Sunday, October 31, 2010

Beneath the Sangre de Cristos: Susana's Final Campaign Stop in Mora

The event was set for 3-5 p.m., Saturday at Cowboy Kitchen in Mora. My cousin Nick Cruz, who headed Democrats for Susana in Mora County, drove me there at about 2:30. It was on the main street across the street from a polling place, which was open. Democrats had put up little information tents for candidates next to the polling place, and to the right and to the left of Cowboy Kitchen on the same side of the street. So we were surrounded. That was a smart move, I thought to myself. Under such inspection you have to be pretty committed to show up, given that Democrats control the county. Several people in the Democratic tents glared at us as we parked and strolled to the restaurant. A crowd of maybe 30 persons was standing in front of the restaurant. An eighteen-wheeler pulled up, without sides to the trailer, fixed up with microphones and a dais. Candidates would speak from the platform, down at the audience. People were asked to move back so the truck could park closer to the restaurant. The crowd was growing bigger.

State police then measured the distance between the eighteen wheeler and the entrance to the polling place. It was three feet short of the required 100 ft. Then police measured the distance between the polling place and the Democratic tent next to it. I was told it too fell short of the requirement. Someone was looking for Ernie Olivas, who owns the empty lot on the West side of the Cowboy Kitchen, to see if he would rent it for a couple of hours so the truck could pull in there outside the 100 foot range. Did anyone have his phone number? Nick rang his number but Ernie didn't answer. Nick said he had seen him five minutes earlier. By now there were well over 100 people standing in front of Cowboys Kitchen, waiting for the show to begin. Suddenly a voice (I recognized it as belonging to Agnes Maldonado) from a loudspeaker informed us we had to go inside the restaurant. Change of plans.

After a crowd of perhaps a hundred settled into a room in the restaurant, a mariachi trio began to play; the female singer had a beautiful voice. Perhaps another 30 or so crammed into an adjoining room. The Republican county chairman began the show by introducing the candidates--for probate judge, magistrate, and sheriff. Each received a warm applause. Then statewide candidates spoke. People kept wedging into the small room until about 150 had squeezed in. The room got warmer.

Among the statewide candidates speaking was Ned Fuller, for Court of Appeals. When his turn came he said, simply, "What do you want in a judge? Equal treatment under the law, right? That's not what we've gotten here this afternoon, that's why we had to come into this small space," he said, alluding to the measuring incidences and the change of venue. He got a warm round of applause when he was done. When the statewide candidates were done, only Susana was left, but she hadn't arrived. The audience buzzed with anticipation. People been asked to leave their cardboard Susana signs (about 2 ft. by 18 inches) at the door when coming in so I started passing out a stack of Democrats for Susana bumper stickers I had, which were eagerly snatched out of my hands. "Hey Dwayne," somebody yelled out, "put a Democrats for Susana sticker on your hat!" Dwayne laughed and put one up to his hat for a few seconds, for a round of applause. Obviously a well-known yellow dog Democrat.

When Susana finally walked in, everybody inched forward to get a better view, and she delivered a rousing, energetic speech, sometimes speaking in flawless Spanish, expressing a hope to "win this big." Just as she ended, to thunderous applause, Dwayne raised his hand and quieted the crowd, saying he had a question. "I have a speech disability," he said. "I depend on government to help me through. Why are you going to take away those funds from me and people like me?" "That's not true," she started to say, but he interrupted to say "Yes it is, I heard it on television." The audience then turned on him and booed. Susana raised her hand to silence the crowd. Suddenly there was complete silence: a dramatic moment of truth. "I have a disabled sister," she said. "I've cared for her all my life, and we depend on government funding to keep her well. Why would I take away her funding just because I'm governor? Why would I take away funding for your disability? This is an example of the falsehoods people have been spreading about me!" When she was finished, the crowd broke into even more thunderous applause. The mariachi started playing and the afternoon was hers.

My cousins stood in line for 20 minutes to get me to take a picture of them with her. When we left there was still a 10-minute line of people who wanted to shake her hand and get a picture. I looked up at the mountains as we drove back to Holman. An early fall snowpack was already beginning to accumulate on the summits of La Jicarita. Winter comes early in the Sangre de Cristos, and I still had work to do to prepare for it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mesquite Group Offers Free Enchiladas, Rides, to Vote

The Mesquite Community Action Committee (MCAC), with help from the SouthWest Organizing Project and Pushback Network is offering a free ride in VIP (Voter In Progress) Style to the Anthony Early voting polling site. According to Arturo Uribe, “We have been offering rides to the polls in Limo’s ever since Kerry and his campaign came into to town and rented vans for the weekend. We could get limo’s to provide the service at almost the same rate. Plus when you roll up in a limo and say let’s go vote, people jump in and say “lets go!” This year folks who live in the communities of Mesquite, Berino, Desert Sands, San Miguel, La Mesa and Chamberino can call or show up and get a plate of enchiladas and a ride to early vote. This Saturday MCAC will be taking folks to early vote at the Anthony Water Sanitation District water office ,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ex-AG Patricia Gonzalez Allowed to Visit Headquarters She Thought Was Site of Filming of Her Kidnapped Brother

From Diario this morning: Patricia Gonzalez, ex-attorney general of Chihuahua, was escorted through the Western Zone headquarters of the Attorney General's office in Cuauhtémoc yesterday, to prove to her that her brother was not filmed there in front of armed masked men, as she had alleged in a press conference the day before. A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office indicated she had confirmed that no cubicle in the building corresponded to the cubicle that appears in the video filmed by her brother's kidnappers (click here for video and here for prior story).

The investigation into the kidnapping is being conducted by the federal government with the collaboration of the state attorney general's office, now being run by a different team since the inauguration of Governor Cesar Duarte last month. As a relative of the victim, Ms. Gonzalez is permitted to assist in the investigation of the federal government.

The Massacre: Two of the Assassins Murdered?

From a report by Felix A. Gonzalez, a veteran security reporter for El Norte Digital: Just after midnight yesterday a Jeep Grand Cherokee with Texas plates was found abandoned at the site of an industrial park for maquilas on Eje Juan Gabriel, with two dead bodies in it. One of the bodies had been decapitated, hands chopped off, and legs lopped off at the knees. Three messages were found inside the vehicle. One message, written on the glove compartment, said, "I'm a doble A and they chopped off my head for killing women and children. On the back window was written, "Come for your people;" and a sign on a piece of cardboard said, "This is what will happen to those who kill women and children, and to all the doblados." Police agents investigating the crime are trying to determine whether there is a connection between these homicides and the massacre of the youths at a party in Horizontes del Sur on October 22.

