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

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.

cover A War That Cant Be Won

Mexico’s war on drugs continues on its faltering path

EL PASO – An estimated 30,000 Mexicans murdered or missing and widespread institutional corruption are just two aspects of a never-ending war on drugs that the Mexican government continues to fight. “The drug war is more than a justice issue, it is a social issue; a lot of words and not a lot of action,” said Jose Villalobos, assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s department of political science, speaking recently at UTEP about the Mexican drug war. Three other political science UTEP professors – Tony Payan, Kathleen Staudt, and Anthony Kruszewski collaborated with multiple scholars in the U.S. and Mexico to compile and publish A War that Can’t Be Won: Bi-national Perspectives on the War on Drugs, which looks into the history of the drug war. A War that Can’t Be Won includes contributions from scholars on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border, providing a unique perspective on the many dimensions of the crisis that has affected residents of both nations, particularly those who live and work in the borderlands. Payan said that organized crime in Mexico has many layers that include drugs and killings, but it is much more than that.

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez said that 'corruption' was the one single word that describes what is happening in Mexico. (Luis Hernández/Borderzine.com)

Mexican journalist blames the failure of the drug-war on corrupt and inept government policies on both sides of the border

EL PASO – Five unique and experienced voices were heard at the University of Texas at El Paso this week discussing the seemingly eternal drug war and the government policies that fuel it that has plagued the U.S.-Mexico border region in recent years. The participants included UTEP professor and author Dr. Howard Campbell, former DEA agent Gilberto Gonzalez, UTEP Communication professor Andrew Kennis, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke (D., El Paso). The event, called  “Drug Policy on the Border and Beyond: Dangers Facing Journalists, Obstacles Facing Policy Makers” organized by Kennis, added to the growing discussion by policy makers, law enforcement, public officials and journalists on how to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico and led to increased anti-drug enforcement along the U.S. side of the border. Hernandez, an investigative journalist in Mexico who has done some of the best coverage of the drug war and published a book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, in English and Spanish, drew upon her extensive research to discuss the strong connections between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. She also spoke of the importance of the drug economy to the people of Mexico.

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Narcolimosnas – la caridad de los carteles de la droga infecta la Iglesia Católica mexicana

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EL PASO – La Marina mexicana mató a Heriberto Lazcano, “El Lazca”, líder de los Zetas, uno de los carteles de la droga más violentos y temidos el 7 de octubre. Lazcano había sido relacionado con 30,000 asesinatos. De acuerdo con las autoridades mexicanas, Lazcano poseía un rancho donde solía deshacerse de sus víctimas usándolas como alimentos para sus leones y tigres. Una placa en una pared de la capilla en la villa de Tezontle, HIdalgo, proclama que el edificio fue donado por Heriberto Lazcano. “Señor, escucha mi plegaria; escucha mi clamor por piedad; en tu fidelidad y justicia ven a mi alivio”, se lee en la placa que hace referencia al Salmo 143 de la biblia.

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Narcolimosnas – alms from drug cartels infect the Mexican Catholic church

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EL PASO – The Mexican Navy killed Heriberto Lazcano, “El Lazca,” leader of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most feared and violent drug cartels on October 7. He had been connected to some 30,000 murders. According to the Mexican authorities, he owned a ranch where he used to get rid of his victims by feeding them to several lions and tigers. A plaque on a wall of the chapel in the village of Tezontle, Hidalgo, proclaims the building was donated by Heriberto Lazcano. “Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief,” reads the plaque referring to Psalm 143 in the bible.

(©Angela Kocherga)

When bullets turned to ballads

Juárez, the war-ravaged border town, welcomes back Juan Gabriel, and hope
CIUDAD JUAREZ – This city, along with its prodigal son, the mega-star known as Juan Gabriel, has seen better days—we all have. The world-renowned singer with the thinning, dyed hair, wrinkles, and a few too many pounds walked forcefully on stage. Never mind that his voice was a bit raspy, his steps a bit wobbly. There he was, in full splendor, dressed in white with brown and green trimmings. Like Juárez, he was still standing.

