Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of the Mexican drug war and the strategic crossing point for illegal narcotics entering the United States, recorded its highest rate of homicides ever in 2010.
Officials stated to the Associated Press that 3,111 people were killed in the city over 2010, up from 2,643 in 2009, and 1,587 in 2008. With a population of 1.4 million, Ciudad Juarez is the most dangerous place in Mexico, with October last year its bloodiest month, when 359 people were killed.
The homicides registered for 2010 have brought the total to over 30,000 murders nationwide in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon declared his war on the cartels in December 2006, including more than 12,500 in 2010.
Ciudad Juarez is a battleground for one of the bitterest feuds between Mexican cartels with the Juarez and Sinaloa drug gangs battling for supremacy. The two organizations were once allied. However, according to testimony by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias “Barbie,’” arrested in August 2010 in Mexico City, the Sinaloa boss, Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” broke a pact with Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alias “El Viceroy,” of the Juarez cartel and killed Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, Vicente’s brother, thereby setting off a feud that is still playing out today.
The violence got worse after the 2006 accession of President Calderon. Much of the city violence is generated by street gangs, allied to one or other of the factions, two of the most powerful of which, La Linea and the Aztecas, work for Carrillo Fuentes.
In an effort to curb the violence, the government deployed the army to Ciudad Juarez in 2008, and now more than 10,000 soldiers and federal police officers work the streets. However, this has not reduced the violence and, according to a study by Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), “Abused and Afraid in Ciudad Juarez,” it has led to a rise in human rights violations by the military.
Aware of the complexity of the problem here, the government has complemented the mass deployment of the security forces with social investment, with a $270 million rescue package (link) called “Todos Somos Juarez” (We are all Juarez). However, locals told InSight Crime during a recent visit that most of the social programs have not been implemented.
Ciudad Juarez can perhaps be described as “ground zero” for the Mexican drug war, and until the situation improves here, the government will not be able to show any significant progress in the struggle.