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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you do more stories about southern New Mexico politics.