Sunday, November 28, 2010

Top Azteca Gang Killer Captured

Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, 32, a.k.a. "El Farmero," a top leader of the Azteca Gang in Juarez was captured on Friday night after a lengthy, well publicized gun battle in a residence he was using on Gomez Morin, a major thoroughfare in Juarez.. Also arrested were Carlos Rodriguez Ramirez, 41, ("El 67") suspected of transporting drugs from Juarez into the United States, and Giselle Ornelas Nunez, 32, a.k.a. "La Maestra," accused of transporting drugs and weapons into Cd. Juarez.

Gallegos is believed to be a very bad guy indeed. He is believed to be the one who ordered the murder of the two employees of the U.S. Consulate this Spring; the one who ordered the killing of the high school football team (14 dead in the massacre), the Doble A team, in a case of what appears to be mistaken identity last January; and he is believed to be responsible for the killings of 5 federal police officers. He is also believed to be the one who ordered the murder of the wife of Jesus Ernesto Chavez Castillo, a.k.a. "el Camello," a member of the gang, captured in July. After "El Camello's wife began to visit Mexico City after his arrest, it is believed that "El Farmero" ordered her killed under suspicion she might be revealing things about the Azteca gang.

From various reports in Diario, El Norte.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gun Laws in Mexico: The Black and Not-So-Black Markets for Guns in Juarez

Diario this morning has a note by Berenice Gaytán (click here) with details about the markets, black and otherwise, for guns in Cd. Juarez these days.

Gun laws: According to the Ministry of Defense, all citizens are entitled to possess weapons to be used for household protection, but they must be in the 22-38 caliber range. More powerful weapons are reserved exclusively for use by the armed forces or law enforcement agents. Weapons are not permitted to be taken outside the household without express permission

However, people who hunt for sport and who belong to an authorized hunting club may possess more powerful weapons.

Gun registration procedures: in order to have legal right to possess a weapon for household protection, a citizen must present the gun, unloaded and in a holster or case, to the ministry of defense, along with an official identification card with a photograph of the owner, and proof of residency such as a light or water bill. As of last year payment of about $3.00 was required in the form of a bank statement that payment was made, using a code (400113) indicating the payment was for gun registration. But since weapons according to Mexican gun law are not allowed to be transported outside the domicile, citizens must first report to a military headquarters, without the weapon but with documentation about it, including serial numbers, to obtain a card permitting transportation of the weapon to the appropriate location to be registered.

Sounds complicated? The registration procedure is even more complicated by the fact that it is illegal to buy and sell weapons: there are no stores you can go to and purchase a gun. This has given rise in Juarez to a black market, where one may purchase guns of all kinds, including automatic weapons and assault rifles. Guess who satisfies the demand for guns in this illegal environment? People in the United States, where it is relatively easy to purchase a gun. In recent years the Mexican government has complained loudly about the lack of cooperation by the U.S. government in controlling the flow of illegal guns into Mexico.

In this article Berenice Gaytán interviews "Jose," (otherwise unidentified), who admits he bought a 38 caliber pistol on the black market and legalized it by going through the procedure outlined above with the ministry of defense. "They don't ask any questions," he said, "about how you obtained the gun, at least that's the impression I got. You just pay the fee, you take the gun and the documents, and you get your permit."

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Juarez Municipal Budget: Less Money Than Last Year

From Diario (click here): Yesterday the city council of Cd. Juarez approved a budget for 2011 of 2.754 billion pesos (around $220 million at the current exchange rate), about $40 million (U.S.) less than the 2010 budget, a reduction of about 18%, a huge hit. The city council also approved a measure to allow the mayor to seek additional funds through increases in the fees charged for city services. About 40% of this budget will come from municipal income; about 31% will come from state-federal funds; and about 29% will come from strictly federal funds.

Xóchitl Contreras Herrera, a city council person, indicated that much of the deficit next year is due to the closing of businesses, which in turn is due both to stagnation in the Mexican, U.S., and global economies, and to the severe security environment in Cd. Juarez. The city also has an outstanding debt of about $32 million (U.S.), for which no funds have been allocated in the projected budget.

By contrast, the El Paso City budget for FY 2011 is $693 million, and for El Paso County it is $247 million. The Municipio de Juarez is more or less the equivalent governing body corresponding to both El Paso City and El Paso County. It should be noted, however, that the cost of living is significantly lower in Mexico, so the disparity between the nearly $1 billion being spent on local government in El Paso county and the $220 million for Juarez is not as dramatic as implied by the numbers.