The massacre apparently was motivated by a desire of the assassins (police believe there were seven, carrying four assault rifles--two R-15 and two AK-47--, and three pistols--9 mm and 40 caliber) to find a man with the nickname, El Raton (The Mouse). Police now say witnesses suggest the man with this nickname was at the party and escaped through the back after being shot in the abdomen. Investigators also assert no evidence has been found to suggest there were any drugs in the house that came under assault.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

National Pew Survey Confirms Republicans are More Energized This Year: New Mexico? Democrats Beware--I May Have Underestimated Republican Strength

If a Pew Research Center study of U.S. voters is valid for New Mexico (click here), then I may have been wrong in my blog on Saturday (How Far Down the Ballot do Susana's Petticoattails Go?) predicting only a modest gain for Republicans in the state. Here's why.

In a study of likely voters (see below), Pew finds that Republicans have a huge advantage over Democrats among likely voters: 50-40 in October, up from a seven point advantage in September. This strong surge in momentum, if it continues, suggests that a Democratic candidate might have a ten point lead among registered voters, but still be neck-and-neck in the race because of who is likely to vote.

Adding to this is a subtle ethnic factor that might make a marginal difference in some races: Hispanics, who normally provide a healthy margin for Democrats, are cross-pressured in the governor's race, torn between ethnic and partisan loyalties, both strong influences on a person's vote. Cross-pressured voters tend to have a lower voter turnout rate, so if this holds, one might expect Hispanic turnout rates to be below normal for a gubernatorial year, since Susana Martinez is on the ticket for governor as a Republican. So this might raise that 10% turnout differential mentioned above to maybe 12-14 points, overall. This would bode very badly for Democratic candidates downstream on the ballot.

Thus, if the Pew numbers are accurate and valid for New Mexico, unless Democrats have put together a credible ground game to get out the vote on election day and if the momentum continues, it could affect several races, including the Heinrich-Barela race, the attorney general's race, the land commissioner's race, a PRC race, some state representative races, and, possibly, some court races, where you can kick out an incumbent with only a 43% vote of "no" for retention. Another factor feeding into the equation here is that the Pew study concludes that anti-incumbent sentiment is greater than it has been since 1994, a banner year for Republicans. This factor adds to the marginal advantages, mentioned above, for Republicans in New Mexico House races held by Democrats.

Finally, independent voters, according to the Pew study, favor Republican candidates by 19 points (49% Republican vs. 30% Democrat). In November 2006, Democrats held a seven-point lead among likely independent voters.

Bottom Line: In New Mexico this may add up to a perfect storm for Republicans. So while Susana's petticoattails may not be very long by themselves, other factors might contribute to more than modest gains by the Republican Party in New Mexico. There are, however, a lot of ifs inserted in this story, so we will have to wait until election night to find out what's what.

The Flap Over the Video of Ex-Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez's Kidnapped Brother

Background: Patricia Gonzalez, Attorney General of the State of Chihuahua under the administration of ex-governor Jose Reyes Baeza was more or less universally despised in Cd. Juarez, at least in part because of her arrogant disregard to the feeling of Juarenses asking for more help from the attorney general's office during the upward spike in violence over the past three years. She also seemed frustratingly unable to prosecute cases brought to her by law enforcement agents. La Polaka called her "Paty Gaga," for her non-conservative wardrobe style. She left the office in early October when Governor Duarte took the reins of state government. Her brother was kidnapped last Thursday, October 21.

On Sunday a video appeared on You Tube of Mario Ángel González Rodríguez, her brother, in a scene very much like the one reported here last week of a woman being interrogated before her assassination. Like that video, You Tube pulled this one, but it continues to be seen throughout Mexico. If you want to see it, click here. In it, Mr. González confesses, at gunpoint, to being a bag man for his sister, collecting payoff money the La Linea cartel from different sectors of the state, including $200,000 per month from Juarez, $100,000 from Chihuahua, $50,000 from Parral, and $50,000 from Cuauhtemoc. He also states his sister ordered the assassination of two reporters, including the slaying of Armando Rodriguez, of Diario, in 2008, and Enrique Perea in 2006, and that General Espitia (head of Joint Operation Chihuahua) was paid off $100,000 per month. He readily names names, far more than I have summarized here.

For several months there appears to have been something of a clandestine public relations campaign between the two rival gangs in Juarez, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel, also known as La Linea. Paintings on walls and banners have been left, accusing President Calderon of protecting the Sinaloa Cartel, and others accusing state and local authorities of protecting La Linea. This video fits into this narrative, widely accepted as truth in Cd. Juarez.

Patricia Gonzalez herself appeared yesterday in public for the first time, asserting that the cubicle from which her brother was filmed in this video is located in the office of the attorney general in Chihuahua, constructed under her orders when she was attorney general. She has asked for a federal government investigation into the kidnapping, welcomed an investigation into her activities as attorney general, and denied all allegations. Among other things she said she wanted those responsible to return her brother "dead or alive," a choice of words reminiscent of her somewhat insensitive language when she was attorney general.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kidnapped Man Escapes Encajuelamiento

In the early morning hours, Rubén González Serna knocked on the door of a household in Punta de Oriente, a village in Aquiles Serdan (Central Chihuahua), asking for help. He was badly beaten (see photo) and he said he had been kidnapped. He had been forced into the trunk of a car, presumably to take him to be killed, but he was able to open up the trunk and jump out when the car slowed down. The men in the car saw him running toward a group of houses, and apparently decided to flee. The family reported the incident to police, using the 060 line. The family was told there had indeed been a man reported kidnapped, and forced into the trunk of a white Tsuru (a Japanese care not sold in the U.S. but very popular in Chihuahua). He was taken to a hospital and treated for his injuries.

The Massacre: Details Emerge from Witnesses

Diario (click here for story) interviewed survivors and parents of children at the party which ended night before last in the deaths of at least 14 youths. From this and other reports, a picture of what happened (not exactly why) is beginning to emerge. The most relevant information comes from just one source, a father whose son was at the party, so the picture should be seen only as tentative. Conflicting versions of the same event, especially if traumatic, is common.

The father said he had heard that the family living in the household under attack had been deported from the United States. They began renting the house about three months ago, and it was said that people were going to the house to buy drugs. Because of this he asked his son not to go to the party. But the son got curious and went with a friend to the party. They were outside the gates when the assassins arrived.

They arrived in four cars and one pickup. There were about sixteen of them (other witnesses say they were between the ages of 16-21) and they did not have their faces covered. They carried only pistols. Inside the house, they began to ask the youths for "El Raton," (the mouse, or, possibly, the rat) and other persons. When everyone denied knowing them, one of the assassins said, "So, you're not going to talk? Then shoot them all." That created panic and everyone began to run. Then the shooting began. The boy whose father warned him not to go to the party was shot twice in the legs and once in a forearm. His father states that while the shooting was going on he called the police but no one answered.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another Tragedy: Birthday Party Ends With 13 Killed, 20 Wounded

A birthday party for Francisco Lopez, 14, at his home, ended tragically when gunmen burst into the house and began shooting last night at about 10:55 p.m. in Horizontes del Sur. When it was over his mother was dead, along with 12 other persons, most of them adolescents. Twenty persons were wounded, three of them critically. Witnesses said the gunmen arrived in three or four vehicles and they were described as being young, between the ages of 16 and 21. (For story in Diario click here) The house is in a modest middle class neighborhood.

