humberto Medina Vela, a nephew of Governor-elect César Duarte Jaquez, was shot and killed at his father's shop last Wednesday afternoon. Unknown assailants entered the shop and asked for the owner. After a struggle, Mario Humberto was shot in the back. Surveillance cameras recorded the scene. Mr. Medina was close to his uncle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Minister of Governance Fernando Gomez Mont Rumored to Be Replaced

Rumors spread in Mexico today that Minister of Governance Fernando Gomez Mont (see article and photo below) will be replaced. The name most people mention as a likely replacement is José Francisco Blake, who is currently the state Secretary of Governance in Baja California. Rumor also has it Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, Secretary of the Economy, will be replaced as well.

By virtually any measurement the strategy of containment of drug-related violence in Mexico has failed during the present administration of President Felipe Calderon. Gomez Mont was one of the architects of this strategy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Program for Citizens Vulnerable to Arrest: Programa Para Ciudadanos Con Delitos No Resueltos

Several law enforcement agencies are sponsoring a program with the help of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Cathedral, to encourage persons with outstanding and unresolved arrest warrants to seek resolution of these by appearing at the church from Wednesday, July 28, through Saturday, July 31, 2010. No religious affiliation is required or assumed.

People who, for one reason or another, have ignored a traffic ticket or other citation to appear before a court, are usually issued a bench warrant for their arrest. And although they are vulnerable to be arrested on the spot if they are stopped for a traffic citation, sometimes they are afraid to seek to resolve the issue for fear they will be arrested. They then live in fear of arrest or, perhaps, just hope for the best, thinking the law will forget everything in a few weeks.

Persons who appear as part of this program will not be arrested at the church, and most bench warrants will be nullified if the accused appears and makes an effort to resolve the issue either by contacting a public defender (several will be in the church for this purpose) or lawyer, or by pleading guilty and making arrangements to pay the fine. A judge will be available to answer questions and to assist where possible. Persons wanted for more serious crimes may also appear without fear of immediate arrest, to seek advice. One imagines those who turn themselves in will be looked upon with some favor in resolving issues.

From the perspective of law enforcement, the jails are already full; there are many outstanding warrants; simply arresting everyone with outstanding warrants will overcrowd the jail; and law enforcement recognizes that jail time, while serving as a deterrent for delinquency, is not a good option for most people who have ignored citations. As an added incentive for persons to turn themselves in, the program brochure does state ominously, "warrant sweeps will be conducted at the conclusion of the program." FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL 575 386 4294 (Yes, you can use someone else's cell phone!)

Santa Teresa Border Crossing to Expand

The New Mexico delegation announced today the Santa Teresa Port of Entry will receive $10 million for infrastructure improvements from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or stimulus funds).

The major improvements will be expanding passenger vehicle lanes to five lanes, up from the current level of two, and expanding the commercial inspection lanes from 2 to 3 lanes. Other improvements will be built as well. This should help ease the traffic congestion going through Santa Teresa in recent months.

Crossings through Santa Teresa have gone up from less than 3000 per month in 2005 to an average of over 6000 per month the first five months of this year. And the value of total trade processed through the Santa Teresa Port of Entry has increased from less than $1.5 billion in 2008 to $4.7 billion in 2009 and, at the current rate of over $800 million per month, to about $10 billion this year, according to figures provided to me from the New Mexico Border Authority. I am told that much of the increase in the past year is in the form of traffic related to Foxconn, the firm that produces computers and which now employs over 8000 workers right across the border from the Santa Teresa Crossing.

Christian Lira, New Sunland Park Councilor, Indicted for Domestic Violence

Former Border Patrol agent Christian Lira, elected to the Sunland Park City Council last March, was indicted Thursday by a Dona Ana County grand jury with battery against a household member (his former wife) and felony false imprisonment. At the time Mr. Lira was driving with a suspended New Mexico driver's license, according to the sheriff's department, with "numerous" citations. The alleged battery occurred on May 20 and Mr. Lira turned himself in to authorities a week later. He was booked and released. Ashley Meeks carries the story in the Sun News this morning (click here).

Mr. Lira is also required to appear in court later this month on separate charges stemming from an alleged assault on a family member causing "great bodily injury" and intent to give false information.

In the May 20 incident Mr. Lira is alleged to have grabbed his former wife's hair and pulled her back inside the vehicle he was driving, as she tried to exit the car. She then managed to exit the car in the Sunland Park police department parking lot. Video cameras cover part of that parking lot. The investigation was carried out by officer Robert (Bo) Nevarez, domestic violence investigator for the Dona Ana County Sheriff's department.

