8 Murders a Day – The poor pay the price in the killing streets of Juárez

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EL PASO – The drug related violence in Juárez that has killed some 7,000 persons since 2008 is a war against people, not a war against drugs, as reported in a new documentary film.

“This is the greatest human rights disaster today in my view,” said Charlie Minn, director of the documentary film 8 Murders a Day, which premiered here February 18 at the Bassett Mall movie theater.

“I felt that making a movie on this topic was the right thing to do. It is too important of a story,” Minn said.

8 Murders a Day. (Courtesy of Charlie Minn)

8 Murders a Day. (Courtesy of Charlie Minn)

In November 2010, Minn and a cameraman started filming 8 Murders a day riding the Juárez streets at night with local news stations, Channel 44 and Univision. Minn says most nights they would park and just wait for a murder to occur.

Minn came to the southwest in September of 2009 to film the documentary A Nightmare in Las Cruces, which depicts the unsolved massacre at a Las Cruces bowling alley in the early 1990’s. That is where Minn first read about the escalating violence happening just 40 miles south in Juárez, Mexico.

With the help of the Juárez media and news stations here, Minn was able to wrap up shooting in about a month. “This film is to provoke thought and to pray for our neighbors at our border.”

Gerardo Rodriguez, Associate Publisher of El Diario of El Paso, who is interviewed in the film, says everyone should know that the war in Mexico is a war against the people, not against drugs. “This is a health issue, a moral issue, a political issue an issue about justice,” he said.

Rodríguez said that Mexican federal, state and local law enforcement are all in a way responsible for the violence and corruption that is occurring every day in Juárez.  “This is not something new,” Rodríguez said.

This war in Mexico started years ago when the maquiladora industry was established in the country, Rodríguez said. The money made on the goods from the maquiladoras was not invested in Mexico’s economy, he said, creating a huge economic issue that has gotten worse by the minute.

“The economy in Juárez is that of war.  It has become a city of the poor while the rich have come to live in El Paso,” Rodríguez said.

Melissa Mercado a student at El Paso Community College who attended the premier says watching the killings in the film brought out fear. “This fear came from so deep inside it was horrible. I tired to put myself in their shoes.”

Another patron at the movie, Elizabeth Blanco said, “I was shocked at what the people are going through over there especially the children.”  Blanco’s husband, Antonio Lopez, says he wanted to come because of what he has heard about the violence in Juárez. “Well there has been too many deaths in Juárez that is why I was interested.”

Rodríguez said the economy has worsened to the point that the poor have no other way of life than to fall victim to the criminals. “In Juárez with its all tragedy, it’s not the people who have the money who are getting killed.  It’s the poor people,” he said. “The more poor people there are, the more violence.”

The authorities have not done much to solve the killings in Juárez. One murder hit close to home for the El Diario Publisher and his staff when one of their own was shot and killed coming out of his home. Armando Rodríguez Carreón, a reporter for the newspaper and a father who loved sports had reported on the violence and corruption in Mexico for years.

Gerardo Rodríguez believes Armando was shot for doing his job. “He was going to take his daughter to school. She was 7 years old and they came and shot him in the head several times.”

When the federal army was sent into Juárez to stop the killings and the kidnappings, instead of decreasing, theses crimes increased. “The people of Juárez don’t trust the federal army or the local police force,” Rodríguez said. Killings went from 300 a year in 2007 to some 3,000 each year after that.

The corruption is a business for the police,” he said. “The police are contracted by large corporations who make a lot of money by selling drugs. The way I see it the law enforcement agencies are fighting each other over control of the Paso Del Norte.”

“Who governs in Mexico? Who governs in Juárez, in Chihuahua? The criminals do. There is no justice,” Rodríguez said.

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