Governor Duarte promised this afternoon in a statement followed by a press conference to clarify the circumstances of the massacre, he visited the hospital this afternoon where the injured victims were taken. He promised not to pass on his responsibilities to others, a veiled criticism of the previous governor. Governor Duarte also did not discount the possibility that U.S. experts might assist in the investigation.

El Fronterizo reports this afternoon (click here) that one theory about the motive for the massacre is that gunmen were searching for a person nicknamed El Raton (The Rat).

On January 31 of this year a similar massacre of adolescents ocurred in Villas de Salvarcar.

How Far Down the Ballot Do Susana's Petticoattails Go?

My alligator-devouring, West-of-the-Pecos coyotes from near-tejana-land, just across the river from Rosa's Cantina, out in the badlands of New Mexico, are telling me they don't expect the petticoattails of Wicked Susana La Tejana, born on the wrong side of the Rio Grande in the South Mesilla Valley, to extend too far down the ballot. Let's take a look at the scenario.

Democratic Party insiders are tacitly conceding the governor's race will be won by Susana, in spite of her wicked origins. But how deep are the coattails? The more people are inclined to blame the Democratic Party for enabling the past eight years of Richardson's tyrannical rule, it would seem, the more effect this might have downstream on the ballot.

The national mood also plays a role here. There is likely to be a shift of about 50 House seats to the Republican Party. Nancy Pelosi will almost certainly be gone in January. But only one of the three Congressional seats in New Mexico, all held by Democrats, seems to be vulnerable. Pearce appears to be pulling away from Teague down the stretch, almost certainly due to the national mood, since the two candidates are nearly identical twins: both from Hobbs, about the same age, oil-and-gas-related businessmen, conservatives.

The state legislature? I calculate Republicans will pick up only 2-4 seats in the House, statewide. Normally state house members are evaluated by their effectiveness either in getting things done for their district or getting important statewide legislation passed, rather than by the generic mood of voters. Weak legislators in safe districts have been known to survive for decades, but this year, where Republicans were able to recruit adequate candidates, voters seem inclined to be paying attention, especially in districts with independent-minded voters. So I may be wrong about my count. If Republicans pick up more than five legislative seats, this would be a sign of strong coattails.

So where does than leave us?

Just below the governor's race, voters will encounter secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, commissioner of public lands--in that order. The only Democrat among these who appears to be in trouble is Mary Herrera, who has received a good deal of bad publicity about the bureau of elections within her office in recent months. The rest, from polling data, appear to be shoo-ins. After that come some judges races, state rep, and then the local county races.

In the local races in Dona Ana County conventional wisdom (the alligator devouring West-of-the-Pecos coyotes again) has it only Nate Cote and Jeff Steinborn may have serious opposition out of seven state reps; three don't have any opposition. If they lose it will almost certainly be because of the coattails. The same is true all the way at the bottom of the ballot, where two of the five supreme court justices and two of ten Court of Appeals judges are in retention elections. Here it only takes 43% to toss out a judge. So a serious statewide test of the coattails effect will come if one or more of these (all Democrats) is knocked off.

Bottom line: If the Republican Party picks up only a couple of seats in the legislature and perhaps the secretary of state's seat, this will hardly be a rousing coattails election. If, however, they pick up more than five seats and lose one or more of the judges up for retention, it might signal something far more serious to the Democratic Party.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Washington Is Elevating It's Presence in Juarez

Victor Hugo Michel, of Milenio (click here) has obtained a copy of a work plan prepared by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, outlining a number of steps which have already been implemented in the past few weeks in the Juarez-El Paso area, and some which are still to come. Other measures will have border-wide implications. The anti-narcotics section of the U.S. Embassy will be in charge of administering the program.

Make no mistake about it. this report is significant. It clarifies a number of things happening in Juarez in the past few weeks, such as the arrest of significant members of La Linea and threats against the U.S. Consulate, and it suggests a greatly beefed up effort is still in the works to deal with multiple security issues. For example, funds have been allocated by the pentagon to create a network of secure communications between Juarez and El Paso. Once implemented this will provide real-time operational capabilities based on real-time intelligence gathering on both sides of the border. This is completely new in the bilateral relationship. Among the other goodies in this package:

1. For the first time Washington is beginning operational cooperation with the Mexican government in its dealings with drug trafficking organizations. The approach is multi-dimensional. The U.S. government will begin sending intelligence advisors to Juarez; pentagon funds will assist the Mexican government in training, equipment, professional exchanges, and sharing of information. At least one DEA agent will be assigned to live in Juarez full time and train federal agents in intelligence techniques. A team of DEA agents will be on hand in El Paso.

2. Perhaps most important, Washington has given the Mexican federal security department access to its EPIC data base in El Paso on drug traffickers. This data base, owned by DEA, is global in scope, and is comprised of multiple data bases from about two dozen agencies. The data base has been in operation for about two decades now, and has been available for law enforcement officers in the United States, but not in Mexico.

3. U.S. intelligence specialists who work at EPIC and their counterparts in Juarez are in daily contact to exchange information, including methods of operation of cartel and other criminal gang operations. This has led to significant arrests on both sides of the border. The Center for Emergencies and Rapid Reaction (CERI), whose command was transferred earlier this year to the federal police, receives data from U.S. agencies based in EPIC to enable a more effective use of Mexican police.

"The objective is to strengthen the intelligence gathering capacity of the Mexican government and create links between U.S. and Mexican agencies to maximize the use of information in real time and guide Mexican strategic and tactical operations."

4. Kidnapping is also part of the effort. Special training has been given to elite units of the Federal Police and the Police of Chihuahua, with assistance from the National Police of Colombia.

The report indicates that "this pilot program is based on meetings of binational teams held in El Paso and Juarez in January and February 2010.

Mesquite Candidate Forum: Genuine Debate at the Grassroots, Quality Candidates

The Mesquite Forum, sponsored by the Mesquite Community Action Committee, last night featured candidates for county sheriff and county commission. I moderated the event.

Sheriff's candidates: What would candidates cut and not cut, if budget cuts are needed? Both stressed they would not cut the number of deputies in the field, inasmuch as public safety is top priority. Todd Garrison, incumbent sheriff, asserted that 93% of the current budget goes to personnel costs, so if officers in the field are off the table, there aren't many places to cut, but he would start with equipment and training, if necessary. J.R. Stewart, current President of the Police Officer's Association, stressed there are many sources for funds in addition to the county budget. He would rely on his experience as a successful grant writer to seek additional grants to supplement the budget.

Both candidates agreed that the recent fatal shootings of persons with mental health problems were justified under the circumstances. Stewart assured the audience he knew facts about both cases that were not included in news reports that, if the public were aware of, would put to rest questions about the appropriateness of actions taken. Garrison agreed.