If we take a look at the entire Paso del Norte region, the population is somewhere around 2.4-2.6 million people, counting Juarez, El Paso MSA, and Dona Ana County. Local governments (El Paso County, El Paso City, Cd. Juarez, and Dona Ana County) have budgets adding up to about $1.2 billion.

In contrast, the Albuquerque MSA, with a population of about 730,000 (El Paso has a county-wide population of about 763,000), has a budget of $455 million plus Bernalillo County has a budget of $612 million, in the same ballpark as El Paso alone (almost $1 billion), on a per-capita basis, but, region-wide local government in the MSA of Albuquerque, with a population less than one third the size of the Paso del Norte region, spends just a fraction under the total amount spent on local government in the Paso del Norte.

Don Alejo and the Debate About Gun Laws in Mexico: Juarez Apparently Divided

Don Alejo Garza Tamez, the 77-year old property owner in Tamaulipas who defended his "rancho" near the state capital of Cd. Victoria, has now become a legend in the history of extortion during the latest chapter (2007-20??) in Mexico's war on drugs.

The story: On Saturday, November 13 of this year (2010) "Don Alejo," as he was known, received an extortion threat against his property, "rancho San Jose," a few acres of land 9 miles from Cd.Victoria, just South of South Padre Island. "Leave your property to us or we will kill you. You have 24 hours to vacate." Call the police? (are you kidding?) Give up the ranch? (No way!). Don Alejo told his employees to take Sunday off, don't come over here. He then spent the day organizing a one-man defense of his home, placing a gun and ammunition near each window of the house. On Sunday the bad guys came, firing in the air. Alejo chose his targets well during the gunfight that ensued, killing four and wounding two badly before the survivors fought their way into the house using hand grenades and killed him. Only then did the thieves begin to realize Alejo's noble death would prevent them from ever taking over his property. They fled.

Note to NRA: You might think about raising the funds to place a monumental statue of Don Alejo in front of his house, with a rifle clutched in his clammy dying hands: this one is more authentic than Charlton Heston, who used mere acting skills to rouse his audience with the same image.

This incident has captured the imagination of all of Mexico, but, if you've read this blog for the past couple of years you might expect it would provoke special discussion in Juarez.

Diario (click here) has an interesting note this morning. They interviewed 100 people "at random," (hardly a suitable sample size) to find out how they felt about relaxing gun laws in Mexico to permit households to purchase weapons for household defense.

If ever there were a place to debate gun laws, it is Juarez today, where armed self-defense is not just an abstract concept, given the very real threats your home might be violated by police or by extortionists, or murderers with many kinds of motivation.

From the very limited sample, it looks like a sophisticated debate. On the one hand there are those who argue having a weapon is dangerous, due to accidents, family violence, and because a weapon doesn't guarantee sufficient force to stop an assault, and because police or army troops increasingly invade homes looking for suspects, so there would be a danger of unnecessary violence. On the other hand there are those who claim that, since the emergency call number (066) often doesn't function at all or in an untimely fashion, and since the threats are very tangible for all sectors of society, the state should encourage everyone to have arms. Still others believe guns should be allowed, but registered, and should not be of the same caliber of arms provided to police and army. Several attorneys interviewed expressed the view that the Mexican Constitution guarantees citizens the right to have arms for household protection; in real life, however, it is extremely difficult to get a valid permit to buy a weapon.

Me? I will maintain a discreet personal silence on this issue, but the Mesilla Valley, this part of the Paso del Norte region (the other parts are Juarez and El Paso), is Pat Garrett and Billie the Kid-land, West of the Pecos, with a proud tradition of self-defense. And most folks around here, if they were living in Juarez, would obtain every weapon they could get hold of, plan a household defense just like Don Alejo did, and make sure everyone possible understood they were prepared to shoot to kill and if necessary join Don Alejo in the happy hunting grounds the moment anyone with arms--uniformed or not--burst into their homes unannounced.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Oops! I Was Wrong About the Chihuahua Budget

My friend Javier Ortiz informs me that my numbers in my November 15 post were wrong. The budget for Chihuahua, including all expenditures, he says, is about $3 billion per year. Apparently the $565 million figure I used from an El Fronterizo article for my posting refers not to the whole budget, but rather, that portion of the state budget that comes from the federal government. The story was a report on a speech Governor Duarte gave, discussing the success of the federal delegation from Chihuahua in improving the federal budget for Chihuahua by 28% in 2011.