Monday, July 12, 2010

10 of 40 Red Cross Ambulance Paramedics Laid Off in Juarez for Lack of Funds

Sandra Rodríguez Nieto reports in Diario today (click here) the Red Cross has laid off 10 of the 40 paramedics they have on call for medical emergencies throughout the city, which is facing the highest homicide rate for any city in the world. Reasons given are financial. But there appear to be administrative problems in the organization and there is some evidence of deteriorating relations between the Red Cross and the municipal government.

Last week several employees were informed they were laid off for lack of funds, while others were told they were laid off because they lacked the necessary training. And for several weeks the Red Cross has not paid employees the $1000 peso bonus the municipal government has set aside for them as an incentive, as part of an agreement between the two institutions. The city government's Department of Rescue and the Red Cross employees use the same ambulances, based on an agreement reached in July 2008 in which the city agreed to pay for the fuel and the salaries of the paramedics on the Rescue team.

In addition to the 40 (now 30) paramedics working for the Red Cross, 60 municipal paramedics are on call with the Rescue Department.

Wanna Sponsor a Rock Concert in Juarez? You Won't Face a Lot of Competition

Diario carries a note today providing statistics on the decline in the number of public events in Juárez in the past two years. According to the note a count of concerts, fighting matches, horse races, bullfights, and other events adds up to 417 in 2008; 270 in 2009, and 66 for the first half of 2010. The municipal government received $8.2 million pesos (about $650,000 U.S.) in taxes for these events in 2008, a little less than half that amount in 2009, and only about $1.27 million (about $100,000 U.S.) through June of this year. The municipal government requires that the sponsors of commercial public events in Juárez present the contract for the rental of the location of the event so the number of persons allowed for safety reasons to attend can be monitored, and to pay a tax on each ticket sold.

The decline in public commercial venues coincides with the rapid spike in violent crime in Juarez during 2009 and 2010, a crime wave that was not arrested by the arrival of over 9000 military troops to the city in early 2009, sent by the federal government to reduce violent crime.

The Beat: Another Bloody Weekend, 42 murdered in Juarez

Friday: Seventeen murders
Saturday: Fifteen murders
Sunday: ten murders

Click here for story in Diario.

On Saturday one of those murdered was a state police officer, Felipe de Jesús Parra Reazola, 22, along with his cousin, Javier Reazola García, 37. They were killed in Col. El Papalote on Blvd. Independencia. Parra, the police officer, was driving. His father arrived at the scene after it had been cordoned off by yellow tape. He was allowed to get within about 8 feet of his body, still bleeding in the driver's seat.

"Just give me one minute," he asked police, "just one minute to hug him and bless him and say goodbye," he said. The request was denied. Javier Reazola's father stood next to him and cried.

Two U.S. citizens, Eladio Jáuregui, 26, and Sandra Escobedo, 32, were killed in an attack on Blvd. Independencia and the Juárez-Porvenir highway. They survived only to die later at a hospital. A third person in the 2005 Lincoln Mark LT pickup they were driving survived. The ambulance carrying them passed by the scene of the slain state police officer and his cousin while the two fathers were still there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life Expectancy And Health Care in Chihuahua State: How Does it Compare With New Mexico? Are We Getting Our Money's Worth in the US?

The Mexican statistical institute, or census bureau, INEGI, estimates that life expectancy at birth in the state of Chihuahua has increased four years in the past ten years, up to 76 years of age. This compares with New Mexico's life expectancy of 77 and U.S. life expectancy of about 78.2 years. In that last four years, life expectancy in the U.S. increased an estimated six months, from 77.7 to 78.2 years.

In spite of vastly more resources spent on health care in the U.S., there is only one year's difference between the two states. At the current rate of improvement Chihuahua will catch up to New Mexico next year.

Mexico ranks 85th among nations on health care expenditures as a percentage of GDP (6.1%), according to the World Health Organization, while the U.S. ranks first (15.2%). This translates to $7538 per capita for the U.S. compared to $852 in Mexico, almost nine times as much (OECD figures for 2008). In both Mexico and the U.S. public support for health care is about 45% of the total, the rest taken up by employer plans and other forms of privately acquired care.

