Tag Archives: chihuahua

The War Against Drugs in the Tarahumara Mountains and the Demise of a ‘Robin Hood’ (Patricia Mayorga/PROCESO)

News magazine Proceso first published this article on October 31, 2012.

This article is about the war in the mountains of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango that has raged for years and has only become worse. Even with stories like this one by Mayorga, or this year’s knockout crónica by Marco Antonio López, “Madera, Chihuahua: A Land Living Through War,” there is great reticence in the international community to annoy Mexico’s government by declaring the country’s situation a non-international armed conflict. Mexico has managed to avoid this status even with more than 100,000 deaths since Felipe Calderón widened the drug war in 2006 and even with more deaths from violent homicide in 2017 than in 2011.

And yet the experience on the ground, as Mayorga demonstrates, is indeed one of war: of people violently pushed from their homes, of men with guns, in the government and in organized crime, and of them firing from rooftops, or ambushing civilians.

It’s an intriguing article because it suggests that peace is possible, but not because Mexico’s state guarantees it, but because a drug warlord does. That’s not a term Mayorga uses, focused as she is on the way in which the region’s residents viewed the man who guaranteed their peace as a latter day “Robin Hood.”

Mayorga’s article – now five years old and still relevant — about the war without end in the Sierra Tarahumara has been translated in anticipation of her receiving the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Press Freedom Award this November. The Mexican Journalism Translation Project will translate more work by Patricia Mayorga into English in the coming weeks so that readers who do not readily read Spanish can familiarize themselves with the work of this brave Mexican journalist.

At least 11 journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2017. – PT

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Uruachi Township, Tarahumara Mountains, Chihuahua


By Patricia Mayorga (PROCESO)

CHIHUAHUA, Chihuahua. – The assassination of Sinaloa Cartel capo Antonio Erives Arduño, 39, in Uruachi last Saturday has placed the region’s residents on high alert. The leader of this criminal group installed himself in Uruachi beginning in March 2011, styling himself as “protector” of its citizens because state, federal and local authorities are unable to respect and guarantee security.

Toño Erives, as he was known, used to help people with money, with supplies. He used to defend people who left him alone. He rescued teenagers from other gangs but he also enlisted or “tricked” others into his own.

For a year Antonio Erives managed to keep the town “peaceful” but last Saturday his rival arrived – one of the leaders of La Línea known as El Vaquero – to dispute the territory. People sought refuge in their houses while the confrontation raged between the armed groups.

Several people were killed, according to local authorities, although the precise number is not known. The confrontation lasted five hours.

In the Tarahumara Mountains it seems like there’s license to kill. The authorities and society blame the same families from those communities that have mostly sown and produced marijuana and poppies for decades, even though the violence has reached whole villages and left thousands of victims, many of whose names are never known.

Confrontations between drug traffickers have gone on forever. Residents say armed people have always been around and indigenous people and mestizos have always grown drugs. And that justification extends to giving permission to kill anybody, without knowing what he did or how many should be killed. The Chihuahuan mountains are a “no man’s land.”

The Power of Toño Erives

In the last week of March and at the beginning of April 2011, the confrontation between these criminal groups – the Sinaloa Cartel and La Línea – forced a whole village to spend night after night in the mountains. For a week they slept in low temperatures and at the mercy of the elements. This happened in Jicamórachi in Uruachi municipality.

On Monday April 9, Antonio Erives’ niece, Lidia, came down from the mountains. Her mother in law came with her, along with several aunts, and a group of children. They had all fled after some men they did not know burned down five of their properties.

Toño Erives and one of his wife’s uncles (who was assassinated in 2009 at age 19) rose to important positions in La Línea, the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. Soon he began to stand out in this organization; however, the Sinaloa Cartel convinced him to join their ranks, marking the beginning of Sinaloa Cartel power in the region.

“He was a noble man,” Lidia says, “he gave people protection and he helped them, he lent them trucks so they could go to hospitals. He is a man with attractive features, a good person.”

El Vaquero (“The Cowboy”) arrived at Jicamórachi in March 2011. He was one of the leaders of La Línea and Erives’s former boss. The village held a dance to celebrate the coronation of their queen. A fight broke out among those assembled. Residents say that one of them took a truck laden with drugs and killed one of the men. Two days later a group of armed men, dressed like federal police, burned the villagers’ houses, including that of the town’s doctor, and also several vehicles. The rebel group entered the town shooting at nothing in particular. The people – the elderly, children, and entire families – ran to the mountains. Jicamórachi is tucked between several mountains.

A few families managed to flee and more than half of the 122 families in the village have not returned, says one of the former communal land commissioners. The villagers spent a whole weekend in the mountains. Delivery trucks refused to travel to Jicamórachi because of the risks along the way. Children became sick because the weather was chilly, forcing them to return home.

Almost all the villagers who had gone to the mountain and did not flee to other cities returned, except Lidia and her family who stayed on the mountain, hiding with her aunts and uncles. The houses burned by the armed men belonged to her family. They also burned a carpenter’s shop owned by Antonio Erives’s father. The Army arrived at the beginning of April and took over Jicamórachi’s primary school. Their presence allowed the villagers to return home.

Although she was terrified Lidia came down from the mountains. She did not say a word, only nodding in agreement that she wanted to stay with her in-laws. She had lived in the village for a brief time during her marriage but she refused to abandon it, confronting the violence on a daily basis and the demands for illegal payments that had for decades been normal  in the Tarahumara Mountains.

At the time the young woman avoided anybody who asked her for details about the violence. They suggested she leave the village to return to her family but she refused. She said that she did not want to abandon her mother-in-law and her aunts.

One week later she and her in-laws left the village. The State Police offered them a helicopter so they could leave. They arrived in Sonora a few weeks later. Lidia decided to go with her family to one of the state’s large cities. She found work in a department store and that brought her some piece of mind. During a lunch break she agreed to talk about her life in Uruachi.

She accepted that she needed psychological help. She had decided to take her life back. Some weeks later she got married and now she expects to have a baby.

A Wave of Shootouts

After the gunmen took Jicamórachi from Erives in March 2011, he and his people ambushed a caravan of vehicles driven by their enemies as they moved through the township. The leader of the other group, El Vaquero, was the target. He managed to flee in an armored car, according to one of Lidia’s teenage relatives who also belongs to Erives’s group.

A few days later, and by way of revenge, the men under El Vaquero’s control seized a busload of passengers including Antonio Erives’s sister. She was a councilwoman in Uruachi. The gunmen kidnapped her and began to negotiate: control over the region in exchange for the woman.

They agreed to find a place close to Gosogachi to hand her over.

A helicopter took the councilwoman and delivered to her brother. But they had tortured her. They burned her feet. After recovering his sister, “he made war.” Both groups fought each other from different hillsides. Toño’s group won.

In that same time period another of Uruachi’s villages, Memelichi, was taken. Its villagers told people by email that nobody could leave the village. The men ran away to hide themselves, they were so afraid, but the women and children stayed behind in the village.

After “the war” Erives’s enemy arrived in the township’s main village to launch a shootout lasting five hours. Apart from Toño’s group, poorly armed police and “three or four youth” participated in the violence. The young men climbed on the rooftops so their rivals would not know where the shots came from.

By shooting from the rooftops they managed to kill several people. The residents who did manage to talk by phone confirmed that they saw how they wounded and shot several people. Each group carried the bodies away with them, making it difficult to figure out an exact number of the dead or wounded.

The women told stories about seeing teenagers invade their patios with long guns. It made them afraid. The residents confirmed that several apple pickers were forced to fight in the “war”.

The mayor, Aldo Campos Rascón, realized a day later that the town was in shock. Many houses had been shot up and car windows shattered. He confirmed that at least 10 people had been injured. The mayor asked the armed forces to stay on permanently in an attempt to constrain the violence.

