Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Murder capital of the world outside declared war zones

Since reading about the city of Juárez, Mexico, in Grazia last month I have been doing research into the violence in Northern Mexico. Half the people I know, and probably you guys, do not know anything about this brutal town.

• Juárez is the most violent city in the world after declared war zones
• Juárez accounts for 1% of Mexico’s population and 20% of its murder rate
• In the last year there have been 3000 murders alone, that averages to 9 murders a day
• 64 of these murders were police officers
• With six times the population of Juárez, New York City is likely to end 2010 with approximately 600 murders
• The whole police force have resigned in the most violent part of Juárez, Juárez Valley
• There are 3000 police left in the entire City
 
The last policewoman left in Guadalupe, a city bordering Juárez, was kidnapped on December 23rd 2010 and has since had no contact with family who are unable to contact police to report her missing, this is because shockingly, there are no police left in the town.
 
The members of the police force have been resigning steadily over the past couple of years due to the daily murder of colleagues; many being brutally shot on their way to work, on duty or at home. The rest of the police in the city are said to be corrupt, supplying the violent gangs with protection in exchange for money or due to coercion.
 
Why is there so much violence in this city? The conventional thinking is that many die because the Sinaloa and Juárez drug cartels remain at war. The two drug cartels are fighting for control over the single highway in Juárez, which allows the transportation of drugs between El Paso, Texas, and Juárez Valley, Mexico. It is the main drug exportation smuggling point to the United States in Mexico.
 
Mass graves have been turning up increasingly frequently - some containing dozens of bodies. Beheadings and corpses can be seen hung from bridges, pointing to a further rise in gruesome attacks. The violence started with frequent massacres at birthday parties, targeting political and influential figures within Juárez and the neighbouring towns.
 
In 2009, Gustavo De La Rosa, working for the human rights commission in Juárez was threatened by military soldiers who stopped him at a set of traffic lights one day, telling him he would be murdered if he did not leave the city. He has fled, along with other ranking officials, as he begun to discover the significant involvement of the military in the increasing murders in Juárez. He says, ‘the majority of those killed or kidnapped are malandros: down-and-outs, urchins, petty criminals and addicts – waste products of the Juárez marketplace; people of no value in this war, no use to any cartel. (They are) desperate, below poverty and whose death has no explanation, except as part of limpia social (a phrase in Spanish describing social cleansing) the extermination of the lowest of the low.'
 
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, enforced 'Marshall Law' in Juárez City in 2009, as a means of controlling this violence. De La Rosa explains that the structure being in place on the streets imposes the ‘Martial’ only without the 'Law'.
 
As of 2010 all military forces have been removed from President Caldéron decided to let the 'police force' deal with the crime. The question now is, 'What police force?'
 
January 10th 2010, and a story in the El Paso Times begins like this: ‘The violence continued Friday in Juárez with at least 18 slayings. ... One man was cut into pieces, another was decapitated, one was hanged, a man in a wheelchair was shot to death and three women were killed.’ With such frequent murders it is not unusual to see non-violent based headlines on the front page.
 
51 killings occurred in a three-day stretch of August. June saw one week of over 60 homicides.
 
Not only are these figures horrific but also unbelievable. They do not take into account the torture and bodies which have still remained hidden in the Juárez countryside.
 
Something must be done to stop this insanity, but the question remaining is, ‘What can be done?’ as opposed to, ‘When will it stop?’