Photographer Diana Molina and Centennial Museum Director Bill Wood, want to provide an introduction to what Rarámuris are. (Guerrero García/Borderzine.com)

Drought, deforestation and drug violence threaten the existence of Mexico’s Tarahumara tribes

EL PASO — Isolated in the high reaches of the Sierra Madre in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, the semi-nomadic Tarahumara tribes have lived off the land for thousands of years, preserving their identity and vibrant culture. Calling themselves the Rarámuri, derived from their word for foot-runner, they are renowned for running marathons barefooted or in huarache sandals across the long slopes and vast canyons of the Sierra Madre. Their very existence is now threatened by a terrible dry season that has brought crop-killing drought, starvation and desperation to these remote communities. “Sending food, sending aid is helpful, but it’s only a Band-Aid,” photographer and writer, Diana Molina said passionately. “It does not address the larger issues.”

Molina is the photographer behind the exhibition titled Rarámuri, The Foot Runners of the Sierra Madre, currently at the Centennial Museum in the University of Texas at El Paso.

Angela Kocherga and her partner, photographer Hugo Perez, won two Emmys at the 9th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards. (Mariel Torres/borderzine.com)

Belo TV journalists Kocherga and Perez win awards for border coverage

EL PASO – TV reporters covering the U.S.-Mexico border require passion, strong investigative skills and survival skills on a beat that has claimed thousands of lives in a ruthless drug war. Angela Kocherga and her cameraman Hugo Perez, who have covered the violent border for the Belo Border Bureau for the past six years, won the 9th Annual Lone Star Emmy Awards Crime-News Single Story category for their story on Juárez paramedics. Working for the Belo Corporation, one of the largest television companies in the nation, which operates 20 television stations, the Kocherga-Perez team covers stories on drug war violence, immigration and cross border health issues and how all this affects people on both sides of the border. Their featured stories are aired in various stations throughout Texas. The award-winning story revealed the everyday risks the paramedics of Ciudad Juárez face while trying to save lives.

The lights of Ciudad Juarez can be seen from the UTEP campus. (Danya Hernandez/Borderzine.com)

El Pasoans want their sister city to remain in the family

EL PASO – With an ongoing drug war on the other side of a 10-foot high fence, El Paso’s reputation has taken some hits recently, but locals see the Sun City’s image in a brighter light. “It’s incredibly sad what’s happening across the border,” said Sonya Stokes, senior psychology student at the University of Texas at El Paso. “I think it’s terrible that El Paso’s image has been tarnished by irresponsible comments that people in power have made and the media has made.”

Over the past year, El Paso has made national headlines for a number of reasons. In November 2010, the annual Congressional Quarterly Press City Crime Rankings announced that El Paso had the lowest crime rate of cities with a population of more than 500,000. In August 2011, an El Paso Times article said that El Paso officials were taking “the first steps toward ending its ‘sister city’ relationship with Juárez.” The story said that the city was surveying local business to get their insight on El Paso’s “safe” image with the constant violence occurring in their Mexican “sister city.”  The survey wanted to know if the violence in Mexico was “hurt(ing) El Paso economically by reducing its ability to draw businesses, conventions and conferences.” According to the article, “up to 41,000 surveys were sent to the business community.”

On Sept.

Illegal forms of the AK-47 can sell for as low as $30 US dollars to $125. (Christine Villegas/Borderzine.com)

The AK47 assault-rifle is a cheap way to overkill in Juárez’ narco-killings

EL PASO – Gunmen in four vehicles fired a barrage of more than 400 shots killing a Juárez police commander and wounding his bodyguard August 6, near an international bridge across the line from an El Paso school athletic field. Four-hundred-twenty 7.62×36 millimeter casings from AK-47 automatic assault rifles littered the crime scene at Cuatro Siglos Boulevard near the International Bridge. Commander Victor Nazario Moreno Ramirez had been the leader in a Delta tactical preventive team, a unit in charge of high-impact crime response and special operations. Later he was named commander of the downtown district, a district over run by drug dealers. “Shooting a man 400 times, is a statement, said Manny Serrano, a 20-year police officer turned instructor for the Law Enforcement-Training Academy.