“If this situation doesn’t end, the Sierra will turn into a powder keg. The people are arming themselves or they want to join those groups. Young people are mostly the ones who leave.”

“They want to join up for all sorts of reasons. People are tired of living with this fear, so they go with one side or the other. It is complicated and if we aren’t careful very shortly it’s going to explode. The people are anxious and mistrustful,” warned the mayor.

Residents in the municipality soon came to see themselves as under Toño Erives’s protection. They helped the authorities with their tasks, from protecting lives, to taking people to hospital, or supporting those who needed to be fed.

From that moment on, at the end of March and the beginning of April 2011 there were some isolated and sporadic murders. This situation changed last week when Antonio Erives’s rivals killed him. He had become Uruachi’s “Robin Hood.” Fear now centers on how both groups will adjust to each other and the decisions their leaders are going to make.

Investigative reporter Patricia Mayorga is a prize-winning Mexican journalist from Chihuahua. She works with Proceso, Mexico’s premier investigative news magazine. After the murder of her friend and colleague Miroslava Breach in March 2017 in Ciudad Chihuahua, she went into exile and is currently in hiding. The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor her with its Press Freedom Award this November.

Translator Patrick Timmons is human rights investigator and lawyer, and a journalist. He collaborates with the Freedom of Expression Project at the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. He is participating in #agendadeperiodistas, a group formed in 2017 by journalists to protect journalists. He lives in Mexico City.

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The Health Sector: César Duarte’s Goldmine, By Patricia Mayorga (PROCESO)

News magazine Proceso first published this article on January 2, 2015. This article is about former Governor César Duarte of Chihuahua. Duarte is one of eight former governors in Mexico who are wanted for corruption, among other charges. Unlike the other seven governors, Duarte is still on the run and has not been arrested.

Good investigative journalism about corruption in Mexico exists but is sometimes hard to come by. The simplicity with which Mayorga tells a complex story — one that weaves together confidential and anonymous sources along with freedom of information requests and corresponding contracts and other documents —  about corruption in Mexico is one of the reasons this article deserves translation. The fact that Duarte has so far escaped justice demonstrates Mayorga’s article is still timely, still relevant. The power of Mayorga’s investigative journalism reminds us why she is one of Mexico’s threatened journalists. 

Mayorga’s article has been translated in anticipation of her receiving the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Press Freedom Award this November. The Mexican Journalism Translation Project will translate more work by Patricia Mayorga into English in the coming weeks and months so that readers who do not readily speak Spanish can familiarize themselves with the work of this brave Mexican journalist. At least 11 journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2017. – PT

César Duarte, Former Governor of Chihuahua

The Health Sector: César Duarte’s Goldmine
By Patricia Mayorga (PROCESO)

Complaints and accusations are piling up against the governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte Jáquez. Charges have been filed against Duarte at the federal Attorney General’s office for embezzlement, corruption, overstepping his powers as governor, and misappropriating funds: he transferred state resources to a bank where he holds shares. Duarte now faces  conflict of interest charges for giving state business to certain companies that supply Chihuahua’s health sector and to which he has ties.

CHIHUAHUA, Chih. (Proceso). – In 2011 — and two months after being sworn in as governor — César Horacio Duarte Jáquez of Chihuahua entered into an arrangement with Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica, S.A. de C.V. and Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K. Thanks to him these companies became the state health sector’s top suppliers. Duarte showered them directly with million-peso contracts – in spite of complaints against them for selling overpriced drugs. Duarte’s registered tax address for his not-for-profit and his business is also the same address used by these medical supply companies.

Duarte shares the tax address at 8725 Periferico de la Juventud in the Lomas Universidad neighborhood in Chihuahua with Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K (Farmacias Economik). Duarte’s business, Union Ganadera División del Norte and his not-for-profit Que el Cielo Bendiga a Chihuahua are also domiciled at this address. The not-for-profit was only just registered with Mexico’s Institute for Industrial Property.

Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica’s directors work out of the governor’s business office, even though the company’s address is 11368 Rudyard Kipling Street in the Chihuahua Industrial Complex (“Complejo Industrial Chihuahua”). The directors put the governor’s business office address on their business cards.

A scandal already surrounds Duarte for transferring state resources to the Progreso de Chihuahua Bank, where he is also a shareholder. Attorney Jaime García Chávez and the PAN-ista legislator Rocio Reza Gallegos have filed complaints against Duarte for embezzlement, corruption, misappropriating funds and overstepping his powers. Forty senators and thousands of citizens who have established an anti-Duarte movement back García Chávez and Reza Gallegos. They filed their complaints at the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The pharmaceutical companies present a different sort of case, this time about conflict of interest and favoritism to businesses. Between 2011 and 2013 the health sector spent almost 3 billion pesos (about USD$161million) purchasing drugs, according to the Transparency and Access to Information Law (“Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información”).

Eduardo Almeida Navarro owns both Ymmarsa Farmacias Economik and Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional, S de RL de CV. Almeida Navarro belongs to the PRI, Duarte’s party, and he backed Duarte’s election campaign. In 2011, 2012, and 2013 more than half of the state budget for purchasing medicines and medical supplies went to Almeida Navarro’s pharmacies. The 2014 expenditures are not yet public.

Since Duarte became governor the state’s expenditure on pharmaceuticals has increased by 32 percent or 301.9million pesos, about US$16 million. Yet state health centers noticeably lack stocks of drugs and medical supplies. The state auditor (“Auditor Superior del Estado,” acronym in Spanish: ASE) has reported that warehouses lack appropriate stock controls.

Audits indicate that businesses linked to Duarte fail to fulfill requirements, or other suppliers file complaints against them showing that their medicines are priced significantly higher than their competitors. And yet still their bids win government tenders.

One group of citizens – supported by doctors who suspected conflict of interest and misappropriation of funds – requested an investigation by the federal Ministry for Public Performance (“Secretaría de la Función Pública”). The Ministry turned down their request, arguing that the correct agency is the state comptroller. But former PRI legislator Liz Aguilera García runs the state comptroller’s office. Aguilera García is close to Duarte and may run as a candidate for Mexico’s federal Congress.

On November 28, 2014, these citizens – and with Proceso already aware of their complaint – filed another before federal auditors. Its received a status of “study and analyze.” In this document citizen petitioners accuse the government of colluding with officials from the health sector and violating the Law of Acquisitions, Leases, Service Contracts and Public Works and the Law of Responsibility for Chihuahua’s State Public Servants.

More Money, Less Stock
The alliance between these pharmacy companies meant that the Chihuahua’s Ministry of Health increased its medicine budget. From 2011 to 2013 the budget surged by about 190 million pesos (around USD$10million).

A summary of the budget document obtained under the Transparency Law makes it apparent that State Health Services spent about 3 billion pesos just on buying drugs and medical supplies. Chihuahua’s Institute of Health (acronym in Spanish, ICHISAL) also manages the federal health program Seguro Popular and it spent around 600 million pesos on similar items for the state pension system, around 1.5million pesos (US$80,000).

However, in one of the most used hospitals for people with Seguro Popular, there have been significant shortages in drugs and medical supplies since 2013. The last available report states that between 2013 and July 2014 no month went by when stock exceeded 90 percent. Instead, for those nineteen months average stock rates were around 58 percent. In previous administration, even with a smaller budget, public officials say the average stocking level hovered around 80 percent.

Some experts cannot believe the increased spending on medicine. “This situation needs to be compared against population increase (…). The previous administration barely covered eight percent of the state’s population. But the current administration covers 45 percent of Chihuahua’s population. The point is that they haven’t taken into account that half of the people in Chihuahua have access to federal health insurance through IMSS [meaning they don’t need duplicated coverage from Seguro Popular],” says an official speaking on condition of anonymity because he is close to Chihuahua’s health minister Pedro Hernández Florez.