This is an important distinction, because with cost of living adjustments, the $3 billion spent by the state is in the same ballpark as the $5-6 billion spent by the government of the state of New Mexico.

I looked up federal expenditures in New Mexico for 2008 and come up with a figure of about $22 billion. I'm not sure whether I can find a similar statistic for Chihuahua.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Carjackings Up Sharply in Juarez: 13.3 per day on average

In a note in Norte Digital, veteran security reporter Feliz A. Gonzalez writes that during the past few months the incidence of "car theft with violence" has spiked up to an average of 13.3 per day during the past two months. In 2009 the average was 9 per day; this shot up to 10 per day in 2010 up to September, and is now spiking up even more. In October there were 397 incidences of car theft with violence, out of a total of 1561 cases of car theft reported to authorities.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are the days one is most likely to lose one's automobile to thieves. Most cars stolen are older models, 1991 to 1995. It should be noted that many middle class families drive cars more than eight years old, since importation of these is much easier, with lower tariffs. Only relatively wealthy people can afford to buy newer models. Although the story doesn't contain information about this, I would guess that carjackings (that is, "car theft with violence," typically in which one is asked at gunpoint to abandon one's vehicle without taking the keys) is far more frequently directed at newer vehicles. I do not drive my newer vehicle to Juarez.

153 Municipal Police in Juarez Will Be Terminated For Failing "Trustworthiness" Test

Laurencio Rodriguez Contreras, Chief of Public Security for Juarez, announced yesterday that 153 municipal police officers will be terminated in the next few days for failing to pass a "trustworthiness" test administered to 875 officers in Juarez during the past few months. He also announced that the rest of the police officer corps, 1863 officers, will submit to the same testing beginning in January 2011. See note in Norte Digital here.

On October 12 of this year Federal Security Chief Genaro Garcia Luna stated in Juarez that only 35% of 1664 municipal police passed the trustworthiness test. He did not stipulate whether these had been fired, but the news yesterday suggests those who failed the test are now being terminated. There has been no explanation for the discrepancy in the figures provided. It is not clear just what kind of testing is used to determine trustworthiness.

The discrepancy in the numbers might possibly be explained by the difference between active officers and inactive officers. The Juarez police force at the moment has 2631 officers on the books, although only about 1500 of these have been placed on active duty. It may be (this is my speculation) that the 153 officers being terminated are among the active duty officers taking and failing the trustworthiness test. Two years ago when the armed forces supplemented the municipal police in Juarez, municipal police officers were systematically fired. The police academy then began training programs to build up a completely new police force.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Presumed Assassins of US Consulate Worker Caught

José Guadalupe Díaz Díaz, alias “El Zorro”, 32, and Reynaldo Díaz Díaz, alias “El Rey," were captured yesterday, and will probably be charged with narcotics distribution, extortion, and homicide. Díaz, or "El Zorro," is said to be one of the top figures in the Azteca gang, in charge of distribution and sale of drugs and extortion rings in the Aldama, Delicias, and Chihuahua sectors of Cd. Juarez. The Azteca gang is believed to be under the command of La Linea, that is, the Juarez cartel. "El Zorro" is also believed to have been one of the assassins of Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband Arthur Redelfs, 34. Enriquez was the daughter of a prominent businessman in Juarez and she worked at the U.S. Consulate. They were murdered in an attack on an SUV they were driving on Sunday afternoon after attending a children's birthday party near city hall in Cd. Juarez on March 13 of this year. Reynaldo Díaz Díaz is also believed to have been involved in that assassination, which left three persons dead, in two different vehicles.

For note in Diario, click here

Monday, November 15, 2010

New Mexico Budget Tanks Another $450 million; Chihuahua Budget up 28%. But Put This in Perspective

While Governor-elect Susana Martinez tries to figure out how to manage a $450 million shortfall, discovered after the 2010 elections, after two years of deteriorating revenues in New Mexico, Governor Cesar Duarte announced today the Chihuahua state budget in 2011 will be 28% higher than the budget for 2010.

