In Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, new police are charged with stopping the violence
It is difficult to imagine things getting much worse in Ciudad Juarez, the manufacturing city across from El Paso that has become one of the world’s most dangerous places. Extortions, beheadings, bombs in cars, daylight shootouts and kidnappings are all daily fare in the border town once better known as a NAFTA powerhouse and party zone for fun seeking Americans. Even the Mexican army stands accused of abusing the trust citizens once placed in it, carrying out possibly hundreds of wrongful arrests and illegal house raids.
Things are so bad that business leaders are calling for a state of emergency to be called in the city on the Rio Grande with nighttime curfews in a bid to control the violence. Around 10,000 businesses have closed in Ciudad Juarez over the past two years. A military-enforced curfew doesn’t resound much with residents who want the thousands of troops sent in by President Felipe Calderon to leave town for good. More than 6,700 people have died in drug killings since the army arrived in early 2008 and locals say the army-led crackdown on gangs has only provoked more violence across the city and its surrounding Chihuahua state. (Click here for full Mexico drug war coverage)
The latest initiative implemented by Chihuahua state Governor Cesar Duarte, who took office for a six-year term this week, is to create a new, state-wide police force dissolving notoriously corrupt local cops. It fits in with Calderon’s plan to send a constitutional reform to Congress soon to give governors more power over the police in cities and towns where local mayors run the municipal police. The thousands of disparate municipal police forces across Mexico are the most ineffective and corrupt, seen as an outdated model unfit to fight drug gangs.
But things don’t look promising. Many mayors across Mexico are against the reforms and in Chihuahua, where the reform is going ahead, many of the same corrupt officers are being absorbed into the new force, despite promises of tough checks on dishonest police. Several officers accused of allowing criminals to steal 69 weapons from Chihuahua police headquarters last week were included in the new Chihuahua force.
The federal police are hardly setting an example either. In August, some 450 federal agents held a public protest to denounce their superiors that they say force them on pain of death into the drug trade. “They sell as foot soldiers to the drug gangs. Why isn’t the violence stopping? Just take a look at our bosses,” an agent told Reuters who declined to be named.