There’s a difference of opinion over what is going on: “Maybe they are buying at too great a cost, making poor purchasing choices, or overcompensating after they look at the lack of supply in the hospitals, perhaps both of these things are happening. Buying poorly comes from defective analysis of statistical reports about illnesses. Or, that the reports have not been given appropriate consideration. The favored supplier is given priority and they sell through an intermediary seeking maximum profit, expending minimum effort. The drug might be about to exceed its expiration date or maybe it is not used that frequently.

So, he says, auditors find it difficult to uncover poor practices because they are not doctors trained in administration. He says that when Hernández Flores took up the position the situation worsened.

Another high-level collaborator from the Ministry of Health said on condition of anonymity that the state health sector had taken on these supplies though intermediaries instead of contracting out supply separately and directly with their makers, something that would result in big savings. “Basing drug supply on intermediaries goes against cost saving and opens the door to corruption,” he told Proceso.

Shady Businesses
Ymmarsa and Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K are apparently one and the same. Their partners are the same, they work out of the same offices and they buy medicine and medical supplies from different laboratories at low cast and in bulk. But when these businesses began to supply the state in 2011 they were not prepared to sell to its public health sector, nor that of other states where they have contracts.

Two brothers, Juan Hiram and Jorge Márquez Rodríguez opened Economik Pharmacies as a family business in Durango in 2004. In 2011 they created Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica so they could supply the public sector. Juan Hiram took the business on and invited Jesús Miguel Robles Villareal to be his partner.

“They had drugs stored on the floor or exposed to the light, even though they are meant to be in a controlled environment. They operated like that for a year until the State Commission for the Prevention of Risks to Health (acronym in Spanish: COESPRIS) put a stop to it,” asserts one of the company’s administrative employees speaking under condition of anonymity. State auditors confirmed this situation in their 2012 audit.

One administrative employee interviewed in the offices located at Periférico de la Juventud says it is the location where they deal with the contracts as they see fit: “A week before announcement of a request for proposals they prepared everything they would need to compete. That’s what they stuck to because they were the ones who set the contracts’ terms. The government sent them contracts and they dealt with them however they wanted.”

Ymmarsa took control over the pharmacy franchises belonging to Economik in 2011. These had sprung up as a family business in Durango. They opened 7 stores there. They started out in Chihuahua in 2011. Today there are nine branches in Chihuahua City, Parral, Ciudad Juárez and Cuauhtémoc.

When somebody asks for Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K at 8725 Periférico de la Juventud the inquiry first goes to Jesús Miguel Robles Villareal, one of the Ymmarsa partners. This person—who handed over a business card for Médicas K at the same address as the governor’s business, even though the company is registered at 11368 Rudyark Kipling Street—said an agreement existed over the registered tax address.

When asked for an interview with one of the people in charge of Médicas K Robles Villareal suggested contacting its legal representative. The lawyer failed to respond to the request. People consulted by Proceso and familiar with the company confirm that it’s the same but is using a different name (Ymmarsa and Médicas K).

Robles Villareal denies any relationship with Unión Ganadera División del Norte, established by Duarte in 2005. “We even had problems with them over parking, but we don’t have anything to do with them,” he asserts then adding, “they pay the rent.”

Ymmarsa – which supplies both the pension systems for the state of Chihuahua and the city of Chihuahua – stands accused of inflating prices by 300 percent and still winning contracts. There are complaints from Chihuahua, Tabasco and Durango; Nuevo León rescinded a contract on June 27, 2014.

The state auditor found that for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 the state Ministry of Health poorly distributed drugs, and did not have control over warehouses or when supplies expired, something that implicated Médicas K . Even so the State Congress unanimously approved the Médicas K account.

The state’s health services directly have handed over at least 500 million pesos (about US$26 million) to Médicas K since 2012. This year alone it received 321.1million pesos (about US$17 million) for drugs and medical supplies for Seguro Popular. That’s what contract D250517 indicates under direct tender 282/2012.

In 2013 while Médicas K received 183.5 million pesos (US$9.8 million) because it supplies the Ministry of Health, other suppliers received only between 106,000 (US$5,600) and 600,000 pesos (US$32,000) and only one other supplier received as much as 68 million pesos (US$3.6 million), according to freedom of information request 087242014.

In 2012 the state auditor commented to Chihuahua’s Health Services for awarding this company contracts D20517 and D20518 worth 417.5 million pesos (US$23 million) without putting them first out to tender. The state’s Health Services awarded the contracts even though the company, Médicas K, did not have the required health license.

Ymmarsa also has its own history. In 2012, Marketing Medicinal and others suppliers complained publicly that the state pension scheme awarded this Durango-based company a contract for 345 million pesos (US$18 million), even though they inflated their prices. Of the 881 drugs and medical supplies the pension agencies needed, Marketing Medicinal provided 738 of them, meaning that it controlled more than 80 percent of the drugs and other items supplied under contract LP002012.

The complaints from other suppliers offer more examples. Ymmarsa bid 1,503 pesos for each of the 700 boxes of Bicalutamida (to treat prostate cancer) even though distributor México Hospitalaria bid 500 pesos for the same drug. For Fenitoína (an anti-epileptic) Ymmarsa bid 394 pesos per box even though Laboratorio Pisa bid 14 pesos. Ymmarsa won the bid for Prozac, an anti-depressant, at 398 pesos per box when the year before it cost 7.50 pesos.

The other suppliers complain that fraud costs the state at least 100 million pesos (US$5.4 million). These companies allege that Ymmarsa was not even asked for a letter to show that it does not have a history of failing to fulfill contracts, as contract requirements state. But Ymmarsa cannot show this type of letter because the company was created in 2011 and it has never supplied public health agencies.

For Chihuahua City’s municipal pension scheme 67% of the drugs are overpriced.

In 2012, Marcelo González Tachiquín, current education minister and who served as director of the pension system, confirmed that he had fired the person in charge of purchasing, Edgar Hermes Sandoval Tarín. However, Sandolva Tarín did not leave the agency until August 2014.

And Prosalud, Too
The third favored provider is Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional—known as Prosalud. It belongs to Grupo ALSA. Eduardo Almeida Navarro owns the holding company. He donated to Duarte’s gubernatorial campaign. The businessman owns a Cessna 402 plane with license number N3403. In June 2014 he was nominated as the PRI’s president in the city.

Grupo ALSA is made up of seven firms. Three supply the state government and Chihuahua’s city government: Construcciones Corporativas Inmobiliarias, SA de CV, Comercializadora Corporativa Internacional, SA de CV, and Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional, S de RL de CV.

These companies are in charge of installing public lighting, renovating buildings, selling machinery, constructing and remodeling schools, and selling pharmaceuticals.

Prosalud provides drugs and medical supplies to Chihuahua’s government. In 2012 the State of Chihuahua paid it 180 million pesos (US$9.6 million). The company’s website indicates that its holding company was created in 2003 and in 2011 it reactivated itself to open the pharmacy Prosalud. It supplies at least nine pharmacies, along with public health providers in Chihuahua: IMSS, ICHISAL, and, of course, the pension agencies.

Investigative reporter Patricia Mayorga is a prize-winning Mexican journalist from Chihuahua. She works with Proceso, Mexico’s premier investigative news magazine. After the murder of her friend and colleague Miroslava Breach in March 2017 in Ciudad Chihuahua, she went into exile and is currently in hiding. The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor her with its Press Freedom Award this November.