But wait: before going green with envy, consider this: The Chihuahua budget for 2011 will be $7.068 billion pesos ($565 million U.S.) The New Mexico budget for 2011, which ends on June 30 next year, will be about $5 billion, after going above $6 billion two years ago, about nine times the budget for Chihuahua in spite of the exceptionally hard times. Even admitting that the peso goes a lot farther in Mexico than the U.S. dollar does in the U.S., the difference between the two budgets is staggering, especially considering that Chihuahua state has about 3.2 million compared to New Mexico's 2 million.

In a press communique delivered yesterday Duarte noted that federal congresspersons from Chihuahua had done an excellent job of securing about $1 billion pesos from the federal government for providing increased security for Cd. Juarez. In Mexico state government relies much more heavily than in the U.S. for its government budget. States have no completely independent source of revenue funding in Mexico, in contrast to the U.S.

See note in El Fronterizo, here.

Five Suspected Extortionists Executed in the Last Week

Report by Felix A. Gonzalez, El Norte Digital (click here):

Yesterday at about 7:35 a.m. a man about 35-40, driving a Ford F-150 was shot to death while driving on Independencia and Avenida de la Torres. Inside the vehicle police found a note that said, "don't forget the $15000 peso ($1200 U.S.) quota due next Thursday."

Earlier in the week two young men, ages between 20-25 were killed while driving a Honda Civic on Independencia and Zaragoza. Police received tips that the two were extortionists. Seventeen spent cartridges of 9 mm and 60 caliber were found near the scene.

Two men, ages between 20-25 were found killed in the Doña Victoria laundromat after a confrontation with federal police. Police found in their possession a notebook with the names and addresses of businesses they were apparently extorting from. Police found 37 spent 9 mm. cartridges near the scene and found an AK-47 in a vehicle nearby.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Tell Me a Story," She Said to the Nurse. And Then She Died. It was Her Sixth Birthday

Hérika Martínez Prado, in today's Norte (click here), reports the death of a six-year old girl in a hospital on Thursday, November 4, after being shot in an armed attack that left her mother dead in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Her mother, Eva Ordaz de Leon, 23, the mother of four, took her daughter Erika, six, to a clothing store to buy her some pants. After making the purchase at Guilly's, she put her daughter into her 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe, but when she started opening the door to the driver's seat, the gunmen began shooting. As one assassin, who witnesses said could not have been more than 20 years of age, approached the vehicle, he was heard to shout, "it isn't her," and the gunmen fled into about four vehicles that were waiting for them. Eva, who sold used clothing to help make ends meet for her family, was dead on the spot and Erika died later in the hospital. Erika seemed tired and sleepy, nurses say, and she asked one of the nurses to tell her a story. She had received three gunshot wounds, one of them to her heart. It was her sixth birthday.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Police Clarify: Jorge Gutiérrez Corral, ex-police officer, was not one of the kidnappers; he was just about to be videotaped when rescued

From Diario: The unofficial version of events, as told by news media outlets the other day, was incorrect (see November 4 posting below): not only was Jorge Gutiérrez Corral not one of the kidnappers captured after an armed confrontation in Chihuahua, but he was actually one of two kidnapped persons who were freed that night. In fact, it is believed that Gutiérrez was freed just before he was to be videotaped, just as Mario González Rodríguez, brother of former Chihuahua prosecutor Patricia Gonzalez, was videotaped, confessing to a number of crimes, prior to his execution. Gutiérrez, however, was wanted by police and is said to have slipped away two years ago on November 10, 2008 during a joint operation by AFI (Federal Investigation Agency) and the Army designed to arrest him for ties to organized crime.

Mexican Consulate in El Paso Hosts Reception, Altar Contest in El Paso

The Consul General of Mexico in El Paso, Ambassador Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez, hosted a reception at the consulate last night in honor of the Day of the Dead, a longstanding tradition in Mexico, in which families put up altars in honor of deceased members, with pictures of them, food (a powerful symbol of the desire for memory of loved ones to persist in our lives by offering them food to keep the flame alive), candles to remind the living to live righteous lives, religious objects, etc. Locally, Mesilla maintains a tradition of local families putting up altars in the plaza.

