Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
I heard the bursts of gunfire near my house in Monterrey as I was showering this morning. Then the ambulance sirens started wailing, and as I drove my kids to school about 20 minutes later, a convoy of green-clad soldiers, their assault rifles at the ready, sped by us. In northern Mexico, where I cover the drug war, it has become a part of life to read about, hear and even witness shootouts, but today I shuddered at the thought: what if those soldiers accidentally ever shot at me?
It was in February 2007 that Amnesty International raised concerns over Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s decision, two months earlier, to send thousands of troops across the country to control Mexico’s spiraling drug violence. Echoing worries voiced by the United Nations, the rights group warned that sending the army onto Mexican streets to do the job of the police was a bad idea. Even individual soldiers have commented to Reuters, off the record of course, that they feel very uncomfortable about their new role.
Back then, when there was still plenty of optimism about winning the war against drug cartels, many Mexicans brushed off concerns of rights abuses and the possible deaths of innocent bystanders. Washington praised Calderon for his bold move.
But almost four years on, it would seem Amnesty, the U.N. and a host of other rights groups were right. For the family of slain architect Fernando Osorio, who was shot dead by soldiers who mistook him for a hitman late last month, they were certainly right. Fernando, 34, was killed on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico’s richest city, as he worked on a piece of land soon due to become a housing development. “The army is committing atrocities, they destroyed my family today,” Fernando’s father Oswaldo Osorio told reporters on Oct. 28.
The people of Ciudad Juarez are starting to lose all hope. When gunmen burst into a birthday party on Friday and killed 14 people, the horrific act should have at least shocked Mexican authorities into action. But even the sight of blood running out of a suburban patio, the broken chairs and the party-goers’ bodies slumped on the concrete have become all too familiar in the desert city across from El Paso, Texas.
It was at the start of 2010 that another, gruesomely similar shooting was warning enough that the city was spiraling toward criminal anarchy.
The thousands of flickering candles run on and on along Monterrey’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, a spontaneous tribute to a 21-year-old university arts student shot dead by a drug hitmen who was chasing after an off-duty prison guard last week.
Even as busy shoppers bustle past, people are coming to Plaza Morelos to place the candles one after the other in the downtown of Mexico’s wealthy northern city in a rare public showing of anger, sadness and frustration at Lucila Quintanilla’s death and the spiraling drug violence across the city.
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)
Colombia has killed a top rebel leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its Spanish acronym FARC. The aerial bombardment of Mono Jojoy’s jungle camp – which was complete with tunnels and a concrete bunker – was one of the hardest blows to the guerrillas in their more than four-decade-old insurgency. Since the launch of a U.S.-backed offensive in 2002, the rebels have been on the run, pushed back to remote hideouts and forced to use ambushes and other hit-and-run tactics. The new government of Juan Manuel Santos says that there can be no talks until the FARC stop attacks and release security forces held by the rebels. The Marxist insurgents have called for talks before and used discussions to regroup. Colombia had dealt significant blows to the group before, but has been unable to completely defeat the guerrillas. Can the insurgents be defeated militarily? What should Colombia do to end its conflict?
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. 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.
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.
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.
The recent run-up in oil prices could have further to go as most analysts are likely to begin raising their year-end oil price targets, according to market research firm Birinyi Associates in Stamford, Connecticut. “Given several considerably lower expectations, we think it is reasonable to expect upgrades,” they said in a research commentary, noting that crude oil prices were already above most firms’ year-end targets. U.S. front-month crude hit an intraday high of $73.23 on Thursday, the highest intraday level since prices hit $75.69 on Oct. 21. A year-end oil price target of note recently came from Goldman Sachs, which raised its end-of-2009 oil price forecast on June 4 to $85 a barrel from $65. Oil’s climb partly reflects weakness of the U.S. dollar and expectations that demand may be picking up as the global recession abates.— Graphic courtesy of Birinyi Associates, Inc.
The Czech Republic issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at a U.N. conference on racism in which he called Israel a “cruel and repressive racist regime”.
The statement by the country holding the EU presidency was meant to underline the bloc’s unity but highlighted divisions on the issue.