Translator Patrick Timmons is human rights investigator and lawyer, and a journalist. His articles have appeared in the Texas Observer, CounterPunch, NACLA, Foreign Policy in Focus, and Horizontal.mx. In September he provided freelance coverage of the Mexico City earthquake for ITN’s News at Ten, ITV London’s Good Morning Britain, and The Daily Telegraph. Timmons collaborates with the Freedom of Expression Project at the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego. He is participating in #agendadeperiodistas, a new group formed by journalists to protect journalists. He lives in Mexico City.

 

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VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

This article was published in El Norte de Ciudad Juárez on 30 September 2001. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The translation of this article is dedicated to Dr. Alfredo Limas Hernández, professor at the UACJ.

VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

The late Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was assassinated in Ciudad Juárez on 29 May 2009. A sociology professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences (ICSA) at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), Arroyo Galván was also a well-known social activist. His friend and colleague Carlos Murillo G. wrote at the time of his murder that Arroyo Galván was, in the early 1990s, one of the first sociology graduates at the UACJ. He was also a former maquila worker who later obtained a doctorate and entered university teaching, developing a profound commitment to social activism. According to news reports, he was shot in his car when he stopped at a traffic light on Av. Gómez Morin and Manuel Clouthier in Ciudad Juárez at 1700 on a Friday afternoon. The murder of Arroyo Galván has never been explained, and continues in impunity.

The following article published in 2001 – never before translated into English – offers a glimpse of the depth of what Ciudad Juárez lost when Arroyo Galván was murdered. In this article, the reader will observe that Arroyo Galván had already identified what the destruction of Juárez’s social life and alienation meant. In 2001, long before the drug war violence that erupted during Felipe Calderón’s sexenio, Arroyo Galván made a spirited argument in favor of restructuring the city’s “social fabric.” Then, nobody seemed to listen. Today, with many thousands dead, and a city destroyed and him dead because of it, if we choose to ignore his words we do so at our own peril.

Between 2008 and 2010 three UACJ professors were murdered – José Alfonso Martínez Lujan, Gerardo González Guerrero, and Manuel Arroyo Galván – as well as three students at the University: Jaime Alejandro Irigoyen Frías, Juan Gerardo Pérez and Alfredo Portillo Santos. Their murders are included in the 11,451 people murdered in Juárez during the sexenio of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. (The MxJTP gratefully acknowledges that the cumulative murder count for Calderón’s sexenio comes from records provided by Molly Molloy at New Mexico State University.) PT

The Maquiladora Model
By Manuel Arroyo Galván (El Norte de Ciudad Juárez)

People who reside in this region complain about the accelerated pace of the shifts suffered by the local maquiladora industry – changes that stem from events in the world system. We are quick to reflect on the significance of how the maquila has affected the trajectory of this region. But the speed of changes overturns the routines of people who have come to live in this city. Our capacity for learning and adjustment can be overwhelmed and this weakens our ability to build responses relevant for the new times that are coming.

Sometimes we think that the maquila has rooted itself in this region. And with that thought we wish to dispel the experiences of the “easy-to-flee businesses” of the 1970s. But the local effects of the North American recession and China’s full integration into the world market prove the contrary. The easy exit of the region’s maquila factories and the consequent reduction in employment don’t obey the evil wiles of the factories’ directors, but are a characteristic intrinsic to them: “The businesses belong to people who have invested in them: not to their workers, their suppliers, nor even to the region where they are located.”

During the period of the maquila’s presence in our city, the global dynamics that govern production processes have marked the rhythms of the region’s life. We have not only experienced a sustained migration from different parts of the country but subsequently the factories have developed a process of differentiation for employees: as winners or losers they are assessed and positioned in front of their futures and their own trajectories.

Throughout this time, the life of the city has been divided in two: industrial, business and financial areas that share space with high-income neighborhoods. At the same time there has been a growth of low-income neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts, with large segments without running water and a huge low-income population earning much less than even two minimum wages.

Everything indicates that working does not guarantee a better quality of life. Even though we have the world’s largest concentration of factories, ours is a city that not only appears in national statistics with a high level of well-being but also in international news reports about murders of women and drug trafficking.

The rhythm imposed by the maquila export system has unleashed processes of change and modernity that have overtaken the region’s abilities. These processes have demanded quick self-learning by employees, changed how family members relate to each other, and required forms of social integration which did not exist before the arrival of these changes in the city.

In a short-time period, there has been a deep restructuring in the local system that quickly makes practical experiences and the mental outlook of a great part of the population obsolete. This restructuring amplifies generational fissures. It makes it difficult to build communication between these different points and to shift towards new realities.

THE REAL CITY AGAINST THE VIRTUAL CITY

The urbanization process results from pressure exerted by the pattern of situating the industrial export factory, and land speculation by real estate moguls. This has shaped an urban landscape that privileges the use of the city by productive export processes and business dynamics that revolve around those processes. But it’s forgotten that a city must also be a place where people live.

A resident in this city must travel enormous distances to undertake life’s necessary activities. The absence of public spaces weakens social ties and undercuts feelings of social belonging and social identity. All of these issues produce empty feelings in the activities that are only developed for the “economy” but they don’t construct people, human beings. This situation needs to be contrasted with the experience of what it is like to be inside the maquila, what it is like to be a part of its managerial team. Inside is where one feels the sense of belonging to an elite, belonging to a vanguard that allows people to participate in the world’s most dynamic of production processes, of being in touch with the conditions that shape progress. This contrast of situations accentuates the physical and social polarization lived in the city, provoking an experience of the sense of living in two cities that sometimes correspond to each other but that more often than not and for most people, are actually opposed to each other and compete between themselves: the real city anchored in local, daily dynamics – that of the majority of the population; and the virtual city, globalized, frenetic and changeable, inserted into the world’s productive processes.

Added to these dynamics, the fundamental issue is that people make the local reality – they are not only the base for processes of production but are linked to the desires that brought them here in the first place: the great majority of the city’s residents left the communities we originally came from.

Those desires breathe life into our dreams and allow us to resist the ravages of the individual’s experiences of living here. But at the same time these desires also raise individualism to its extreme.

The result weakens our social support networks and loses sight of shared objectives, straying away from community projects that attempt to recover the social power of being from another place. These projects should be able to channel individual desires in defense of our collectivities, permanently reconstructing our immediate communities.

Along with the advantages that the industrial export maquilas bring to the city – such as the obvious sign of its modernity – there are situations of weakness that foster processes of social marginalization. These reinforce the sense of weakness that stems from an uncertain future. We are okay, but we feel bad. Something is going on.

Everything seems to suggest that we have taken care of how the local economic system works, for interests where its basic functions are enough to create wellbeing for its population. But we are still waiting for the expected spillover effects. The local economy is deficient because it does not cover the whole population and fails to ensure equitable access to services.

THE THREAT OF EXCLUSION

When the market fails to satisfy certain recognizable signs of integration – once covered by the state – exclusion is lived daily, as a threat.

The fear of the criminal – which far outstrips actual rates of criminality – is a symptom of other fears. It reflects “our” weakness. Collective identities have lost their material and symbolic anchors, and their place is occupied by a withdrawal to the home and a “negative individualism.” But individual and familial strategies are no substitute for sociability. Thus, internalizing competition and precariousness as vital experiences sharpens the sense of solitude and absence of contact.

Groundless fear produced by daily experiences — stress, pollution, drug addiction, aggressiveness — reflects the chaos of social life. That experience is sharpened by fear of the future. The lack of a long-term horizon complicates cultivating a sense of order. As customary reference points — family, school, business, nation — lose their strength of meaning, individuals find it difficult to elaborate a “meaning for their lives.”

People perceive that they do not belong to a modernization that seems to support them, nor do they benefit from new opportunities. In this way, a weakened subjectivity endangers the social base of the modernization process.