Stewart emphasized the need to establish a community relations board that would meet monthly to exchange information and concerns with the community. Garrison emphasized his desire to continue community-based policing. The major disagreement between them appeared to be over a relatively minor issue, the use of GPS systems in patrol cars. Garrison believes GPS, while expensive, has utility in keeping headquarters informed about the exact location of a patrol car when the officer has had to leave it, while Stewart indicated he believes in high quality radio communications systems, which he said work well currently in the municipal police.

Informal comments I heard after the forum indicated many in the audience were extremely impressed with both candidates and have confidence each of them have more than enough of what it takes to do the job well.

County Commission: Billy Garrett emphasized his strong roots in the local community, as a third generation Las Crucen, his experience as a top manager for the National Park Service in dealing with multiple constituencies, and the importance of adding serious community involvement in both management and planning functions for the county. John Zimmerman emphasized his long experience as a missile-test engineer at White Sands Missile Range, and his experience as a Naval Reserve officer, including writing plans in Bosnia for the air war there.

Zimmerman stressed the need for a comprehensive master plan for the county, and indicated he thought the first iteration of the 2040 plan, written by a private firm, was a "total failure." Garrett's approach seems to be more nuanced, taking into account multiple actors, emphasizing the need for local communities to set priorities after a serious examination of options; for these to be embedded in plans and budgets, and for the commission to take its role as an overarching policy implementer seriously.

Informal comments I overheard after the forum indicated that, like the sheriff's race, both county commission candidates were exceptionally well prepared.

The Mesquite Forum has matured a great deal in just a few years, reflecting greater public awareness, a stronger willingness to engage with candidates and public officials, and a greater social cohesion all around. Community leaders are to be commended, especially the strong, sustained efforts of Arturo Uribe to mobilize community involvement. The South Mesilla Valley is in the path of rapid, possibly massive, economic growth as El Paso spills into the Valley and as developments in the Santa Teresa area portend stronger interaction with Mexico. The Mesquite model is one other small communities in the Valley might look at to protect their interests.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

July Juarez Car Bombing Suspects Caught: La Linea Takes More Blows: Mission Accomplished? We'll See

Yesterday six more persons were accused of complicity in the July 15 car bombing on Ave. 16 de Septiembre in Juarez, which caused widespread fear throughout Juarez, severely dampening commercial activity in the area. If you are not familiar with the case see my posting on it here, and you might look at several follow-up postings I made in the days that followed.

They arrests were made during an operation in which 14 alleged members of La Linea were apprehended while packaging cocaine. Noé Fuentes Chavira, also accused of involvement in the bombing, was captured on August 13.

Among those captured yesterday was Fernando Contreras Meraz, (see photo at right) accused of being the intellectual author of the bombing. He is alleged to have coordinated and supervised the attack, aimed at federal police agents, and is alleged to have made the cell phone call that detonated the bomb. on July 15.

Luis Cárdenas Palomino, Regional Security Coordinator of the Federal Police, speaking at a press conference at a command center in a suburb of Mexico City, asserted that La Linea, the armed force of the Juarez Cartel, has for all practical purposes been dismantled. This is the first time, he said, that a cartel has been "dismantled from bottom to top." It might be worth noting that Diario, the flagship newspaper in Cd. Juarez, did not include these remarks in its coverage today of the arrest (click here), although most newspapers throughout Mexico did (see, for example El Universal story here). Diario included photographs of the fourteen persons arrested, and it named each one by name, role within the organization, and sometimes nickname and age.

Narco Pinta Left Last Night Alludes to Rash of Executions of Women Accused by Killers of Extortion

La Polaka has a photo (click here) of a narcopinta (narco-graffiti?) that appeared on a residential wall last night in Col. Melchor Ocampo at about 7:30 p.m. The painting was signed "El 51," attributable by its content to La Linea, although in the past messages apparently from La Linea were signed "La Linea" or "El Diego." It is directed to Chapo Guzman and others specifically mentioned. It chides them for killing women, referring apparently to be a series of recent executions of women whom the killers accuse of involvement in extortion, and invites them to come out into the streets and fight them there. On Tuesday a video appeared on You Tube (see below), reproduced in Diario and other newspapers, placed there by a source identified by Diario as being connected to the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Chapo Guzman. Thus, there is the suggestion the woman, and others, allegedly involved in extortion, have been executed at the hands of a death squad under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Sinaloa Cartel and the Juarez Cartel (also known as La Linea) have been engaged in bloody conflict for several years now in a turf battle to control narco trafficking in Cd. Juarez. The narcopinta, and the widely viewed video of the woman being interrogated, as well as news stories of women being executed with messages left behind accusing them of being extortionists, all suggest the Sinaloa Cartel has been executing female extortionists working for La Linea in Juarez, not only to disrupt some of the activities of La Linea but perhaps also to gain public sympathy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confession of Juarez Female Extortionist (Later Executed) is Revealing

Diario today runs a story with a link to a video in which a woman, flanked by two hooded men with assault rifles, confesses to having been an extortionist for La Linea, on the payroll for $160 per week. A list on notepad paper with the names of businesses she was extorting is shown during the interview. The video appears to have been taken by a vigilante group that captured her. The woman, who identifies herself as Sanjuana Gabriela Enríquez Galván, was later executed and her body was discovered in Col. Melchor Ocampo, face down, with a message on her tee shirt saying "I'm an Extortion(ist) for La Linea." A red rose was placed on her back.

Diario points out that from the answers she gives in the interview one gathers that the same group interrogating her was responsible for the execution of Gabriela Enríquez Galván, also on October 11, who was kidnapped in the presence of her two small children, outside an auto repair shop, and later found "encajuelada" in the trunk of a white Nissan.

According to Diario the video was placed on You Tube by "elplumaoriginal," who has been identified as a member of the criminal gang "Gente Nueva," associated with El Chapo Guzman. It was added to the link for “quitapuercosenchihuahua,” (getsridofpigsinchihuahua), a set of You Tube videos dealing with narco-violence in Chihuahua. Using the link provided by Diario I originally posted the video here, but it was blocked by You Tube because the contents "violated the terms of service." The video is still playing on various mainstream news sites, including Diario. If you want to see it click on this site here from Norte Digital. I would caution readers that much of it is not pleasant, and it gets graphic at the end.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Anthony Casino Gets Opposition From Mescalero Apache Tribe, Sunland Park Racetrack

Here is a note I saw in the October LFC newsletter I received in my email this morning:

The Mescalero Apache Tribe and the Sunland Park racetrack are opposing Jemez Pueblo’s proposal to build a casino and hotel near Anthony. The U.S. Interior Department rejected the plan for the casino 300 miles away from the pueblo in 2008 but is now reconsidering the decision. The Mescaleros and Sunland Park say the pueblo casino will hurt their businesses in southern New Mexico. The Mescaleros also object to the casino being built within their ancestral homelands.

The newsletter did not give the source for this information, but if it is correct, opposition from these two potential competitors would seem to be a serious obstacle. As I understand it in the few instances Native American Tribes have been allowed to purchase off-reservation land for the purpose of starting a casino, authorities made clear they would permit this only because there was no serious opposition to it. The Mescalero objection appears to be not only financial, but also cultural. I could easily be wrong in this assessment, however, since I am not an expert in the very complicated matter of tribal gaming law, regulations, and practice.

