Pubdate: Fri, 4 Sep 2009
Source: USA Today (US)
Copyright: 2009 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc
Author: Chris Hawley, USA TODAY


Slayings Raise Doubts About Effectiveness of Anti-Drug

MEXICO CITY -- Investigators hunted for suspects Thursday following
the execution of 18 youths at a drug rehab center in the border town
of Ciudad Juarez, one of the most brazen episodes yet in Mexico's drug
cartel wars.

The attackers on Wednesday broke down the door of El Aliviane center
in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso. They then lined
up the victims against a wall and opened fire, according to Arturo
Sandoval, a spokesman for the regional prosecutors' office.

It was the third recent attack on a drug treatment center in Ciudad
Juarez. Patricia Gonzalez, the prosecutor of Chihuahua state, where
Ciudad Juarez is located, said Thursday that the centers have
frequently been used by drug cartel members as hide-outs from police
or rival gang members.

Enrique Torres, spokesman for the government's military and police
task force in Chihuahua, said there was no evidence yet that any of
the 18 dead and two injured youths were working for the cartels. "As
far as we know, all of them were people who were being rehabilitated,"
Torres said.

In all, 40 people were murdered throughout Chihuahua on Wednesday,
according to Mexican newspaper El Universal, which called it the
bloodiest day in "the history of crime" in the state.

The massacre came just hours after President Felipe Calderon defended
his anti-drug efforts in Mexico's equivalent of the State of the Union
address. Also Wednesday, the No. 2 security official in Calderon's
home state of Michoacan was shot dead when several gunmen attacked his

More than 13,500 people have died in drug-related violence since
Calderon took office in 2006, prompting increasing questions about if
and when his strategy will pay off.

"We are losing" the drug war, said Victor Quintana, a sociologist and
expert on crime at Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez. "Drug
deaths are up, petty crime is up, the biggest drug traffickers here in
Chihuahua (state) have not been caught. By any measure, this strategy
is not working."

Calderon has cast the drug war as part of a larger quest for law and
order in a country where drug cartels have penetrated key institutions
such as the army and police. His government has poured 4,500 troops
into Juarez alone.

The shooting also shows the shortcomings of Mexico's drug
rehabilitation centers, said Regina Kuri, a spokeswoman for the Monte
Fenix Center for Advanced Studies in Mexico City, which trains drug

Many of these centers are located in Mexico's worst neighborhoods.
They lack the money and contacts to send patients away to safer areas
where they are shielded from temptation and retribution, Kuri said.

"You need to remove these people from these places and give them real
treatment, not just a daily plate of beans," Kuri said. Under
Calderon, Mexican security officers have arrested several top cartel
leaders and seized record amounts of drugs. However, new cartels such
as the La Familia syndicate in Michoacan have emerged to take the
place of weakened cartels.

"It's focused on this absurd fight, where you patch over one hole and
10 others open up," Kuri said. "The points of (drug) sales just multiply." 
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