The challenge, then, is to ensure that functionality converges with economic growth in the sense that it fosters the sociability necessary, and inherent in, human beings. The reconstruction of a “collective” capable of influencing the forward march of various working systems and developed alongside their collective hopes and social capital.

In sum, what’s required is a rebuilding of the region’s social fabric. For this city, having an identity looking out towards the world is a strategic task. It’s an urgent response to the emptying out of the local that has provoked a functional economy turned towards the outside with globalizing agents as its only interlocutors. To live in this city it is necessary to give the local a sense of its own existence.

Promoting the value of social capital proves indispensable to achieve the goals of overcoming poverty, becoming internationally competitive, or retaining the position we have already achieved.

Promoting development cannot continue by forgetting the urgent need of reconciling duality and growing polarization produced by the accelerated development of the maquiladora in this locality. We must make the real  city – rather than the virtual, globalized, and functional – visible. The challenge is to redefine the relationship between the local and its transnational partners. We must optimize what the city has to offer. And what this city has to offer is its people.

Sociologist Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “El modelo maquilador,” and is not available publicly on the web.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ's CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ’s CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 11 October 2011. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web accessible version of this article.

Translator’s Note: The translation of this article is dedicated to the memory of Regina Martínez Pérez, fearless Proceso reporter based in Xalapa, Veracruz, and documenter of public malfeasance, murdered on 28 April 2012. Her murder continues unpunished and is an ongoing source of embarrassment for authorities in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. PT

Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests
By Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Even though his classes begin at 0800, David Valles, 19, and a resident of Colonia Monumental, has to get up before 0600 so that he can take the Indiobús at 0640 from the Zona Centro. From there it takes him more than an hour to arrive at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez’s (UACJ) new southeast campus, 16kms from the southern limits of the border city.

Cristina Durón, 18, lives in Colonia Toribio Ortega, in the city’s southwest, and she also has to wake up around 0500 so that she can take a bus to the Centro Histórico. From there, she takes a bus that takes her to Avenida Tecnólogico and from there she jumps on another bus that takes an hour to get to the new buildings, located in what’s also known as “the City of Knowledge.”

According to UACJ administrators, the distance these students have to travel to the Ciudad Universitaria is a cost. But it’s also the only way the institution has to increase participation, minimize its educational shortfall, and increase enrolment rates from 28 to 55 percent of applicants.

For urban development experts, however, the UACJ’s location in that zone, bordering on private lands, is more a product of obeying the expansionist whims of politicians and realtors bent on Ciudad Juárez’s urban growth.

“The logic of expansionism and growth towards that zone explain its location in that zone. Its construction fails to consider costs related to infrastructure, equipment, commuting and security. The city cannot satisfy those needs,” said Pedro Cital, architect, private consultant in urban development and former deputy director of the city’s research and planning institution (IMIP).

According to Cital, one example of Knowledge City’s real-estate value is the stretch of highway to the new campus. Instead of building a 5km link to the existing Panamerican Highway, they built a new highway to the southeast, right beside land owned by private real estate developers.

“To build in this area, yes I think other interests were taken into consideration. The closest freeway connection for the University would be the Panamerican Highway, and the most logical route would be to open a street from there to the UACJ’s land. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they built a road from the southeast towards the university. So, it was built to power growth, bringing services and infrastructure that would make that area more viable for development,” Cital explains. For years he has questioned the expansionist model epitomized by Juárez’s development.

The new campus houses 2,500 UACJ students and 550 students from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Juárez (ITCJ).

According to José Antonio Lozoya, general coordinator of the UACJ’s new campus, the students must commute a total of sixteen kilometers to reach the campus.

Desert dominates that region’s landscape, where the opening of the Electrolux plant in 2005 accelerated urbanization. It’s interspersed by industrial parks, separated by deserted lots that, in the majority, remain empty and vandalized.

Around Fundadores Boulevard, almost total desolation exists, save for a few almost entirely vacant housing complexes.

The UACJ and the ITCJ provide free transport to students from various parts of the city. But Abigail García, IMIP’s planning coordinator, said that commuting times must be avoided, and should have been taken into consideration in the urban planning process.

“The students are the ones paying the price – because of the distance. We are trying to generate less commuting, so the people don’t spend so much time traveling. Look, they are young people, so they have to bear it. But it’s a high price to pay, and they have to be there all the day, in a place where there’s only the university,” García said.

Manuel Loera de la Rosa, director of Planning and Institutional Development at the UACJ said that the three hundred hectares owned by the University is just the first phase of the Ciudad Universitaria (CU) and that it was the only option to house an ambitious project to boost the enrollment numbers that Juárez requires.

He added that no other place turned out to be as cheap as that area, donated to the UACJ in 2001 by Chihuahua’s state government.

“Universities always have costs to bear. At the CU the great benefit is being able to offer education spaces in a timely fashion, opportunities that would not have emerged any other way,” Loera insisted in an interview.

‘Pressure, Juárez’s History’

UACJ’s location — as well as that of the ITCJ and other educational institutions in Knowledge City – is part of the San Isidro-Zaragoza development plan, totaling about 4,367 hectares. Promoted by the state government, the plan was approved by the Ciudad Juárez Council in 2007, during the first period in office of Mayor Héctor Murguía.

That year, 2007, also saw approval of the Eastern Development Plan (PPO XXI-II), broadening the city’s population distribution. The PPO XXI-II permitted urbanization and construction of residential areas seventeen kilometers from what were then the city’s limits.

These two development plans added to another three plans that had been approved since 2004: El Barreal and San Jerónimo in Juárez’s northwest, bordering New Mexico; and, the first stage of East XXI, in the southeast.

In total, and in just two years, the five plans added more than 14,600 hectares for possible urbanization, 66 percent more than the 22,123 hectares available in 2003. In every case the local government argued the need to provide housing for an estimated population rise of 100,000 people per year destined to work in the maquiladoras.

With the passing of the years, however, and just as the town planner’s had prophesied, a 2001 recession in the maquiladora lowered the population. The IMIP warned at the time of no evidence for so many homes, many of which now stand vacant.

The politics of Juárez’s expansion has been questioned by officials since 2003, when the Urban Development Master Plan established the need for greater density. The Master Plan says that the spread of the city has made it expensive and unsafe, and based on unsustainable resources for its infrastructure and equipment. This has generated problems for its identity and decayed its social structure.

“The logic behind investment behaviour in our region sees urban space as disposable. When investment moves to new, more prosperous, lucrative business districts, urban areas are left totally abandoned. In this context, the capital that’s left is underutilized or just abandoned. And with its desertion, the city’s image loses vitality and deteriorates,” the Master Plan says.

In terms of security, the same document states, “the accelerated growth of the city impacts the capacity to prevent crime.”

From the period between 2005 and 2007 when the majority of the development plans were approved, various sectors of the population warned that such expansion obeyed the interests of landowners with property ripe for, or close to, urbanization projects. As in San Jerónimo’s case, where the state and municipal governments have granted millions for investment in services, overwhelmingly in road construction.

Since 2007, an El Diario investigation has documented that along with land from state government and from the UACJ, there are more than 1,000 hectares owned by families of two former mayors: Manuel Quevedo and Jaime Bermúdez. In 1977 Quevedo was mayor and Bermúdez the city’s treasurer and they acquired thousands of hectares in the city’s southeast. In the last thirty years, Juárez’s urbanization has been directed towards that region.

According to César Mario Fuentes, a PhD in regional development and director of the Colegio de la Frontera (COLEF), the model used by the government to pay for public services like water, drainage, light and roads on far removed roads that result in “big business” for those types of landowners.