Once again, I tagged along with my wife, Magistrate Judge Olivia Nevarez Garcia, one of the invited dignitaries. On this occasion, in an empty lot next to the consulate building, altars were set up, with music and skeleton-made-up dancers, and jam-packed with people. One altar was to the late Jose Cisneros, a prominent painter from Durango who settled in El Paso and who died last year (for an excellent rundown on him click here). Another was to the great muralist and political activist David Alfaro Siqueiros, from Chihuahua City (he moved to Cuernavaca), who fought with the communists in the civil war in Spain and participated in an unsuccessful assassination attempt against Leon Trotsky (they machine-gunned every room in his house but he survived), in Coyoacán, a suburb of Mexico City (for a quick bio, click here). And a third was to the Aztec ruler Cuauhtémoc, of Tenochtitlan (one of three cities of Aztec domination) who fought against Cortes, trying to prevent the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. He was captured, tortured, and eventually executed by Cortes (click here for bio).

Not surprising for Mexico, a country that has a high respect for artists, two of the three altars were in memory of artists, rather than presidents, generals, or radio talk show hosts. Instead of choosing local famous personages, such as sexy singers, popular politicians, or TV personalities to act as judges for the altars, relatively unknown intellectuals were chosen by the Consulate, among them an acquaintance of mine, Enrique Cortazar, a poet and cultural leader from Juarez. One of the people who helped put together the altar homage to El Paso artist Jose Cisneros on behalf of the El Paso Public Library Association was Maria Elena Vargas, who worked diligently in the past few months on behalf of the Susana Martinez gubernatorial campaign in the South Mesilla Valley. Yes, my wife Olivia puts up an altar in our home each year.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Regional EPA Public Meeting held in Anthony Last Night: Dairies Criticized

The El Paso Border Office of the EPA, headed by Dr. Carlos Rincon, held a tri-state public meeting in Anthony, New Mexico, last night to listen to environmental concerns of citizens in the three-state border region. The event, held at the Anthony Women's Cultural Center, drew a crowd of about 80 persons, and was part of the U.S.-Mexico Border 2012 Program. Mayor Ramon S. Gonzalez welcomed citizens of the border to Anthony.

Anthony city councilwoman Betty Gonzalez made a strongly worded presentation about air, water, and land contamination stemming from "Dairy Row," the string of dairy operations in the South Mesilla Valley. She argued that since the November 18, 2005, executive order by Governor Bill Richardson, seeking an all-cabinet examination of environmental problems in the South Mesilla Valley, "nothing has changed," because the state's regulatory agencies "cowtow to the powerful interests" responsible for contamination. Her remarks were echoed by Jerry Nivens, of Caballo, and by others in the audience, including Mesquite Community Action Committee chair Arturo Uribe, who pointedly asked EPA officials what the federal government intended to do to increase enforcement of existing laws regulating the dairy industry and landfills in the region.

New Mexico Environment Secretary Ron Curry, present at the meeting, replied to these complaints in ways that appeared to validate their concerns. "Sixty three percent of the dairies in New Mexico," he said, have been found to be operating in violation of existing regulations, and his office, he argued has been aggressive in creating a viable set of regulations for the industry, called the "Dairy Rule." These regulations will be issued in December of this year. But, he said, the dairy industry, thwarted in their efforts to write these regulations, went to the governor to try to stop the proceedings and are now engaged in a major effort to seek a repeal of the regulations in the state legislature. He predicted a strong lobby effort in this direction at the next legislative session.

**Dr. Rene Franco, from Cd. Juarez, announced that a treatment plant will be completed by May, 2011, enabling treaty water (delivered to Juarez from Elephant Butte Dam) to be used by the city of Juarez as drinking water.

**Carlos Antonio Ramirez Telles, President of the Technical Committee on Groundwater in Northern Chihuahua, issued a statement about the dangers of over-appropriation in the water basin in that region. The water table has fallen in recent years from 90 ft. to 400 feet in certain areas, after the number of wells increased from 300 to 1750, and he asserted it would take an estimated 100 years of total abstinence in the use of groundwater to restore the aquifer.

**An official of the New Mexico Department of Health reviewed plans for a four-year project to evaluate air quality monitoring in the tri-state region, to evaluate air quality regulations, and to collect data on the incidence of respiratory problems reported by hospitals in the region.

A larger, border-wide meeting of the EPA will be held in December, at which time plans for the successor program to Border 2012 will be more mature. It is not expected that there will be many changes to the "bottom up" character of Border 2012, which implies that local communities should continue to articulate environmental concerns to EPA officials as meetings such as the one held in Anthony last night.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Former Prosecutor's Brother Found Dead in Chihuahua

From Diario: Mario González Rodríguez, brother to former state attorney general Patricia Gonzalez, was found dead yesterday in a shallow grave in a vacant lot in Chihuahua. Mario González was kidnapped on October 21 and appeared on a You Tube video (see below) handcuffed, confessing to a group of armed men pointing guns at him that he and his sister were closely affiliated with La Linea.

