Murder capital of the world

As Mexico’s Murder City becomes more perilous than ever, President Felipe Calderón attempts to reconcile a losing war.

Residents of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico have condemned President Calderón for ignoring one of the most important axes in the war on the Mexican drug trade. Ciudad Juárez, which is situated on the northern border within view of El Paso Texas, is now Mexico’s second-largest drug hub.

Over the past 20 years, the industry has been monopolized by a gang known locally as the Juárez Cartel. Recently, however, Mexico’s largest drug mob, the Sinaloa gang, began an aggressive expansion into Juárez territory, causing violence to flourish.

Authorities maintain that the increase in carnage is an indicator that destabilized gangs are fighting over scarce resources before their eventual collapse. Skeptics, however, starkly disagree.
Since the beginning of the skirmishes nearly two years ago, the number of murders has not declined. In 2009, 2,660 residents were murdered in Ciudad Juárez, which has a population of 1.3 million.

According to officials, this has made Ciudad Juárez “the world’s deadliest city outside of a war zone,” prompting Calderón to flood the city with 10,000 soldiers. Even still, the murders continue.

Calderón returned to Ciudad Juárez vowing to undertake some of the city’s deeper issues, including the school systems, health care and wider social problems.

The city remains disheartened and enraged over the recent murder of 18 teenagers on Jan. 31. Subsequent investigations revealed that the teenagers were students who were mistakenly targeted at a party they were attending.

Calderón faced embarrassment in Ciudad Juárez by referring to the victims as “gangsters” upon his initial visit to the city. Following this incident, polls of citizens revealed a grumble of cynicism towards Calderón’s efforts.

The violence has persisted for decades in Ciudad Juárez. The city has become the heart of an insatiable industrial machine as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement movement.

As a result, a wide array of unskilled jobs has persuaded many youths to drop out of school and begin work at a competitive wage. Many of the younger children of Ciudad Juárez are left home alone while their single mothers work in factories. The sweeping American recession has left the majority of the population unemployed in an underdeveloped public service sector.

As crime runs unbridled, the authorities have been impotent, largely afflicted by either corruption or inaptitude. In 2008, state and local police lines were tapped, which led to the murder of tipsters and informants.
Gang members threatened to kill a police officer every two days until the police chief was removed. Calderón resigned shortly thereafter. Even the army that he initially instated has recently lost popularity with the local citizens.

Troops have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial arrests and using excessive force. They too have been unable to circumvent the string of kidnapping plaguing Ciudad Juárez. Many families have sold their homes in order to pay ransoms.

Businesses have been hit the hardest. The bold, who disregard the threats of extortion, often find their business destroyed; 46 were burned down this past December.

While Calderón’s efforts in Ciudad Juárez mark the nexus in the government’s war on drugs, they are not representative of Mexico as a whole.

Countrywide, the illegal substance trade continues to wreak havoc and leave a trail of devastation in its wake. Amidst the uncertainty, the thousands of deaths and the blatant corruption, what is clear is that much more needs to be done in order to stifle the nation’s infamous drug trade.

If the Mexican authorities are in agreement on one thing, it is that an integrated and immediate approach is desperately needed to pull the country out of this downward slide.

World’s deadliest cities:
130 – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

96 – Caracas, Venezuela

95 – New Orleans, U.S.

73 – Tijuana, Mexico

62 – Cape Town, South Africa

*Statistics reflect murder rates per 100,000 inhabitants