Incidentally, New Mexico ranks 48th among states in per capita expenditures on health care. Are you really surprised at this low standing? Number one is, you guessed it, Washington, D.C., which spends almost twice as much per capita on health care than New Mexico, followed by Massachusetts, where former Governor Romney claims he got more health care for more people for less money, and where, indeed, life expectancy is a more than a year greater than New Mexico, at 78.4 years. And in Texas, life expectancy is lower than in New Mexico, at 76.7 years, only about six months more than in Chihuahua, in spite of spending more per capita than in New Mexico (just barely more). And in Arizona, where per capita health care expenditures are lower than New Mexico (Arizona ranks 50th), life expectancy is a full six months more than in New Mexico.

So after spending nine times more on health care for every man, woman, and child, New Mexicans are only expected to live one year more than residents of our sister state of Chihuahua.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

During Police Chase An Apparent Kidnap Victim Breaks Out of Trunk

It all began when a police patrol car from the Babicora station, with municipal and federal agents aboard, noticed a Honda Accord speeding through the intersection of Mitla and Valle de Cedro at about 10:15 p.m. on Thursday night.

The patrol car signaled for the car to stop but the driver decided to run for it. Backup was called in. While chasing the driver the patrolman noticed that a person in the trunk of the Honda had kicked open the lid of the trunk. Then a woman jumped out of the vehicle onto the pavement.

The backup patrol stopped to take care of the woman, who was obviously injured by the fall, and call for medical assistance while the other car continued the chase. A few blocks away the car was stopped and the driver, Iván Díaz Partelo, was arrested and charged with kidnapping.

When booked, Mr. Díaz was photographed with a visible bruise on his forhead and his left eye was swollen almost completely shut. Click here for story in Diario.

Mexico Security Chief Admits Federal Failure to Deliver Security, Calls for Reform

Mexico's Secretary of Governance (" Gobernación:" rough translation: internal security), Fernando Gómez Mont, admitting the current national anti-criminal strategy has failed, indicated yesterday at a press conference (click here for Diario story) that the judicial and law enforcement systems are in need of reform. He also indicated President Calderon has given him and his institution the task of initiating a dialogue with political, social, and economic leaders throughout the country.

"First, we have to specify the roles of the federal, state, and municipal governments as part of the reconstruction of public security in this country. We have to admit our procedures are still ambiguous in determining who and at what moment a case can be declared to fall under the category of organized crime (and hence subject to federal jurisdiction as a national security issue)," he said.

Given the climate of violence, he said, we can no longer postpone a decision to specify which institutions should be preserved, which need to be rebuilt, which ones modernized, which abolished, and which new ones should be created. We need to choose among our law enforcement agencies, provide effective autonomy to local judicial entities, and debate the National Security Law, which calls for the participation of the armed forces in providing interior security.

He also indicated it was time to approve reforms that will be more effective against money laundering, pirating, extortion, kidnapping, and the treatment of citizens.

Finally, he called upon the PRI (the largest political party in Mexico) to recognize its responsibility to the public, and to begin to propose alternatives for issues of national security. "It is time to leave animosities behind and find the will power to form a national consensus. We recognize that without the will to do it, change is impossible," he said.

Rumors have been circulating for several weeks that Gomez Mont would be replaced as the internal security chief, given the inability of the political system to contain the rapid spread of organized crime and violence. This press conference would suggest President Calderon has decided to stick with him for the last two years of his presidential administration.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Juarez Gave Duarte 53% of the vote

About 312,000 persons turned out to vote in Juárez on Sunday, a turnout ratio of a little over 50% of eligible voters. Like the rest of the state, Cd. Juárez voted in favor of the winner in the gubernatorial candidate, Cesar Duarte, giving him a margin of a little over 53%. His nearest rival, Carlos Borruel Baquera, of the PAN, received about 41% of the vote, and the rest of the vote went to minor parties or were nullified. See note in Diario.

The Beat: New Outrages, Five Adolescents Shot

Yes, the beat goes on. The body count for executions this year stands today at 1461, on pace to beat last year's record. Six persons were killed yesterday (Wednesday), including a man left with a "narcomessage" on his chest. His body was found at about 11 p.m. last night. A plastic bag was tied over his head with a ribbon, and a brick of marijuana was left on his stomach. His feet were tied together with a yellow cord. There were signs of torture and three nine mm spent cartridges close by.

On Wednesday afternoon a group of armed men went into a quiet residential street and shot at a group of adolescents on the street. Four were killed; another survived and is in stable condition. According to the Diario report the target may have been a 17-year old youth, Carlos Martínez Hernández, leader of a street gang known as "Base Instincts 1 (Bajos Instintos 1). It is believed the killing was set off by a rivalry between street gangs. With these killings the total number of persons under 18 killed so far this year is 80.