The discovery of the body came after an armed confrontation in Chihuahua between police and armed gunmen, in which five persons presumed to be kidnappers were captured. A few hours after the capture three persons who had been kidnapped were rescued, and a rumor went out that among those rescued was Mario Gonzalez, but the rumor was denied by Governor Duarte.

Among those captured during the shoot-em-out was Jorge Gutiérrez Corral, a former operations coordinator for Cipol (the now-defunct intelligence center for the state police) five years ago during the administration of Raúl Grajeda Domínguez, Secretary of Public Security for the state of Chihuahua. Grajeda was Public Security director for a time under the governorship of Jose Reyes Baeza., who left the governorship last month. Grajeda wrote a book called Public Security: Dead End Street, in which he recapitulates a number of experiences he had in that position. An arrest warrant was issued against him in Tamaulipas, earlier this year, for alleged connections to organized crime.

Jorge Gutiérrez Corral, wounded in the armed confrontation in Chihuahua and then transferred to a hospital under heavy guard, was one of five persons believed to have been part of the kidnapping gang that may have kidnapped and executed Mario González Rodríguez.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Elections: Major Findings, My Preliminary Take

Bottom Line: After losing the governorship and six seats in the House, the biggest question mark for Democrats left in the wake of the elections last night is the future of leadership in the NM state house. Will Ben Lujan continue in January as Speaker of the House, or will he step down, or be forced to step down by Democrats or by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans? A lot of conversations among House members will revolve around this question in the next six weeks. The answer to this question will go a long way toward defining the character of the Democratic Party in New Mexico for the next two years. Voters: watch this issue and study the actions of your own legislator carefully, if s/he is a Democrat.

The only good news for Democrats this morning is that Republican gains were not more extensive (I'm thinking especially about the attorney general and land commission races, which were barely won by seasoned Democratic candidates running against young rank amateurs), and that a perfect storm rarely happens twice in a row.

The perfect storm: the national mood hurt Democrats and certainly was decisive in the eleven point margin Pearce held over Teague. It almost cost Heinrich his seat, and helps account for the surprisingly strong showing by Tom Mullins, who fell only 3000 votes shy of the total winning vote for Steve Pearce in a district that heavily favors Hispanic candidates. The statewide mood had also soured on Democrats, given the growing conviction among voters that Richardson is not the only problem within the up-to-now ruling party: well informed Democrats told me in Mora, for example, that many people felt Speaker Ben Lujan's strong support for Richardson's agenda in the past two years (which included a lot of highly questionable expenditures for his personal pet projects) came at their expense. Susana lost Mora county by about ten points, but she ran twenty points ahead of most Republicans in that county. So the statewide scenario was equally unfavorable for the Democratic ticket.

The perfect storm effect of national and statewide thundershowers was felt all the way up and down the ticket. For a party accustomed to governing easily at the mid-and bottom-levels of state government, perhaps the most emblematic outcome last night was the squeaker vote that brought Court of Appeals Judge Robert Robles, the incumbent, barely a 1.6% victory against Ned Fuller; it could have gone either way. It was also felt in countless races at the bottom of the local tickets; for example, in Dona Ana County Olivia Garcia, who normally wins by twenty points or more was forced to stay up until midnight last night to know the outcome, squeezing out a 52.5% victory against a virtually unknown opponent, and only after the South Mesilla Valley votes (heavily Democrat) came in at the end.

For Democrats and Republicans alike in New Mexico, this is an existential moment. Given the nature and severity of the problems confronting the state, who are we? What do we stand for? What do we propose to do to solve our problems? Given the reality that the governor will be a Republican and the legislature will be Democrat, how do we go about trying to make state government work again, after several years of poor leadership? As I said in something I wrote nearly two years ago: the state is begging for leadership and voters, for once, are watching.

Monday, November 1, 2010

October: Record Homicides In Juarez

October beat the guns of August, with a record 352 homicides, compared with 339 in August. This brings the annual total of homicides in Juarez up to 2678, which is higher than the total for 2009, which was 2657. At this pace the year will end with about 3215.