EL PASO – The violence in Ciudad Juarez has had a huge impact in the cross-border area economy in recent years as businesses relocated here to become successful enterprises. The emigrating business owners, however, did not sever all ties to Juarez. The drug war and the climate of criminality it spawned took a huge toll on the Mexican economy, closing down businesses, chasing away clientele and most importantly stemming cash flow. This caused a large number of establishments to slash prices, cut jobs and eventually just close down. Many Mexican investors took a leap of faith and transferred their assets across the border to find a safe environment where their business would flourish.
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.
SAN FRANCISO – In a night full of online journalism superstars, Borderzine’s bilingual Mexodus project won the Online Journalism Award for Non-English Small/Medium projects at the ONA conference here September 22. Mario Tedeschini-Lali, deputy director for innovation and development at Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso in Rome, and Rosenthal Alves, director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at The University of Texas in Austin, presented the awards for Non-English projects. Alves declared Mexodus the winner by reading one of the judges’ comments – “It gives a broad and deep look at life and death issues and amazing collaborative efforts by student journalists and their teachers,” Alves said. For months, students and professors from universities across the U.S. and México requested public records, reported and created multimedia stories that exposed the journey of thousands of middle class families who fled Mexico to escape the violent drug war. The project was led by the University of Texas at El Paso.
A student project that explored the migratory effects caused by drug violence along the U.S.-Mexico border and a comprehensive reporting package on the ongoing development of Paraná state in Brazil won the Online News Association’s 2012 awards for non-English projects during the ONA’s latest conference in San Francisco. “Mexodus,” published by Borderzine, a bilingual student publication of the University of Texas in El Paso, aimed to document the flight of families and businesses from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to its sister city of El Paso, Texas. The mass migration followed a surge in drug violence and petty crime in the Mexican border city. Students from four universities in Mexico and the U.S. contributed to the nine-month project and published around 20 stories in both Spanish and English. “Retratos Paraná,” published by the Curitiba-based daily Gazeta de Povo was a four-month project in which a team of journalists traveled across more than 6,200 miles in the Brazilian southern state of Paraná to paint a detailed picture of the developing region.
EL PASO – As the drug war continues in Ciudad Juárez, one of the world’s deadliest cities just cross the border from the University of Texas at El Paso, the work of international students here has shown the effect drug-related violence has had on their everyday lives. “In the past few years, violence and conflict have become a constant threat to the lives of many students on the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Alfredo Urzua, assistant professor of languages and linguistics at UTEP. “These students that are directly or indirectly exposed to violent events must find a way to balance their educational goals while living in an unstable and unsafe environment.”
Many of the students at the university come from or have close ties to Juarez. The impact the drug violence has had on the university can be seen since the start of the war. UTEP students have protested against the violence and helped families that have been affected.
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. 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.
EL PASO – It had been a year since I’d last visited Juarez, considered the most dangerous city in the world because of unrelenting drug violence. After crossing the international bridge from EL Paso, I drove into a city under siege, past armed Mexican soldiers and army trucks lining the principal avenue leading to Juarez’s once-bustling central business district. Later at lunch, at Barrigas restaurant, a friend very much in the know shrugged and put down his fork as he explained, “The city government thought a strong military presence in this area would bring the businesses back,” he said, matter-of-factly. “And?” I asked. “It hasn’t worked,” he said, flashing an ironic smile and returning to his shrimp and steak. While he and the other friends my husband and I had lunch with last week seemed unfazed by this in-your-face show of military force on Juarez streets, the sight of so many soldiers with BIG guns left me feeling uneasy, queasy and anxious about the future of a once booming border city and important gateway to the U.S.
When I saw the soldiers strolling along with their M-16’s, a sign I’d seen on a wall in El Paso flashed across my mind like a news ticker on a TV screen: “Warez,” said the block-letter sign, a reference to Mexico’s ongoing drug war, a battle many politicians insist is not a war or even an insurgency, as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has called it in public.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Chihuahua – When he was elected as Mayor of this border city in 2007, José Reyes Ferriz had no idea that he had won the most difficult municipal job in the world, running a city that had earned the title of the “murder capital of the world.”
The chaos and terror of a war between drug cartels that has killed some 7,000 persons in Juarez since he took office, Reyes Ferriz said in an exclusive interview with Borderzine.com, forced him to focus his efforts on insuring the safety of the citizenry. With that in mind, Reyes Ferriz placed the reconstruction of the city’s police force at the top of his list of priorities. Corruption was ingrained in all branches of the police force bureaucracy, he said. “Part of the police force reconstruction was recruiting and training new officers. The government hired 2200 new officers to bring the total to 3000.
Borderzine contributor Jago Molinet wrote this story in the newsroom of El Diario of El Paso a few hours after two young colleagues were gunned down in Juarez, Mexico. Molinet told me he wrote this in anger and frustration and as he wrote, his anger and frustration only grew. As I translated the article into English, I saw that he also wrote this lament with love, love for his fallen brothers and love for a profession that too often in Mexico today demands a journalist’s life. —David Smith-Soto, Borderzine Executive Editor
[Lea esta historia en español]
EL PASO, Texas — The news spread like wildfire through the newsroom —two young photojournalists from El Diario gunned down in Ciudad Juárez… one dead, one wounded. They went to lunch and ended up splashed in their own blood, riddled by bullets blasted from the empty minds of unscrupulous assassins.
El fotógrafo de El Diario de Juárez Luis Carlos Santiago Orozco, de 21 años, fue asesinado y su acompañante, el fotógrafo Carlos Manuel Sánchez de 18 años, resultó herido de dos impactos de bala en la tarde de Septiembre 16 en el estacionamiento del centro comercial Río Grande Mall en Ciudad Juárez. Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes… ¡Yo no sé! Los Heraldos Negros de César Vallejo. (1918-“2010”)
[Read this story in English]
EL PASO, Texas — Fueron por comida y los cubrió la sangre.