Is Juarez experiencing a new-found peace?
By Joe Olvera ©, 2011
Removing concrete barriers from busy city streets, tearing down fences that had provided protection in tough neighborhoods, undertakers upset because the murders in Juarez have dissipated somewhat, Mexican President Felipe Calderon prancing about proclaiming that his war on the drug cartels is taking fruit because the violence is slowly ebbing and coming to a halt. But, is it true? Has the violence in Mexico been moderated to the extent that Juarenses feel safer? While Calderon was claiming credit for the drop in killings, however, one woman held up a sign indicating not that he had won his so-called War on Drugs, but, that there were no more people worth killing in Mexico.
The theories on what’s happening in Mexico are long and confusing. Some people do believe that the violence has been curtailed, but, not totally stopped. Although there seems to be a drop in the violence that has permeated the city and has resulted in more than 9,000 deaths, the murders continue, albeit, in smaller numbers. With Juarez city officials tearing down protective barriers – barriers that gave the people a false sense of security – it now seems as if it’s a new day in Juarez. Or not!
“Just wait until after the presidential elections,” says one doubting Tomas. “The Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) is currently in power and it wants to maintain that power,” the man who did not want to be identified, said. “The party is worried that it might not win the next election, thus, perhaps some sort of deal has been made with the cartels to stop the killings so that the population will think that it’s their doing. The fact is that the Mexican military is no longer being used in the war, thus, the murders have gone down. Just to give you an example, eight people were murdered just yesterday. So, have the killings stopped? I would say no. Also, the media has been asked to not report on any new violence that might occur. I don’t think anything has changed at all. It’s just a lull.”
To put things in perspective, the murders in Juarez have dropped to150 last month. This figure is down from a year earlier. In October 2010, 350 people were killed in that one month. Since then, however, the violence has slowly declined to 183 murders in March and 168 in April. This contrasts to the 150 killed only recently. The fact is the killings have dropped and one cannot discount the fact that some people do feel safer, but, perhaps not because of Calderon’s claims that it’s his strategy that has worked.
Analyst Patrick Corcoran attributes the drop in murders to other factors. “One likely factor is attrition among the gangs in Juarez,” he writes in an Internet article. “In what might be a sign of the shifting dynamics in the regional underworld, two larger gangs that operate in Chihuahua – the Zetas and La Linea – recently announced an alliance in the city of Hidalgo del Parral, a few miles south of Juarez.”
What many experts agree on, however, is that there does seem to be some sort of dynamic happening that has seen a drop in the Juarez murders. However, one element on which most experts don’t agree, is whether the lull will last, or whether the violence will pick up once again after the Mexican elections in July. Much remains to be seen.