“I am unaware if there’s that intention, but unfortunately it has always been this way. It’s obvious that it has been a strategy traditionally employed by Ciudad Juárez’s large landowners who take advantage of public authority,” Fuentes said in 2007. The COLEF director is also the author of numerous academic studies about the region’s land market.

According to Loera, the first stage of the new UACJ campus required an inversion of 498 million pesos for the “basic infranstructure work” – drainage, light, water, roads – in addition to the construction and equipping of three buildings.

The director of the city’s land registry, Antonio Artalejo, estimated this week that the investment would spark a real estate “boom” and the construction of housing, services, and industries.

“If the 2008 economic crash had not happened, housing construction would be at its apogee about now,” Artalejo said.

In spite of the economic downturn, about five residential communities have been constructed in the area – all completely distant from each other – and in the public property registry land transfers have already occurred.

That is what entry 15 of book 5363 registers. In July 2011, the families of Quevedo and Bermúdez sold 37 hectares, located in the environs of Knowledge City – to a real estate company called HOH.

“Opening different areas of the city has definitely had much to do with pressure from landowners,” Cital said.

“It’s an obvious fact about the history of the city’s growth: one can identify the pressures that lead to growth,” the expert added.

Yesterday, the former mayors mentioned in this article could not be reached for comment.

‘Human Cost’

The Ciudad Universitaria coordinator said that 70 percent of the students come from southeastern neighborhoods, and that only 750 students come from father afield, like the west of the city.

But the distance is of such importance, Lozoya said, that upon it depends almost all the planning decisions, like class timetables and possible extra-curricular activities.

To support the students, the UACJ has contracted three transport companies that will carry 90 percent of the students in 27 old vehicles from nine points around the city. The most distant point is the one located by the Juárez Monument.

The ITCJ, on its behalf, will transfer the majority of students in four vehicles (of a more recent vintage). This service will only leave from Campus Uno, located on Avenida Tecnológico.

Even though they are free services, the UACJ students who live in the west of the city must occasionally wait for more than an hour because the only bus that goes to the city center quickly fills. If they have to leave campus early they have to wait for hours because the buses from the CU leave at two times: at 1400 and 2000.

The jokes arising from the distance have motivated a campaign by the CU coordinators who have taken phrases they can print on posters as a way of “fostering identity.”

So, students write: “When my mother told me I would go far, I didn’t know that she was referring to the CU.” Or, among other witticisms, “Typical: you are new in CU and when they ask you where you are from, you say: from Ciudad Juárez.” But the time spent in commuting, Abigail García says, is a human problem that, rather than being funny, diminishes the quality of personal and collective life.

“Principally, it undermines rest, the time you need to recuperate and that as far as we know, it damages health. The other thing that gets shunted aside is family life. Commuting takes up much of the day… We complain to ourselves that there’s a need for social cohesion, that there’s no neighborly integration, and that certain factors rupture this spirit of living together, and commuting is one part of that subject,” García said.

The need to find a place in Juárez at an institution of higher education is so great that not one of the students, even the most critical, expressed a desire to withdraw because of the distance.

Daniel Valles, for example, said that he hopes to change campus since his degree program is offered in the Institute of Social Sciences and Administration, about ten minutes from his home.

Cristina Durón added that one day she hopes to own a car. But Armando Salas, 19, also a Psychology student and a resident from the Avenida Las Torres neighborhood – near to CU – warned against owning a car: “I spend fifty pesos a day on gas, and because of the economic crisis that sucks.”

Prize-winning Journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto is currently a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. Her first book, La fábrica del crímen, relates the story of impunity in Ciudad Juárez during the height of the city’s recent violence. This article was first published under the title, “Ciudad del Conocimiento: Entre el interés escolar y el privado.”

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

 

 

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A Voice from the Grave: Juárez, the Border’s Second Murder City (Armando Rodríguez, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 14 February 2005. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web-accessible version of the Spanish-language original.

This translation is dedicated to the work of journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto.

 

Translator’s Note: Armando Rodríguez Carreón, “El Choco,” was a veteran crime reporter for El Diario de Juárez until his violent murder in November 2008. You can read a portrait of El Choco by his colleague Martín Orquiz for Nuestra Aparente Rendición, here (unofficially translated into English for the MxJTP).

Rodríguez’s murder continues in impunity, with multiple failures in the investigation. El Choco’s unsolved case is one that marks Mexico as infamous for its inability, or unwillingness, to get to the bottom of journalists’ murders, meaning that it ranks number 7 on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Impunity Index for 2014. In the Inter-American System of Human Rights, and pursuant to Mexico’s 1998 ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), the state has the international responsibility to investigate, prosecute, and punish human rights abuses, and provide reparations: among other human rights violations, Armando Rodríguez and his family have been denied access to justice for his murder, implying the state’s violation of a human rights treaty, the ACHR.

The MxJTP has translated this 2005 story by Rodríguez because the stories that place Mexico’s hard-hitting journalists at risk are themselves in danger of being forgotten. So, the act of translation can also be an act of recuperating the memory of the work of a slain journalist.

But on its own terms, Rodríguez’s February 2005 article is distinctive because it discusses different ways to count the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, excavates the history of the city’s violence — a historical issue that he identifies as ever present but has changed over time — and because Rodríguez used sociological analysis to identify with a great degree of prescience Juárez’s oncoming descent into violence. This murderousness would, ultimately, consume him, too.

Even today, the Mexican government still disputes murder statistics and is still unable to reduce the country’s impunity rating. And, even though Rodríguez identified structural issues common to modernity that contributed to the rise in violence, less astute and overly descriptive commentators and analysts have sought only to explain violence in Mexico and specifically in Juárez through the lens of drug trafficking.

Specifically in regards Rodríguez’s murder, we still don’t know why he died or who killed him. But that shouldn’t mean that we ignore what he bequeathed us, his willingness to inform society of important events by writing journalism. PT.

A Voice from the Grave: Juárez, the Border’s Second Murder City
by Armando Rodríguez (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

SIDEBAR — MAIN STORY FOLLOWS…

– An investigation by El Diario, based on data from the Attorney General of the State of Baja California Norte, shows that of northern Mexico’s fourteen most important border cities, murders are most numerous in Tijuana: 705 cases from January 2003 to December 2004.

– Juárez took second place with 402 murders for the same period, approximately 17 murders per month.

– The study contrasts these figures with the number of murders during the same period in San Diego, California (127), while in El Paso there were just 33.

– The report notes that murders in Tamaulipas’s cities are less numerous than those of Juárez or Tijuana.

– Ciudad Juárez ranks second in northern Mexico’s border region in terms of violent homicides in the last two years.

– The cities with a low murder rate are: Nogales, Arizona, with just one murder in two years; Calexico, California, with two cases; and Hidalgo, Texas without a single murder over the same period.

– The Tamaulipas Government’s website (www.procutamps.gob.mx/portales/estadistica.asp) indicates that from January 2003 to October 2004, Nuevo Laredo registers 120 murders, 74 in Reynosa, and 65 in Matamoros.

– The president of the Center for Border Studies and the Promotion of Human Rights (CEFPRODHAC), Arturo Solís Gómez counts 189 homicides during 2004 in Tamaulipas’s border cities. And 70 of these can be tied to drug trafficking, according to data published by internet-based sources.

– The figures for Tamaulipas are still below those of Juárez and of Tijuana.

– The data clearly indicates that the Mexican side of the border is more violent than the U.S. side in every single case.

Crime and Society

Juárez is considered Mexico’s twelfth most unsafe city, according to the Fund for Public Security in Mexico’s States (FASP).

This ranking can be compared with the assessment made by the Federal Government’s Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL). The Ministry says that the border is the most violent area of the Republic.