Twenty Year Old Female Criminology Major Becomes Chief of Police in Guadalupe, Valle de Juarez

Marisol Valles Garcia, 20, on Monday became chief of police of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, a community with a population listed at about 9000, in the Valle de Juarez, not far from Ft. Hancock. She was the only applicant for the position. Each village in that area is assigned a patrol car and four agents by the municipality. Valles has not yet completed a degree in criminology. Since being named to the position last week she has managed to recruit three female officers to assist her. José Luis Guerrero, mayor of Praxedis, said that the surrounding communities have 19 police officers, of whom 9 are women. Police officers are not armed.

The Valle de Juarez has become something of a no-man's land, having been taken over at least in part by agents of the Sinaloa cartel, and said to be under the control of Gabino Salas Valenciano, a.k.a. el ingeniero. Some reports have indicated that half the population has fled, after being told pointedly to leave the area. Three local mayors (called jefes seccionales) have been killed in the Valle de Juarez in the past year. The last one, Rito Grado, was killed last Saturday night in Juarez, where he spent his weekends in a modest home. On June 19 this year former mayor of Guadalupe, Jesus Manuel Lara Rodriguez was murdered in his home in Juarez, where he had also fled after receiving death threats. A number of police officers have been killed, decapitated, or kidnapped in the Valle in the past two years.

Valles pointed out that as a municipal police chief she is not responsible for drug trafficking, which falls under the federal government, but will try to create preventive programs in schools, to make public places safer, and to organize neighborhood watch groups. She also suggested she might try to create a bicycle patrol. Click for notes here in Diario and El Pionero.

More on the Death of Rito Grado from El Porvenir, Valle de Juarez

Enrique Corte Barrera, writing in El Pueblo, (click here) asserts that Rito Grado Serrano, the third sectional chief to be killed in the Valle de Juarez in the past year, had been ordered by a criminal gang to inform them of the movement of army troops and federal police that periodically patrol the Valle. Instead of doing so, Grado had complained to the state legislature that he needed help, and that he was unable to get municipal authorities to even make an appointment to see him. There is no evidence he ever got any help. He fled to Juarez, where he was murdered in his house last Saturday, October 16, along with his son, who was killed while trying to escape.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Section Chief (for El Porvenir) of Municipality of Praxedis Killed Last Night

From a story this morning in Diario: The El Porvenir Section Chief for the Municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Rito Grado Serrano, 56, was killed last night along with his son, Rigoberto Grada Villa, 35, by gunmen who burst into his home in Col. Patria I in Juarez, at about 8:40 p.m. La Polaka reported police found 60 spent cartridges of AK-47 ammunition, and that Grado had moved to Juarez after receiving death threats. El Porvenir is a small community in the Valle de Juarez, just across the river from Ft. Hancock, Texas. The Valle has lost about half of its population in recent months as a result of violence apparently caused by the takeover of the region by the Sinaloa cartel. On Friday four dead bodies were found in the Valle.

Last June Grado publicly asked the state legislature in Chihuahua to assist El Porvenir in providing security, since the municipal government not only was not providing assistance, but would not even make an appointment to talk about security assistance.

Eight persons were murdered in Juarez yesterday, Saturday.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is Something Different in Juarez?

I spent most of the day in Juarez. I had three things to do in three different parts of the city, so I traveled to or through many areas of town. It may simply be my imagination, but I sensed something different since I was there in August: while still cautious, people seemed more relaxed, more confident, more likely to look at each other in the face--all over town.

The statistics certainly don't justify this change: the homicide rate continues unabated; it will almost certainly hit a record this year. Extortion continues to plague small business owners throughout the city, every day. Evidence of police corruption continues to be recorded in the daily newspapers. The Valle de Juarez is a no-man's land. President Calderon got an earful of complaints during his visit to Juarez on Tuesday. And given the record numbers of street vendors on hand at the Santa Fe Bridge on the way back and the large number of used wardrobes being sold on the streets near residential areas it looks like unemployment is still high.

But the feeling of the town seemed different, at least to me, as though a corner had been turned. In fact, at the beginning of Eje Juan Gabriel, near 16 de Septiembre and Avenida Juarez, a crowded, high crime (at night) part of town I thought I detected a kind of un-self-conscious pride reflected in the faces and gait of the pedestrians. Instead of the gritty, frightened faces and hurried pace, there was confidence, relaxation, as though to say, "we will survive this, too." It reminded me of the look on peoples' faces in San Salvador, in many areas of town, a full four years before the peace when it became clear to them the guerrillas would not win the war and the business class simply stopped paying "war taxes" to the guerrillas.

What could possibly account for this? My take: we know a lot more about the hows and whys of violence in Juarez than we did six months ago. We know more about relationships between governments (state, local, and federal) and between government and citizens, government and drug organizations; about the civil war within law enforcement; about how to deal with extortionists. The analysis in newspapers today is far more to the point than the hand-wringing, blame-it-on the evils-of-our-own society and culture or the personal finger-pointing that filled the opinion columns a year ago. Confucius said the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.

Another possible factor: in recent weeks the newspapers have been filled with stories about citizens banding together in various ways, sometimes spontaneously, without the help of law enforcement to respond to extortion on their own. Could greater understanding about the environment combined with the inner satisfaction of taking some matters into one's own hands have a healthy impact on the collective psyche? I hope it was this, and not just a temporary lull or the overactive imagination of a visitor in town on a warm fall Saturday afternoon.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Update on Valle de Juarez: Still Deserted, Still Dangerous

I posted some articles in April about the Valle de Juarez, which was wreaked by violence last Spring. Here is an update. See my post from last April for some background.

Two years ago La Linea (the Juarez Cartel) and the Sinaloa Cartel (also known as the Pacific Cartel and the Chapo Guzman Organization), among other conflicts began to fight over control of the Valle de Juarez, a sparsely populated area Southeast of Juarez along the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande in English) with communities across from Fabens, Texas, such as Praxedis G. Guerrero, Guadalupe, and El Porvenir. It is an area with high poverty and small farmers irrigating from the federally managed irrigation district.

When the top man for the Juarez cartel in the Valle, Rodolfo Escajeda (a.k.a. El Rikin) was arrested in Casas Grandes in September 2009 by the Mexican army, Gabino Salas Valenciano, a.k.a "El Ingeniero," from the Sinaloa Cartel, made a bid to take over the entire territory, and has largely succeeded in doing so. In the ensuing violence, over half of the residents moved away, and those remaining behind still in in fear of their lives, as municipal, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have largely abandoned the area to the cartel.

This morning four so-far unidentified dead bodies were discovered in the Valle near the highway between Praxedis and Guadalupe, each with multiple gunshot wounds. The beat goes on.


