Resumption of drug war affects Juarez nightclubs, bars and other businesses

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Drug-related violence in Juarez has begun to spike again, raising concerns among nightclub owners and business leaders that patrons are staying home for fear of a return to the high levels of violence that plagued the city and peaked in 2010, some bar owners said.

Nearly 50 people were killed in January all related to drug violence, said Alejandro Ruvalcaba Valadez, a spokesman from the FGE, Fiscalia General del Estado in Spanish or the Ciudad Juarez Attorney General’s Office, in English.

The violence began to rise last fall, Valdez said, when 120 people were killed during September and October. During that period, the number of homicides averaged between 30-40 victims per month, or about 29 deaths per every 100,000 Juarez residents.

“Since the year started until the end of January weekend sales and the number of customers has decreased,” said Don Chuy, a bartender at Club 15, on Avenida Benito Juarez, in downtown Juarez.

“It is easy for me to notice because my bar is very small. The first two weeks I noticed how the bar was getting fewer and fewer people, no more than 100 people every day from Friday to Sunday, and sales did not reach 8,000 pesos ($400) per day,” he said.

Nearly 1,300 homicides were reported in Juarez 2011, and 584 in 2012, according to the Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP). Last year, 386 deaths related to the drug wars were reported in the border city.

Two cartels are blamed for drug trafficking and the drug war in Juarez, according to the Mexico Attorney General’s Office, known by its initials in Spanish PGR.

The Cartel de Juarez and Cartel de Sinaloa are blamed for the uptick of homicides in January, the PGR said.

As a result, Juarez’s nightlife has dropped as crime increased, bar owners and patrons say.

Ausente Bar, Cd. Juarez. Photo by Saul Torres, Borderzine.com

Ausente Bar, Cd. Juarez. Photo by Saul Torres, Borderzine.com

Some of the most popular bars in downtown Juarez area have reported a drop in their weekend sales. Closer to Avenida Juarez, the heart of downtown, bar patrons say that the streets have grown less populous during the day and at night. Dark alleys with old bars and cantinas line this street, and bar patrons say suspicious looking men are often seen hanging outside the establishments after sundown.

“We get calls almost every weekend from people reporting to us about drug-dealing activity in the streets, and when we get to the places we are told to go the place is already empty,” said a policeman who did not want his name used. “It is hard to us to catch these criminals since it seems that that come and go all the time. That is why we are stopping people on a routine basis for us to find drugs all over the city,” said the officer.

Clubs and bar patrons say they are worried too, since clubs and bars are the main target of drug dealers and people associated with the drug wars in Juarez.

During the last weekend in January, Hardpop, a bar in a commercial area east of Central Juarez, was far from being sold out.

“One of my friends saw on Facebook that during that weekend, the Zetas were planning to take back Juarez, so I thought it was going to be dangerous to go out that weekend,” said Brenda, a 21-year-old Juarez resident who asked that her last name not be used.

“I went anyway and nothing happened. It was just almost empty,” she said.

Emmanuel Mena, a 27-year-old student a frequent customer of Hardpop since it opened 10 years ago, said it is generally a safe venue. “I have seen Hardpop growing up, and only once have I seen something related to the drug wars. It was a shooting outside of the building, but if you go to other bars, drug dealers don’t care if they are being obvious or not, they are all over the place selling drugs as if they were drinks,” Mena said.

During the February 3 weekend, more than four musical performances took place at nightclubs, one of them at Ausente Bar on the Aveniza Gomez Morin, one of the most frequented streets on weekends by young Juarenses.

More than 125 people attended the performance, said Daniel Mendoza, promoter of this event.

“On the last two weekends the bar was closed because some of the licenses to sell alcohol were expired, but the other bars around here opened, and we did not hear any bad news related to any drug activity from them,” Mendoza said.

Luis Chaparro, who runs his own website www.lchaparro.com, is known as an independent Juarez journalist specializing in drug violence and organized crime since 2008, said that “people from Juarez are still in fear from everything that happened years ago. Yes, there is a drug war in Juarez, and it has always been there, but since 2012 it became more ‘discreet;’ gangsters and criminals are not killing innocent people anymore.”

“It might be a wrong way to say it, but people are safe if they are not dealing with anything related to drugs,” Chaparro said.

“Most of the killings recorded during January were related to the drug wars, but the truth is that, this endless drug war is taking place in the area outside Juarez,” he said. “These areas are known for the high market of heroin, meth, and crack, and also, these areas are the new target of the drug wars, since this coming drug war seems to be more into the local market.”

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