The sixth man killed yesterday was Ignacio Prado Velázquez, 24, who was killed at about 5:30 p.m. inside a tire repair shop, El Tractor. Thirty six spent 9 mm. cartridges were found nearby.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Elections in Mexico: Duarte, "Teto" Win in Chihuahua, Juarez; Malova Wins in Sinaloa; PRI Wins Nationwide

The polls were correct. César Duarte Jáquez was elected governor of Chihuahua yesterday with a margin of about 14 points (not all the votes have been counted). Likewise, Héctor ("Teto") Murguía Lardizábal was elected mayor of Juárez, with a margin of about 9 points. Both candidates are in the PRI party. In addition, in mayoral elections in Chihuahua, the capital of the state, another Priista, Marco Adán Quezada, appears to have won there with a margin of about 40,000 votes.

Nationwide, preliminary results indicate the PRI has won 9 out of the 12 governorships contested yesterday, a stunning national repudiation of the party that has governed Mexico from the Presidency for the past ten years. Only in Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Puebla was the PAN able to win governorships. In Sinaloa Mario Lopez Valdez, better known as MALOVA, won the governorship as a Panista, but only after he had switched from the PRI party to the PAN this Spring, after the PRI denied him the candidacy for governor. The PAN accepted his switch and nominated him as their candidate, and he won.

With the elections over, the problems in Juárez and Chihuahua continue. On the very weekend of the elections, four bodies were hung out publicly in Chihuahua, while twelve were being murdered. In Juárez the body count is still running at record levels. The economy of the state and in Juárez are limping along, in great part because of the resurgence of criminal activity, but also because of the global recession. Like it or not, President Felipe Calderon will be President for another two and a half years. We fervently hope the federal, state, and local governments will put partisanship aside and make things better for all citizens in our neighboring state.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Elections in Chihuahua Today: Duarte Expected to Win Governorship

Twelve governors will be elected throughout Mexico today, including in Chihuahua. In addition mayors in all 1375 municipalities will be elected, including Juárez, and 426 municipal councilors.

In Chihuahua César Duarte, former President of the Chamber of Deputies (equivalent to House of Representatives in the U.S.) in Mexico, is expected to be elected governor, for a coalition of parties including the PRI and three of the so-called "midget" parties, the Worker's Party (PT), the Green Party (PVEM), and the Panal. Carlos Borruel, former mayor of Chihuahua, is running for governor in the PAN party, and Luis Orozco is running for governor on the PRD ticket.

In Cd. Juárez Héctor Agustín Murguía Lardizábal is running for mayor on the PRI ticket, and is expected to win. He was mayor from 2004-2007 and is the first mayor of Juarez ever to seek re-election. Murguia wanted to be the PRI candidate for governor, but was vetoed for the nomination, it is said, in part because of his reputed association with organized crime during his last administration. He maintained close ties, for example, to his chief of police, Saulo Reyes Gamboa, now serving time in the U.S. for drug trafficking. He is also criticized for being close to wealthy businessman Eloy Vallina, who made some early movidas with Bill Richardson on behalf of the Verde Group on the New Mexico side. Richardson is not well liked, by the way, by elites in Cd. Juarez, in great part because these movidas were at the expense of other interests in Juarez.

The current mayor is also a member of the PRI party. Running on the PAN party ticket is Cesar Jáuregui, a relative newcomer to Juarez politics; for the PRD ticket is Victor Reyes; for the PT is Victor Parra, and for the Convergencia, Lluvia Luna.

Why Are PRI Candidates Ahead in Chihuahua?

To understand a fundamental dynamic in the elections of today for governor it is important to remember just how unpopular President Felipe Calderon of the PAN is today in all of Chihuahua, in great part due to the obvious failure of Joint Operation Chihuahua, later named to Coordinated Operation Chihuahua. Far from lowering homicide, kindapping, and other types of crime, just about all categories of crime have increased dramatically since the armed forces began to supplement municipal police two and a half years ago. Duarte and Murguia both began their campaings with the advantage that they are NOT in the PAN party. Should they both win elections it will be due more to this factor than to their superiority as candidates. During the three visits President Calderon made so far this year to Juarez he has been the object of a great deal of criticism, including insults to his face. At one function in Juarez, the President arrived slightly late and said, "I'm sorry, I'm running a little late." The man who was introducing him replied, "Late? yes, about three years." There are other reasons the PAN is not likely to win these elections (Panistas in important party positions are not always the most respected party leaders) but local dislike for the President is probably the strongest.