Female Traffic Officer Complains to Teto About Corruption

La Polaka (click here) reports an incident that occurred yesterday when mayor Teto Murguia visited the Traffic Department as part of a public review of municipal agencies he is conducting at the beginning of his term in office. As the television cameras began to roll a uniformed female officer interrupted to accuse three department commanders, which she named, of corruption. First, she asserted, they are telling traffic police they must fill a quota of 20 traffic tickets a day; second, they are extorting $200 pesos (about $16 US) per day from officers assigned to the busiest intersections (I was almost given a ticket at one of these earlier this year, don't ask me why I didn't get it), and third, she accused them of sexual harassment. She told reporters that, yes, she was afraid of reprisals for making this statement. Teto listened and promised to investigate thoroughly, a promise, according to La Polaka, that is made routinely at the beginning of each city administration.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Report to President Calderon: Only 35% of Municipal Police in Juarez Passed the "Trustworthiness" Test

From a story in Diario (click here for story):

The national Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, issued a report to President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday, during the president's visit to Cd. Juarez. The report consisted of an evaluation of the results of the "We are All Juarez" security program, launched a few months ago. In attendance when the report was delivered to the president were Governor Cesar Duarte and Mayor Teto Murguia.

Typically, such reports contain statistical information about the effectiveness of a particular initiative. This report is no different, and it presents an interesting profile of the kinds of issues the federal government has been trying to handle in recent months in Juarez. A few examples, but remember that many persons in Juarez do not complain to police forces, either local, state, or federal, so there is an unknown number of complaints that are not registered:

Kidnapping: 34 kidnap victims were freed by federal police, 38 kidnappers were arrested, and 5 kidnapping rings were broken up.

Protection Racket Extortion: 109 complaints of extortion were registered. Out of these 103 cases were "dealt with" without the victims paying anything; 6 were registered after payment had been given. 28 arrests have been made.

Telephone Extortions: 359 complaints were registered, out of which 306 were classified as "attempted extortion." 53 complaints were registered after payment had been made.

Federal Police Emergency calls: The Center for Emergencies and Rapid Response received 1495 calls on 089, an average of 8.4 per day. (This average is, incidentally, almost exactly what the homicide average is so far this year.)

066 Calls: the more common 066 number for emergencies (equivalent to 911) received 795,968 calls. Out of these only 164,271 fell within the scope of the service, but the wait times for a response to a qualifying emergency have dropped from 20 minutes to 7 minutes.

Drug Cartels: 118 suspected members of the Juarez cartel (La Linea) have been arrested, and 22 member of the Pacific cartel (Chapo Guzman) have been arrested. No figures were released about how many of these are still being detained.

"Trustworthiness Tests:" Without specifying what the test consists of, Garcia Luna asserted that 1664 tests were administered to municipal police in the six month time frame, and only 35% of those tested were declared to be fully "trustworthy." ("controles de confianza"). The entire municipal police force consists of about 2500 officers, recruited and trained for municipal police duty during the past year or so, after the entire municipal police force had been dissolved when the armed forces arrived to replace them in early 2009.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wes Handy, RIP

The death of Wes Handy, born in 1921, saddens us even as it reminds us that those fortunate enough today to have lived as long as he are among the very few whose lives spanned three major epochs in American life: the age of agriculture, with limited technology, horses, mules, and human labor; the age of industry, symbolized by the dominance of the automobile, steel, and giant factories; and the post-industrial age (we still don't know what to call it, referring only to what we no longer are) in which the digital revolution, global human networking, and brainpower seem to be driving forces.

Wes grew up on a family farm without electricity or running water, and he remembered when his father bought his first tractor. Maturing to adulthood during the golden age of American industrialism, he was well ahead of his time during the last half of his life, not only understanding future needs of American society as the country grew older, but also helping invent appropriate living arrangements for people in the latter stages of their lives, and, not so incidentally, making himself rich in the process. When I would see him and Nadine, however, they were more likely to be surrounded by small children at Little Playmates, not forgetting the formative stages of life.

They donated generously to many educational, religious, and other causes and I owe them a strong personal debt of gratitude for making money available during the 1980s, when funds were very scarce, to make trips to Central America. What national stature I achieved during that decade in the debate over Central America was due in no small part to that generosity. On one occasion their funds enabled me to take two of my students to El Salvador during the middle of the civil war, a trip with scary moments, but which nevertheless had a lasting influence on their lives. They also set up an academic excellence award, and made available a luncheon fund, for occasions when I asked prominent New Mexican politicians to speak to my class on New Mexico politics, so students could mingle socially with the political class of the state, and listen to the arguments and discussion about contemporary themes, in a setting that privileged honest debate.

Wes was a curmudgeon, with a penchant for telling it like it is, boldly, sometimes loudly, without euphemisms, and without fear. In that sense I looked at him as a role model. He had a piercing intelligence that saw things as they were, not as we would wish them to be, but he sided with people who were trying to push the envelope just a bit toward the ideal side. Like many in his, "the finest," generation, he believed we are all in this together and need to work toward social consensus through compromise, countervailing balance, and dialogue--not by imposing easy formulas from ideological textbooks.

I first heard of Wes from the late Sen. Gladys Hansen, about thirty years ago, when I was chairman of the Dona Ana County Democrats. We needed funds, and I asked her who I might hit up. Like most people Gladys spoke about them in the plural, as in "Wes n' Nadine," since they acted inordinately as a team. Wes was generous in giving to the party and his money wasn't contingent on anything, but he made me feel obligated to engage with him as he tested my thoughts about things political, good government always being the target of discussion. When he disagreed with me he let me know it, and I always learned something from the exchange. It was very clear he had absorbed much of the wisdom of the agrarian age, as well as the industrial age, and was struggling with the rest of us to wring some wisdom out of our contemporary condition: he brought an extraordinary depth and breadth of perspective and insight to that struggle.

Goodbye, Wes, you led an exemplary life.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Deceptions of Brian Colón

About the "Tejana" ad by Brian Colon: (scroll below to see ad)

Several commentators have exposed the Colon ad for trying to divide Hispanics from North and South. Just a couple more points.

Colon slips two intentional deceptions into this ad: First, because "Colon" is a Spanish surname, his comments about "our culture" encourage you to think he is Mexican American. In fact he is from New York, of Puerto Rican extraction, so he is the cultural outsider, less entitled to use the term "our culture" than any New Mexican--Native American, Anglo or Hispanic--of second generation or beyond. If he had said, "I'm from New York and I resent Susana for being from Texas," there would have been no deception but the comment would be laughable. The only way to get the desired negative response is for him to try to deceive viewers into thinking he is an insider sharing an insider prejudice; he clearly wants to be viewed here as a cultural New Mexican, and clearly wants Susana not to be. This, incidentally, raises the question of what exactly qualifies one to be a cultural New Mexican: family background? Fluent Spanish? Liking green chile? Number of years living in the state? Passing a test on New Mexico culture? Whatever the criteria, I would wager Susana Martinez beats him by a landslide. In any event, Colon was trying, shamefully, to exploit a negative stereotype.

