Juarez to House Police in Hotels After Cartel Threats

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Juarez may spend $2 million to house the city’s municipal police force in several hotels with heightened security, after a drug cartel appeared to be acting on threats to kill one police officer a day.

Last week banners known as “narcomantas” began appearing throughout Ciudad Juarez, signed by a group calling itself the New Juarez Cartel, thought to be a faction of the Aztecas street gang operating under a new name. The banners accused Police Chief Julian Leyzaola of colluding with the New Juarez Cartel’s rivals and vowed to kill one policeman per day until he either steps down or stops targeting the group. Eight Juarez policemen have been killed this month in increasingly brazen attacks, including one shoot-out which left three suspected hitmen dead.

Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia came out in support of Leyzaola, claiming that he will leave office before he allows Leyzaola to step down. For his part, Leyzaola blamed Johnny Morales Gonzales, alias “El Tin Tan,” for the violence, urging citizens to turn the alleged New Juarez Cartel leader in. Leyzaola mistakenly distributed a photo of Morales, which later turned out to a potrait of a resident in El Paso, El Diario de Juarez reports.

The city treasurer said they have set aside a 25 million peso budget (about $2 million) to house off-duty police in two hotels over the next 90 days, according to El Diario. The police are receiving a discounted rate on the rooms.

InSight Crime Analysis

A common tactic seen in Juarez is the assassination of police believed to be working for a rival cartel. Since the Sinaloa Cartel began open warfare against the Juarez Cartel for control of the city in 2008, a reported 175 municipal police officers have been killed. The public threats by the New Juarez Cartel seem like a new spin on this strategy.

Their accusation that Leyzaola is working with another criminal group may just be a calculated bid to detract from Leyzaola’s perceived legitimacy as one of Mexico’s most effective police officials. But the threat has now increased the pressure on both Leyzaola and Juarez Mayor Hector Murguia to stem the killings; if they don’t, they could be blamed for the loss of more police officers.

These developments cast more doubt on the effectiveness of the police force. Police are supposed to protect the local population; diverting resources to ensure their security implies less protection for the citizens of Juarez. And with Juarez holding the title of the hemisphere’s most dangerous city — until it was recently surpassed by Hondras’ San Pedro Sula — its residents need all the security they can get.

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