The three cities in the country most overtaken by insecurity in proportion to their population size are: Juárez, San Luis Potosí and Acapulco. The report is currently [for 2005] being distributed on the webpage of Mexico City’s Attorney General: http://www.pgjdf.gob.mx/violencia.asp.

The SEDESOL report indicates that these three cities rank high in terms of murders, rapes, violent events, and suicides. When these violent events are added together, it means that cities can be compared against one another in terms of violence.

But the international business magazine, América Economia, suggests that the homicide index in Ciudad Juárez has registered a fall of 41.5 per cent over the last four years.

The magazine’s study, which was undertaken for business interests, declares that in 2001 there were 26 homicides per 100,000 residents, while in 2004 there were 15.2 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Ciudad Juárez’s murder statistics, compiled from the state district attorney’s autopsy records and compared with El Diario’s review of that data, demonstrate that in thirteen years there have been 2,957 violent homicides.

The crime figures have become more significant after the U.S. alerted its citizens to the wave of violence in Mexico’s border cities.

In Juárez, U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza said that insecurity in Mexico’s border region is a result of drug trafficking.

“We know very well that in certain cities there are growing tendencies for criminal activities, in some more than others, but the alert was for the length of the border and not just for one city,” he noted.

“I believe that Juárez is not one of the most violent cities in the Mexican Republic. The thing is that it has a bad reputation because of the deaths of women. Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana have more murders,” said Assistant District Attorney Flor Mireya Aguilar Casas.

She indicated that in spite of border cities’ problems with a floating population, statistically there’s evidence that they aren’t more dangerous nor are more bloody acts committed here.

“I don’t think it’s risky for a foreigner to come visit this city and I don’t think that there should be an imminent danger alert for these cities,” she added.

The Most Violent Year

Paso del Norte was established in 1659 and even before it was called Ciudad Juárez, in 1888 it had been struck by violence, a result of social movements leaving death in their wake and that have marked the city for life.

Historian and journalist Davíd Pérez López says in just a few days, in December 1846, there were 80 deaths on the Mexican side of the border, a consequence of the war against the United States, whose army had invaded Mexican territory.

When Ciudad Juárez was “seized” in 1911, he notes that 75 federal soldiers were murdered and 102 wounded, while among Madero’s supporters there were 160 deaths and 210 injured.

“There were other low points in wartime actions in Ciudad Juárez, like when Orozco’s supporters arrived in the city. Orozco had rebelled against Madero, and Villa fought against him: forty people died. That was in 1912,” Pérez López said.

Also in 1921, there was another social uprising in this region, known as Escobar’s Rebellion, totaling twenty violent deaths.

But in Ciudad Juárez’s recent history, and without there being a war, 1995 was the city’s year of violent deaths.

Coroner Enrique Silva Pérez said that during the ’80s, ten to twelve homicides started to happen each month.

But the medical specialist repeated that 1995 was Juárez’s most violent year. “I remember that in February ’94 we had eight murders. In February ’93 there were 6, but in February ’95 we had 34 murders,” he said. When the year ended, he noted that 294 people had been violently murdered.

In the country’s south, people get killed with machetes. It’s an overwhelming feature. But on the northern border, especially in Ciudad Juárez, murders happen with firearms, he said.

Ways to Die

When Dr. Silva Pérez began working in the ‘80s at the Coroner’s Office of Chihuahua’s Assistant District Attorney, violent murders numbered fewer than in recent years.

“Usually the cause of death was from a knife, from punches, or from firearm wounds,” the professional confirmed.

At the end of the ‘80s and the beginning of the ‘90s, gunshot murders increased and took first place as cause of death, responsible for about 60 or 70 percent of the total number of homicides.

At the same time, knife murders decreased, but in 1993 a new way to kill emerged: strangling murders or death by asphyxiation, principally crimes against women and executions related to organized crime, Dr. Silva Pérez added.

“The extreme violence began precisely with drug-related murders. Strangling is the cruelest way of dying because the victim suffers more.”

Silva Pérez indicated that gunshots have caused death but there are also postmortem lesions, like stab wounds, indicating extreme violence.

One of the most brutal cases the coroner remembers from his 24 years of work in the forensic service is of a couple and their baby who where murdered and then dismembered.

“There have been other similar cases, but the way they dismembered this woman showed that the person who did it was her lover,” he said.

In other cases, the victimizers tried to make their victims disappear, so they burned them. But careful, scientific work can show that the person did not die from being incinerated, he explained.

High-powered arms also destroy bodies.

“I’ve had to deal with cases of former police officers who were murdered by assault rifles. When we did the autopsy we could determine more than 70 wounds from high caliber bullets destroying the body, turning it into shreds,” he said.

The Causes of Crime

“Why did you do it?” the reporter asked a man who a day before had shot a sixty-year old car tire repairman from Salvárcar.

“Craziness,” Nicolás Frías Salas said, with a still uneasy look produced by alcohol and drugs.

For the Assistant District Attorney in the Northern Zone, Flor Mireya Aguilar Casas, the consumption of drugs and alcohol predominate as causal factors in violent homicides.

Another factor influencing murders in Ciudad Juárez is familial disintegration, decay, or the decline of values – social, religious, cultural — inherent in human beings, she said.

“Gangs are another social problem that cause crimes, along with economic questions, extreme poverty and lack of work.”

The Assistant District Attorney confirmed that Ciudad Juárez has a high index of gang-related intentional murders.

“In criminal cases, gang members committed the majority of homicides currently in judicial proceedings,” she said.

She does not believe that impunity encourages crime: “whoever commits violent murder does not believe that their behavior will go unpunished, although that might be the case in a minority of cases.” [Translator’s Note: former El Diario reporter Sandra Rodríguez Nieto’s study of an interfamilial killing in Ciudad Juárez, La fábrica del crimen (Planeta, 2012) contradicts and disproves the Assistant District Attorney’s general contention. PT]

A Sick Society

For the sociologist from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), chaired professor Alonso Herrera Robles, homicides can be seen as part of a social pathology (sickness or abnormality) and affect industrial society’s like Ciudad Juárez.

This type of collective group, one that is entering modernity, may be labeled an at-risk-society, he added.

He mentioned that Juárez, thanks to the arrival of the maquiladora industry in the mid-1960s, experienced a series of structural changes. And the massive incorporation of female labor in the production process was one of those overwhelming characteristics.

“It changed all the structures and the social organization of production and impacted society,” Herrera said.

The director of public safety for the city, Juan Salgado Vázquez, agreed: “Juárez has grown at a giant’s pace, and this growth has had an important bearing on criminal activity.”

“The city has grown faster than the capacity to plan, to build, to construct a safe environment for its inhabitants. The problem is not just with security but with its infrastructure and all of its services,” he stated.

“The city’s growth has overtaken out capacity to respond,” he said.

Added to growth issues, the city has a large number of families, whose men and women have been working for thirty years. We haven’t found a way to raise their children. This means that there are more people disposed to commit crimes, he suggested.

He said that one of the solutions to the problem is that there needs to be greater participation from civil society. Other solutions might be found in reforms or legal mechanisms to protect vulnerable groups, like children, the elderly, women, and indigenous people.

“The problem is now that violent murders aren’t dealt with either by the authorities or by civil society. So what’s happening is that these acts of violence are becoming part of our daily life and making the culture one of violence,” he expressed.

“This is going to become cultural, it’s going to become part of daily life, just like what has happened in other cities with protracted wars, like in some Colombian cities.”

For the professor, the presence of more police officers in the city is just palliative. There can be more police but this does not mean they are better organized.

“The social costs of this progress, or of technical advances and development, are reflected in pathologies like homicide, and it appears as a by-product,” he warned.

Some writers have called this phenomenon, “modernity’s perverse consequences,” he said.

