Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

The party’s over in Ciudad Juarez

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Rubble lines the forlorn streets of Ciudad Juarez’s historic center just across the Rio Grande and the sleek glass towers of El Paso, Texas in the distance. MEXICO/Huge piles of grey debris lie on the roadsides as dogs sniff in the ruins of the destroyed Vampiro nightclub, its pink concrete walls nothing but a mountain of steel and dust.

The desolate remains of buildings in the Mexican border city look like the place has been bombed. This is a war zone, the bloodiest front in Mexico’s drug war where a staggering 5,500 people have died over the past 2-1/2 years.  But there are no bombers flying over head.

In a desperate attempt to curb the killings, the local authorities, armed with menacing yellow bulldozers, are gradually demolishing the bars, hotels and brothels of the once famous Calle Mariscal and Avenida Juarez that officials say breed the drug crime that is terrorizing the city. The once elegant husk of a building where Frank Sinatra sang in the 1950s is slumped and dirty like an old cigarette end, but locals say it might still be saved, although no one can be sure.
MEXICO/
Ciudad Juarez was once a fairly glamorous place, a kind of Las Vegas that boomed in the U.S. Prohibition era of the 1920s and early 1930s as it lured American film stars and singers to its famous Kentucky Club bar. Named after Benito Juarez, a 19th-century reformist president, the city is scattered with historic buildings and monuments that recall the intense fighting here during the Mexican Revolution between 1910 and 1920. Even as recently as three years ago, the city was packed with U.S. party goers and tourists looking for cheap tequila, prescription medicines and sex.

Ciudad Juarez MEXICO/was always a dangerous place, infamous for the unsolved killings of hundreds of young women in the 1990s. But now residents morbidly recount the drug murders on almost every corner. U.S. college students, off-duty national guard troops and day-trippers looking for a pair of leather cowboy boots do not dare step foot in the city. The Avenida Juarez is lined with abandoned pool saloons and boarded up windows, shuttered pawnshops and dentists and the padlocked gates of luxury strip bars.  MEXICO-DRUGS/

Safe landing? Airliner just had apricot face mask

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A silhouette is seen on a Mexican flagApricot face masks can hydrate the skin, shrink your pores and strip the paint off  your average Airbus passenger jet.

Next time you buckle up for landing, take a moment to find out when your plane was last blasted with ground apricot pits.

A costly U.S.-Mexico border wall, in both dollars and deaths

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By Robin Emmott

Securing the United States’s border from illegal immigrants, terrorists and weapons of mass destruction “continues to be a major challenge,” says the United States Government Accountability Office in a new report. It is also proving to be expensive in both lives and money.

In dollar terms, the outlay is substantial. Every time someone breaks a hole in the U.S.-Mexico border wall, it costs about $1,300 to repair. The estimated cost of maintaining the 661-mile (1,058 km) double-layered fence along part of its 2,000-mile (3,000 km) border with Mexico over the next 20 years is $6.5 billion, the GAO report says. 

U.S. immigrant population dips in recession

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By Tim Gaynor

The foreign born population in the United States dipped slightly last year for the first time in more than a generation, as this nation of immigrants weathered its worst recession in decades, figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week indicated.

The Bureau’s American Community Survey showed the total foreign-born population dipped by around 99,000 people to 37.9 million in 2008, as the U.S. sank into its most extended recession since the Great Depression. It was the first recorded decline since 1970.

U.S. Hispanics riled over immigrants’ healthcare exclusion

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By Tim Gaynor

President Barack Obama’s signature battle to overhaul the United States’ $2.5 trillion healthcare industry to extend coverage and lower costs for Americans has met fierce opposition from Republicans.

But a move by Democrat backers to exclude 12 million illegal immigrants from buying health coverage and restrict the participation of authorized migrants has drawn the ire of U.S. Hispanics — a bloc that overwhelmingly turned out to vote for Obama in last year’s election.

Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, the world’s most violent city?

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By Julian CardonaCiudad Juarez, a Mexican town on the U.S. border where daylight murders and beheaded bodies have become the norm, could be the world’s most violent city.

With 130 murders for every 100,000 residents per year on average last year, the city of 1.6 million people is more violent than the Venezuelan capital Caracas, the U.S. city of New Orleans and Colombia’s Medellin. That is according to a study by the Mexican non-profit Citizen Council for Public Security and Justice, which presented its report to Mexico’s security minister at a conference this week.