His second deception is to lure you into accepting his unstated premise that people from El Paso (Anglos or Hispanics) are culturally different (inferior?) from people (Anglo or Hispanic) across the river in Sunland Park New Mexico. Colon is hoping viewers North of I-40 are so geographically challenged they won't be able to distinguish between El Paso (where Susana was born) and "Tejas" --as the term is normally used in Northern New Mexico--but they will believe there is a difference in culture between El Paso and Sunland Park. If he were to argue this point in Las Cruces, Anthony, or Sunland Park, he would be laughed at: El Paso was part of New Mexico, culturally and politically, from the time Onate crossed the river here in 1598 until 1846, when the present U.S.-Mexico border separated El Paso from New Mexico. And you won't find anyone in this region claiming to be able to distinguish between "Tejano" culture in El Paso and "Nuevo Mexicano" culture on the New Mexico side. So just how is Susana culturally different from New Mexicans? The culturally different person here is Brian Colon. Using his own logic from this ad, shouldn't we disqualify him because he is further removed from New Mexico culture, history, and families than Susana?

There is another possible interpretation of the ad others have hinted at. The word suromato (literally, "go South or I kill"), used only in Northern New Mexico, refers negatively to Mexicans, as opposed to the Hispanic descendants of the pioneers who settled in Northern New Mexico in the 17th century. It also carries the connotation of Mexican Americans, not just Mexican nationals, from the South (not a clearly defined geography; I have heard the term used in reference to Las Crucens, for example), and is pejorative. Thus, the term "tejana" as used in this ad might simply be a code word for suromato, implying that Northern New Mexicans would not want one of those to be governor. Diane Denish, of course, is from an area of the state often associated with prejudice against Spanish speaking people, whether Mexican nationals or Mexican American descendants of the Onate expedition: they are all "Meskins" to some Little Texans, at least according to conventional wisdom or stereotype in the South Valley of Albuquerque or in Espanola. So when Colon speaks under the false cover of his surname to accuse Susana as being an outsider, to the benefit of a Little Texan, it raises more issues than it settles, and incidentally violates a longstanding, sensible, informal rule of New Mexico politics: ethnic factors influence elections, but we don't talk about them: when we point an ethnic finger, we often have several more pointing back at us. If Colon were more culturally a New Mexican, he wouldn't have cut the ad.

Brian Colon has been accused of ethical mischief before. While state Democratic Party chair he picked up a box of documents in Las Cruces dealing with the Region VII Housing Authority on behalf of his law firm, which was trying to sue to recover money lost when Region III defaulted on $5 million in bonds it owed the state. It was a conflict of interest for Colon, as state party chair, handpicked by Richardson, to pick up evidence that might potentially implicate prominent Democrats. Frances Williams, the plucky lady who unraveled a good deal of the housing authority shenanigans, scolded Colon severely for doing this and told Heath Haussamen, referring to the conflict of interest in Colon's actions, "This stuff with Brian Colón, it goes to the heart of ethics and how we deal with government...” Click here for story in Haussamen.

Note: I wrote the section on suromato after a lengthy conversation about it with my cousin, Erminio Martinez, from Las Vegas, NM. He traces the origins back at least to the 1920s. Any errors there might be in that section, however, are my sole responsibility.

Outgoing Mayor Reyes Ferriz: Governor Baeza Blocked Efforts to Control Violence in Juarez for Political Reasons

In a remarkable interview to Diario (click here), PRIista outgoing Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, who leaves office tomorrow, describes how political infighting between the governor's office and the municipality of Juarez caused a break between the state government and Juarez, and an "abandonment" of the state government's efforts to contain the escalation of violence in Juarez.

When the wave of kidnappings and extortion began in the Spring of 2008, he asserts, governor Jose Reyes Baeza (no relation), also a Priista, was more interested in pointing out that it was the federal government (controlled by the PAN party) that was failing, than he was in cooperating with the national and local governments to solve the problem. "At that point I began working with the federal government, especially with the secretariat of Governance (PGR), and we began to coordinate our efforts. The state then began to see the intervention of the federal government in the violence of Juarez as a (Panista) political intervention in Cd. Juarez (controlled by the PRI)," the mayor said. "The state government did not want us to work closely with the federal government."

Another point of friction was the relationship between the mayor's office and the state prosecutor, Patricia Gonzalez. The state prosecutor's office simply wasn't doing its job. "When I began to pressure them privately to make it work, the state government thought I was trying to make them look bad, For me it would have been politically convenient to have said in public that the state was doing nothing, but I was hoping we could get all three levels of government to work together. Things got so bad I made an agreement with the federal prosecutor's office so that they would hold persons accused of crimes, rather than the state government, because not only was not doing its job in detaining suspects, but when it did so, it let them go." It became clear the state government would not cooperate even to the extent of providing the resources it had promised.

Basically state government had refused to exercise its respo0nsibility to fight insecurity in Cd. Juarez: as an example, the mayor points to the day he informed the public that the maintenance of federal forces in Juarez would cost the municipal government $420 million pesos; "immediately I got a message from the governor saying "don't even think you can count on state government for that purpose." The governor also refused to increase the number of agents in the prosecutor's office in Juarez where, the mayor said, there are less than half the number that there are in Chihuahua (city). "The truth is, the government not only did not cooperate, but in various instances it openly blocked efforts by the federal government to invest in security. "We would convince the federal government to give us resources bu the state government would say no."

The break between the state government and Juarez became an open one when the governor began promoting the candidacy of his former secretary, Oscar Villalobos, for governor (in the elections of 2010) and the mayor supported Cesar Duarte, who went on to become governor. Things came to a head in 2010 when the governor wanted to impose Victor Valencia as mayor, one of Reyes Ferriz's worst enemies. "I had reason to think Victor Valencia (who was named the governor's representative in Juarez six months after Reyes Ferriz became mayor) was not the ideal candidate for Juarez," he said, indicating only that "the people of Juarez know why" I have no confidence in him."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Two More Bodies Burned Alive

From a note in Diario (click here): Two charred bodies were found by law enforcement officials moments after a group of armed men removed two men from a vehicle, poured gasoline on them, and lit a match in Col Independencia II, near the railroad tracks. Witnesses said they could smell gasoline and heard a vehicle zoom off, and could hear the victims, who were still alive as they tried to put out the fire.

Diario Interview Tomorrow: Outgoing Mayor of Juarez Faults Outgoing Governor Baeza for Abandoning Juarez

Diario will release an interview it had with outgoing Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, who will be living in Washington, D.C. during the next two years, speaking out on security issues and lobbying various agencies. He blamed the attorney general's office for releasing, not prosecuting, persons arrested by the armed forces, for failing to help Juarez with its problems of mass transit, and for the general failure of the state attorney general's office to do its job.

