EL PASO – A dwindling murder rate after years of bloodshed in a devastating drug war the city of Juarez never asked for is the subject of filmmaker Charlie Minn’s new documentary.
“A lot has changed in the city,” said Minn, as he addressed a crowd recently at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Minn has established credibility over the years by independently producing documentaries about Juarez, showcasing the atrocities that have plagued it since the drug war escalated to its most violent point back in 2010.
In his third and final movie about the “murder capital of the world,” he focuses on the myriad changes the city has undergone in such a short but hectic period of time.
According to Minn the most important factors responsible for the apparently declining murder rate in Juarez are the waning turf wars, the number of clandestine deals between top ranking officials in the Mexican government and drug lords, the demilitarization of the city of Juarez and the hiring of a new and controversial police chief.
“A lot of people believe that Chapo won the war in Juarez,” said Minn, referring to Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera leader of the Sinaloa Cartel who is believed to have ties within the Mexican government.
“He is Mexico’s biggest monster,” added Minn. “He is probably responsible for maybe a hundred thousand people dying since he became the biggest drug lord in the world.” Minn believes that there is enough evidence establishing a victory of the Sinaloa drug cartel over their opposing rivals known as “La Línea” (the line).
This apparent victory of one cartel over another is still in its speculative phase and currently under investigation, but many in Juarez believe that an established cartel ultimately brings back the status quo and a sense of peace.
“If it is true, unfortunately it took over four years and 11,000 body bags in Juarez to do it,” added Minn.
Another argument Minn makes in the documentary, which he sees as an important contributing factor, is the installation of the former police chief of Tijuana, Julián Leyzaola Pérez.
“He has been dogged by allegations of human rights abuse, torture and even murder,” said Minn “but we all know that a Mexican cop accused of murder is not uncommon, unfortunately.”
Minn then poses the question, “would you rather have a tough guy cop who is really going to lay down the law and his tactics are questionable and getting the murder rate down, or would you rather have a cop that is soft and allows everything to happen?”
Minn is expressing an “ends justify the means” mentality that many people in Juarez share.
“He has lowered the murder rate, called out the cartels, survived seven attempts on his life. This is Mexico’s bravest man,” added Minn.
“Two years ago when you would walk into Juarez all you would see is army tanks and soldiers, now you barely see them,” Minn said referring to the gradual withdrawal of the Mexican military forces that had occupied the city since March 2009, under direct orders from Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Calderón’s war on drugs began immediately after he assumed the presidency of Mexico, which many believed to have been marked by discrepancies and lacking validity. A blotch he would not allow in his presidency.
In the film, Minn also interviews the mayor of Juarez, Héctor Murguía. Who believes that the biggest problem the city of Juarez is facing right now is unemployment. “There’s a lot of people in Juarez known as Ni-Ni’s,” said Minn, which means “Ni trabajo, Ni estudio” or I don’t work, I don’t study. Mayor Murguía stresses that these are troubled youths on the streets of Juarez who get recruited by gangs.
“Unfortunately crime has become normalized in Mexico,” added Minn. “it has become accepted, and it has gone unpunished.” Resulting in a culture that idolizes drug lords for their ill-gotten success.
As far as the Unites States involvement in the drug wars, Minn argues that President Obama has shown no care regarding the deaths in Juarez. “He came to El Paso twice in the last 18 months and never once even addressed the murders in Mexico and Juarez,” said Minn. “What a wonderful opportunity for him to just say a few sentences about it, but he just wants your vote.”
“The United States is murdering Mexico, I think it’s about time someone came out and said this,” added Minn. He argues that 90% of the guns used to kill Mexicans came from the U.S.
“It was just discovered a few days ago that three of the weapons used in perhaps Juarez’s lowest point,” said Minn. He is referring to the Villas de Salvarcar massacre, where members of the La Línea cartel shot and killed 15 teenagers, on January 2010. Reports have indicated that the weapons the cartel used came from Operation Fast and Furious.
Minn believes that the U.S. is fueling and funding the war on drugs by spending billions in cash for illegal drugs. But Mexico is not without its share of the blame, with an army which he describes to be the most corrupt organization in Mexico, and a government that would create backdoor agreements with organized crime to maintain the status quo.
As for possible solutions to the drug war, Minn argues that it would take a country-wide revolt, because Mexico is on its own. “They are certainly not getting any help from the United States. If anything the United States is murdering them,” he added, emphasizing that “nothing is being done about it.”
This is his final film on Juarez, he said, recalling the difficulties an independent film-maker goes through in order to capture a subject of this magnitude and be able to showcase it to the world. “When you are an independent film maker you have to scratch, claw and grind for everything,” he said. “Everything is from the heart, without much money, you just go by your gut.”
A native of New York, he traveled to Las Cruces, NM to produce his documentary “Nightmare in Las Cruces,” a film whose box office success allowed him to bankroll projects like the Juarez Trilogy. “When I landed at El Paso international airport I made a vow. I said to myself, this whole city is going to know what’s going on in Juarez really soon.”
The movie “The New Juarez” will be shown in Basset Premier Cinemas on Friday, October 5. For more information regarding future releases, and contact information visit: www.thenewjuarez.com