Journalist Armando Rodríguez reported for El Diario until his murder on 13 November 2008. This article first appeared bearing the title, “Es Juárez la segunda frontera en homicidios.” It is not available on the Internet.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed (Reporting Staff, El Diario de Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on Tuesday 11 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed
By Staff (El Diario de Juárez)

– Their Torture Documented, Human Rights Attorney Demands Reparation for Five Victims of Official Abuse; Spent more than 3 years in jail, charges now dropped

Mexico’s Federal Attorney General has withdrawn charges against five men who were detained for involvement in the detonation of a car bomb in 2010 in Ciudad Juárez.

Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were released last Friday after three and a half years in prison, according to attorney Diana Morales of the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte.

Morales added that the five proved positive under the Istanbul Protocol, a manual designed to determine if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.

Journalist reports establish that on being detained, they were accused of organized crime, crimes against health for marijuana possession, and of carrying arms for exclusive use by the Armed Forces. At the time, the Federal Ministry of Public Security (SSPF), headed by Genaro García Luna reported that Fuentes Chavira revealed that he had participated in the attack against the Federal Police on 15 July 2010 as an informer of La Línea. He was placed in preventive detention in the Federal Investigation Center while they investigated the evidence against him.

Morales explained that the people detained on 11 August 2010 were accused of federal crimes but not terrorism. That is to say, not for detonating the car bomb on Avenida 16 de Septiembre that caused the death of Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña, along with injuring 11 other people, among them six Federal Police agents and a camera operator for television station Canal 5. A judge in Guadalajara ordered the five be restored to freedom after receiving indication that they no longer stood accused of criminal charges.

“The Attorney General withdrew charges because we sat down to dialogue with them, letting them know that there were only two pieces of evidence against the accused: the confessions taken under torture and the words of the federal agents. When we applied the Protocol of Istanbul to these youths, one could see that their testimony was extracted under torture and yielded a document that demonstrated the officers were lying. They said the youths were detained on 12 August, but really the arrests occurred on 11 August. A document exists that proves this fact,” said the attorney.

That proof is a notice issued by the Federal Police to the agency’s juridical arm in Mexico City, stating that five people were detained on 11 August. That date was changed in the record to an arrest date of 12 August, Morales explained. During that 24 hour period the five were subjected to torture.

The attorney for the accused said that the Attorney General only had proof from the same agents that detained them, and the five youth’s confession “extracted under torture.”

“They accused them of organize crime, guns, and drugs, but they couldn’t prove any relation to the car bomb,” confirmed Morales.

The defense requested application of the Istanbul Protocol to prove torture, thereafter corroborated by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which prompted the Attorney General to issue is recommendation number 75/2011.

After that point, the attorney said that in a meeting Mexico’s current Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam promised to apply other tests under the Istanbul Protocol, and if at least one test came back positive then they would all go free. All five tested positive.

“The Attorney General kept his word. He is saying that these people had nothing to do with organized crime, or with drugs, and the accusations were baseless. This means that there were no charges to pursue against them,” Morales confirmed.

She added that the Attorney General arrived at these conclusions last Thursday, and the judge freed them on Friday. The same day the five left their respective prisons.

The CDHPN spokesperson, Carlos Murillo, said that after being freed, the five met in Mexico City where they gave a press conference. Tomorrow, Wednesday, they will arrive in Juárez accompanied by their families.

The human rights attorney added that the Federal Police also abused their right to due process because it took two and a half days to deliver them to the Federal Public Prosecutor.

More than one year ago, the now-freed prisoners filed a complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor documenting their torture. The CDHPN hopes that the federal agents who committed these crimes will be punished.

“We expect them to punish those agents. The Attorney General seems to be acting in good faith. Not only did he recognize the abuse suffered by the youths for something they did not do, but he also has the will and the obligation. Torture is a crime and the Attorney General must continue his investigation,” he added.

The people who are still under investigation for crimes of terrorism, homicide, attempted homicide, and the use of a stolen vehicle in connection with the car bombing occurring on the border in 2010 are listed in penal process 218/2012 at the Mesa I of the Sixth District Court: José Iván Contreras Lumbreras, “El Keiko”; Jaime Arturo Chávez González, “El Jimmy”; Mauro Adrián Villegas, “El Blaky” or “El Negro”; Fernando Contreras Meras, “El Barbas”; Martín Pérez Marrufo, “El Popeye” or “El Gordo”; Lorenzo Tadeo Palacios, “El Shorty” or “Shorty Dog”; Jorge Antonio Hernández, “El Chapo” or “El Chapito.”

José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias Carlos Martínez Pérez, “El Diego” or “El Uno” or “El 10” is also listed in the criminal complaint but he will not go to trial as he is imprisoned in the United States.

Leticia Chavarría, member of the Security Committee, and friend of one of the victims who died in the explosion, said that it is important that five of the accused in this case have been freed.

“There was insufficient proof to declare them guilty, and that is very serious,” she said.

She added that if these people are innocent, and they were wrongly imprisoned, then the justice system is failing.

“For us, the most important thing is to see justice served. If they are innocent, where are the people who are really responsible,” she asked.

The CDHPN requested the Justice Department (PGR) continue its investigations so that those responsible for the crime of torture against the five wrongly accused can be punished.

Also, the Federal Police should continue to comply with the CNDH’s recommendation 75/2012 and provide integral reparation to the victims.

To guarantee non-repetition, the Mexican state must instruct its police forces and investigative units not to torture and mistreat detainees, as established by Mexico’s Constitution and the relevant international treaties.

It must also eliminate preventive detention. At the instant that somebody alleges being victim to torture, they must immediately see the Public Prosecutor, with any confession then voided. The independent experts that apply the Protocol of Istanbul must be accepted and recognised.

After the car bomb attack on 15 July 2010 – unprecedented for the border – the Federal Public Security Ministry released a communique indicating the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, “El 35,” the leader of La Línea, a local criminal gang. “El 35” was a subordinate of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernández, “El Diego” who was second in command in La Línea and under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL,” a lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

The attack occurred when Federal Police agents arrived at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia in response to an attack on a municipal officer. First-aid responders also arrived on the scene, as did different media outlets.

A doctor from a nearby surgery, José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, was already on the scene attending to the supposedly injured municipal police officer. As they arrived at the location, federal officers reported that a vehicle had been tailing them for blocks, so they requested backup.

At the scene, the three squad cars slewed as did a recent model green Ford Focus with license plate 853 SHF6. Two men suddenly stepped from the car, prompting the police officers to open fire.

After the shots, there was an explosion. According to the report provided by sources within Chihuahua’s Coordinated Operation, a fragmentation grenade was activated intentionally to end the lives of the police officers.

The explosion could be heard from kilometers away. Flames from the car bomb and the squad cars could be seen across the city.

Windows of houses, car windshields, sidewalk concrete, and asphalt, as well as metal from the car bomb were strewn for meters around the blast site.

The case attracted U.S. investigators with expertise in terrorist acts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation of the car bomb. (Staff/El Diario)

Case Highlights

•A car bomb exploded on 15 July 2010, at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia, Ciudad Juárez. The bombers used terrorist tactics.

• Dead in the blast: Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña.

• Six federal police officers and a television camera operator were injured in the blast.

• U.S. anti-terrorist experts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation.

• According to the Federal Public Security Ministry, the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of the commander of La Línea, Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, a subordinate of “El Diego,” second in command of the group under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL”, lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

This article was reported in Spanish by Reporting Staff at the newspaper El Diario de Juárez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. El Diario is a daily newspaper known for hard-hitting coverage, and its journalists are always at risk. The article appeared under the title, “Libres, implicados en bombazo aquí,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-03-11_b971ab2c/libres-implicados-en-bombazo-aqui/.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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