Note: For the past two years violence in Juarez has escalated steadily, as two rival drug organizations have fought each other with deadly passion over regional turf. At first they were just shooting at each other. But when in the Spring of 2009 the presence of nearly 10,000 recently arrived army troops proved to be ineffective in stopping gang killings and other forms of crime, a surge of kidnappings and a massive wave of extortions took hold. Ordinary criminals and sometimes underemployed drug-gang members themselves began to target small and medium businesses, emboldened by the seeming impotence of police forces; indeed, some police officers got into the act themselves. Now business owners were being shot and victimized at as well as drug traffickers, initiating a new phase in the war. Law enforcement deterrence remained minimal at first in spite of the large presence of troops, although in recent months police forces been able to capture some of the extortionists, kidnappers, and drug gang assassins.
The recent car-bombing, preceded by threats against law enforcement and followed by threats against the U.S. Consulate and others, have now elevated the generalized fear to a new, heightened level. Anyone innocently within range of a car bomb in a public place is a potential victim. At least for the moment Juarez is in a new phase in this downward spiral of violence.
I thought readers who have been following some of the violence through this blog site might be interested in reading excerpts from an articulate editorial that appeared today in the city's largest newspaper, Diario de Juarez. The tone of the piece reflects the lack of trust in public institutions, fear, anguish, and anger that you hear expressed by citizens of Juarez, about forty miles as the crow flies from my home in Las Cruces. Notice the last sentence and the last two words, defending the democratic process. For the whole editorial in Spanish click here.
What do authorities know about the threats that we don't know about? What threats caused the U.S. government to close the U.S. Consulate without giving a date for it's reopening?....Why did the Americans warn their citizens to stay away from the area surrounding the Consulate? What threats did (Juarez) municipal authorities receive to make them adopt strict security measures at City Hall? Is it because things are worse than we thought that the State Electoral Institute has estimated 110,000 residences have been abandoned in Juarez? Are the experts right to tell us to expect more explosions and instruct us on what to do in case of a massive explosion?
Why, if Mayor Reyes Ferriz is correct that future attacks will not be directed against civil society, did he at the same time announce severe measures to shield City Hall, and assert that he wants similar measures to be taken by the private sector "including shopping centers where large concentrations of people gather.?" In other words precautions should be taken in places of large concentrations even though, he says, they are not targets of the criminal organizations because "they are aware that they can attack police forces but not civil society." Don't the narcomessages painted on the walls tell us exactly the opposite, that they will attack innocent persons in public places if law enforcement doesn't yield to the demands of criminal groups?
If this situation were not serious enough, the execution of Ignacio Coronel (it was an execution, just like that of Arturo Beltran Leyva, because not a shred of evidence leads to any other conclusion), is likely to make violence even worse, and not just in Jalisco or on the Pacific Coast where, law enforcement tells us, Coronel was the big cheese. The struggle will be national in scope not only because of the national scope of the Sinaloa Cartel but also because other criminal organizations will now try to fill in the blank spaces, leading us--probably--to another escalation in the wave of executions throughout the country.
Like José Reveles, one of the Mexican journalists most familiar with the problem, asserts, the unraveling of the cartels "will not stop drug trafficking." This points to a serious problem that we seldom discuss, which is the strategy employed by Felipe Calderon (if he has one), which, like that of Fox is premised in terms of the success of short-term half-measures rather than in effectiveness in the long run.
This strategy has converted the country into a butchery, with no end in sight, costing Mexicans many painful losses, including the first stirrings of freedom of expression, and it has taken the nation to a state of red alert. It would seem to want to take us to the conclusion that only an authoritarian solution can resolve such a serious crisis: no way...