Citizens Fight Back: Burgler Beaten by Neighbors

From a report (click here) in Norte Digital, by Herika Martinez Prado, one of the better security reporters in Juarez:

Late at night in Col. Valle de Santiago, a family returning home from an outing surprised a burgler inside their home. The burgler, Antonio Giner, 26, was taken outside by the owner, who began beating him. Neighbors wanted to kill him, and some suggested burning him (this has happened before, scroll down to last paragraph in my October 5 post), but instead he was turned over to the police. Martinez did an excellent job of interviewing people at the scene:

Note: in Mexico the term "linchar" (deriving from the English "lynching") refers to cases where neighbors kill a delinquent caught in the act: it does not suggest the use of a rope, as it does in American English. Newspapers in Mexico, for example, used the term to describe what happened to the two kidnappers in Ascencion two weeks ago, and to the death of the man at the barbecue stand yesterday. I will re-adopt the term in English, dropping the "y," hoping readers will understand the term's current usage in Spanish.

"...neighobors wanted to linch him, just like Ascencion, but it scares you because of your family that there might be reprisals and the police are not helping us for anything," said a neighbor.

Other neighbors complained that burglary has escalated in the last few weeks, especially of car batteries and residential break-ins.

A pointed comment by Martinez in her report: "the linching was prevented not by the presence of police but by the presence of reporters..."

"Sometimes the police don't even come. Last Tuesday they came but only because they were called in by newspaper reporters, but if you talk to them they practically ignore you. You call 066 and the lady who answers is rude to you sometimes even treating you worse than the criminal."

"Sometimes you even want to buy a gun, but for someone who is not in organized crime it is very difficult, but without one, imagine if a thief is here with me and my family, and what can I do, nothing, just say "come in?" and the police don't help."

"All of us in the neighborhood want to close off the major entry ways into the neighborhood and we are collecting signatures, we want to put in a steel gate or block it up or put up a gate with a watchman..."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

All Aboard? Armed Thief Killed by Clients at Barbecue Stand

At about 1:30 this afternoon at a barbecue stand at Benemérito de las Américas and Plutarco Elías Calles, four armed men assaulted the establishment, forcing the owner and clients at gunpoint to empty their pockets. After the assault three of the men got into a vehicle, which sped off before the fourth man was able to climb aboard. Clients and, apparently, passersby, attacked the man left behind, beating him with fists and, some say, knives, and there is one report he may have been shot with his own pistol. Someone called 066 (equivalent to 911) to attend to the man but by the time paramedics arrived the thief was dead.

From stories in La Polaka, Diario, el Pueblo

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Beat: 14 yesterday, two burned bodies

The first victim on a homicidal Monday in Juarez was Óscar Ulises Miranda Hernández, 31, a member of a state crime scene unit. He was killed by gunmen at about 7 a.m. as he was taking off the "club" from the steering wheel of his state-owned pickup, preparing to leave his home at the intersection of Montes Urales y Sierra de Samalayuca in Col. La Cuesta. His parents arrived at the scene shortly thereafter and found his body still in the cabin. His father lowered him to the ground, ascertained that he was dead, folded his son's arms, shut his eyelids, and offered him a farewell blessing. (see picture) Kneeling beside his son, the father held him in his arms for a long moment while his wife stood by. Thirty seven spent cartridges, 7.62 x 39 y 9 milímetros, were found nearby. He was the 112th law enforcement agent to die violently this year, and the 16th state police agent to be killed. According to a story in Norte Digital (click here) Mr. Miranda was one of the very few crime scene operators who did not use a face mask while working at crime scenes.

Later in the morning the body of a man scorched by fire was discovered in Col. Granjas de Chapultepec. It is not known whether he was burned alive, as has happened in several other cases in recent months.

At 5:30 p.m. a man was killed outside a sea food restaurant, Los Bichis. He was shot inside a white Nissan Sentra in the parking lot of the restaurant on Ave. de la Raza, a major thoroughfare. Having failed to kill the man, the gunmen returned a few minutes later and finished him off. Passengers in a blue Jeep with New Mexico plates observed the incident, panicked, and were treated later by the Red Cross. Blood stains could be seen on their clothing, suggesting they might have been quite close to the shooting when it happened.

He was waiting for his own death: At about 9:30 p.m. (according to a story in El Mexicano) Ricardo Ribota, 37, was killed inside a residence in Col. Km. 5. His parents asserted that he had expected his own execution, being a member of a gang. Family members told police Ricardo had sent his wife and two children to buy a pizza, and just as they were returning they saw several armed men going into the house, where they shot and killed him in the kitchen. At least seven gunshots were heard.

At about 9 p.m. a man was splashed with gasoline and a match was lit, in Col. Mexico 68. It is believed neighbors tried to put the flames out, but only his tied feet and hands were left un-scorched. It only took a galon of gasoline to kill him, apparently, since a one-gallon tank for gasoline was found at his feet. A note was left nearby saying, "they killed me for being a thief, and others will follow."

From stories in Diario

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cesar Duarte Inaugurated Governor of Chihuahua

Cesar Duarte took the oath of office today as governor of the state of Chihuahua, succeeding Jose Reyes Baeza, also a Priista. He was elected in statewide elections on July 4. Among the things he promised in his inaugural speech were to "be the best friend of business;" to build 1200 miles of highways in the state; to set aside $8 million (US) to assist children orphaned by the violence; to increase punishment to life imprisonment for kidnappers, extortionists, and multiple assassins; to send a jobs program to the state legislature to increase employment; and to recover public spaces now lost because of the threat of organized crime. The governor of the state of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, attended the ceremonies, along with 14 other state governors, as did the President of the PRI of Mexico, Beatrice Paredes, several former governors, and other dignitaries.

Among the persons named to the new state cabinet are:
Attorney General: Carlos Manuel Salas, former PGR subdelegate in Juarez
State Police Chief: Gen (R) Julian David Rivera Breton, former police chief, Juarez
Secretary of Education: Jorge Quintana Silveyra, president, Autonomous University, Juarez
Secretary of Social Development: Fernando Uriarte Zazueta will stay on; he lives in El Paso
Secretary of the Economy: Alberto Chretin Castillo, up to now living in El Paso
Secretary of Government: Graciela Ortiz Gonzalez, federal congresswoman
Secretary of the Treasury: Christian Rodellagas Hinojosa, currently finance secretary
Secretary of Rural Development: Octavio Legarreta Guerrero
Secretary of Labor: Fidel Perez Romero
Secretary of Health: Dr. Sergio Pina Marshall
Secretary of Urban Development and Ecology: Rafael Servando Portillo, Duarte campaign manager
Secretary of Communications and Public Works: Javier Garfio Pacheco
Comptroller's Office: Jose Luis Garcia Mayagoitia

Other appointments are pending

The Beat: 289 in September

September closed in Juarez with a total of 289 violent deaths, not quite as many as the 336 registered in August, or the 313 in June, but one more than the total in July. As of September 30, 2326 homicides have been registered so far this year, still on record pace. In all of 2009 there were 2657 homicides on the year. At the current pace through September the yearly total will be 3110 at the end of 2010, more than 8.5 homicides per day.