Kidnappings: There has been some violence associated with the elections. The son of a PAN candidate for governor, Pablo Cuaron Galindo, was kidnapped just hours before Cuaron, after failing to become the PAN candidate for governor, was expected to register as a candidate for mayor. And just a few days ago, on June 27, the brother of the PRI candidate for the mayorship of Praxedis. G. Guerrero (a village in the Valle de Juárez, was kidnapped.

Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Camel" Confesses Participation in Killing of US Consular Employee

In the Diario today (click here): Jesús Ernesto Chávez Castillo, a.k.a. "the camel," captured member of the Azteca gang in Cd. Juarez, has confessed that he ordered the killing of Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband last March 13 (see story below, March 15); Enriquez worked at the U.S. Consulate office in Cd. Juarez. Chavez claims she was singled out for death because she facilitated the granting of U.S. visas to rival gang members. Her husband, who was killed in the attack, worked at the county jail in El Paso and it has previously been rumored he might have been the true target of the assassination.

The attack on Enriquez and her husband, Arthur Haycock Redelfs, occurred in front of the Municipal building in Juarez, after the couple had attended a children's party on a Sunday morning on March 13. They were driving a white Toyota Rav4. At the same time the attack was taking place against them, another attack was taking place against a white SUV containing Hilda Antillón, also a U.S. Consular employee who had attended the same children's party. The attack resulted in the death of Antillon's husband and another man in the automobile. The simultaneous killings caused a great deal of speculation about possible motives; the U.S. Consul suggested publicly the attack on Enriquez might have been a case of mistaken identity. The confession of Chavez appears to clarify this somewhat, inasmuch as he has stated that the attack on the second SUV was provoked when the killers were not certain which of the SUV's contained the target, who, he claims, was Lesley Enriquez. To make sure Enriquez was killed, it seems, Chavez ordered an attack on both vehicles. On the other hand, no woman was killed in the attack on Antillon's vehicle. Why would Chavez order an attack on the men in the second white vehicle if his intended victim was a woman?

In some ways the confession raises more questions than it answers, and it is known that interrogation techniques in Mexico are sometimes "aggressive," the euphemism the U.S. government has used instead of the more accurate term, "torture," and which, according to most experts, often yield information that is unreliable.

Without providing further details, the Diario story reports Chavez "presumably" participated in the mistaken killing of the 15 high school students of the Doble A Football League at Villas de Salvárcar on January 30. If so Mr. Chavez was implicated in at least two assassination incidences that went wrong.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Beat: 303 Assassinations in June, 1389 For the Year: General Espitia Rumored to be Leaving Juarez for Mexico City

The grim statistics continue: June was the bloodiest month so far, with 303 murders in Cd. Juárez. As of yesterday there had been 1389 murders in Juárez so far this year. This is slightly above the pace set last year, when 2657 persons were murdered, making Juárez the No. 1 city in the world for homicides.

Diario this morning has a note indicating that General Felipe de Jesús Espitia Hernández, former head of Joint Operation Chihuahua (Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua) later changed to Coordinated Operation, is rumored to be leaving his position as head of the Fifth Military Zone to go back to Mexico City. Diario sites sources who claim Espitia would like to be in Mexico City to position himself better as a candidate for Secretary of Defense in the next presidential administration, which will begin about 30 months from now.

General Espitia was named head of Joint Operation Chihuahua on March 27, 2008. Under his command the 500 troops stationed in Juárez increased first to 2500 troops and then to 7500 troops (in March 2009), who supplemented municipal police. In March 2010 Joint Operation Chihuahua was renamed Coordinated Operation Chihuahua and Espita ceased to be responsible for policing duties, as troops began leaving the city. His troops were replaced with 5000 Federal Police.

The presence of 7500 troops, supplemented by 2000 federal police and new generations of municipal police graduating from the police academy in Juarez, initially appeared to dampen the homicide rate, but only for about two months, after which it picked up to record pace. In addition, as the violence resumed there was a startling increase in other kinds of crime, apparently as common criminals began to reason that if Joint Operation Chihuahua could not contain drug-related violence, it could not contain other kinds of criminal activity. This led to an alarming increase in kidnappings and, especially, an epidemic of extortion which affected especially small businesses, ranging from taco stands to grocery stores. Larger businesses, which could afford to hire security forces, were less affected. Extortionists threatened store owners to pay "protection" fees or face burning, looting and, often, death. This, in turn, has led to the flight of citizens to El Paso or other cities in Mexico, to reduced economic activity, lowered tourism from El Paso and New Mexico, and the closing of about 200 restaurants, some of which have reopened in El Paso.