The fight between rival drug cartels over Ciudad Juarez’s local drug market and smuggling routes into the United States broke out at the start of last year and continues to intensify.Reliable global crime statistics are hard to pin down and a study last year by Foreign Policy Magazine placed Caracas as the world’s top murder capital, also with 130 murders per 100,000 residents. (The Mexican study disputes that and puts the Caracas figure at 96).But Ciudad Juarez’s rising murder rate, currently at about 250 per month, appears to put it well ahead of other notorious world crime capitals such as South Africa’s Cape Town, Moscow, Baghdad, and Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby, according to the Mexican and Foreign Policy studies.In fact, in Ciudad Juarez during the first day of the conference where the Mexican study was presented, eight people were murdered in the city’s streets, including a prosecutor, a lawyer, two policewomen, a clown performer and a gardener.Ciudad Juarez, a manufacturing city across from El Paso, Texas, already has a stained history with the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women in the 1990s.Perhaps most worryingly is not that 10,000 troops and elite police stationed there have failed to stop the drug violence, but that local officials say they have everything under control.Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz says the city’s fight against drug violence is “a successful process that the world can learn from.” Chihuahua state Governor Jose Reyes Baez, who has long bemoaned the media focus on drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, says that troops can gradually leave as newly-trained police take over. The army denies any scaling back in its deployment.

Arizona marijuana seizures hit all-time high

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Large marijuana seizures are frequent in the sweltering Arizona deserts that straddle the superhighway for people smuggling from Mexico — although this year they are breaking all records. Last month the Tucson sector of the U.S. Border Patrol announced that agents had seized more than 500 tons of marijuana smuggled up from Mexico since October, a leap of about 40 percent over the same period last year.Border Patrol spokesman Mike Scioli says seizures of marijuana – which is grown in Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels, and forms the backbone of their profits — have become more frequent as security along the border tightens, with more agents and infrastructure, including miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing.“Smugglers used to just drive vehicles over the border, now that the fence is in place, that’s prohibited them from doing that,” Scioli said of the barriers, part of 670 miles (1,080 kms) of fencing under construction border wide that block or snag trucks crossing north. “They’ve had to change and do things differently.”Scioli said agents are seizing more marijuana walked north over the searing deserts by smugglers carrying it in backpacks, as well as bundles attached to ultralight aircraft and flown below radar surveillance — which have appeared in recent months in Arizona.Federal border police have also found at least 16 clandestine drug tunnels punched beneath the border city of Nogales, Arizona, since October, which investigators say were used by affiliates of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel in a bid to avoid beefed up security at the ports of entry.The spike in seizures comes as both U.S. and Mexican authorities battle Mexico’s powerful cartels, which have killed more than 13,000 people since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.President Barack Obama will fly to the western Mexican city of Guadalajara for his first North American leaders’ summit with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday, at which the current state of the war to crush the traffickers will be high on the agenda. Meanwhile, U.S. federal police say stepped up enforcement is hurting the drug gangs.“They are finding more resistance from both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement,” said Ramona Sanchez, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Phoenix division. “Nowadays the stakes are too high, nowadays they cannot afford to lose a load” of narcotics.But while authorities make security gains, the multi-ton quantities of marijuana seized by border police in Arizona are but a tiny fraction of the total grown by Mexican cartels and smuggled north to meet the demands of an estimated 25 million Americans who smoke the drug.A recent drug threat assessment published by the U.S. government’s National Drug Intelligence Center pegged Mexican marijuana production at a massive 15,500 tons in 2007, the most recent year on record.Furthermore, it noted that the powerful cartels have moved much of their drug-farming operations to remote areas of the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, away from the Pacific coast states of Guerrero, Michoacan, and Nayarit, which had been the heart of eradication programs.The report also highlighted the resilient cartels’ savvy in relocating production, which also sought ”to reduce transportation costs to the southwest border and gain more direct access to drug markets in the United States.”For more Reuters coverage of the drug war click here.(Photos: Reuters and U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

U.S. border agents under fire as Mexican smugglers fight back

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Gunmen shot and killed U.S. Border Patrol agent Robert Rosas in California near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on July 23, the first such fatal shooting in more than a decade. In rugged desert where people smugglers and drug traffickers roam, Rosas was tracking a suspicious group of people near the rural town of Campo, about 60 miles (97 kms) east of San Diego.

After radioing for backup, he got out of his vehicle and started to follow members of the group as it split up. He was attacked, robbed of his weapon and shot several times in the head and abdomen.

Time to go after the drug money

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Drug violence in Mexico is intensifying even by traffickers’ barbaric standards.

In recent days, heavily armed hitmen launched coordinated attacks on federal police stations in western Mexico and dumped the semi-naked, bloodied bodies of 12 federal agents by a mountain highway, killed two U.S. Mormons in their Mexican community and killed a mayor in a northern ranching town.

Mexico declares war on neckties

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Mexicans can start to relax a bit now that the country’s deadly flu virus appears to be under control. But the country’s health minister said on Sunday his countrymen shouldn’t loosen their neckties, they should take them off altogether.

Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova (pictured above with President Felipe Calderon last week; Calderon is the one wearing a tie) was visibly relieved by new data showing a decline in the number of people severely ill with the new H1N1 flu virus. He ranted lightheartedly about germ-filled ties and bottom-pinching theater seats on Sunday as he issued new health safety guidelines for Mexicans preparing to return to work and school after a five-day shutdown.

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