HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Juarez Slayings Set Record As Cartels' Drug War Drags
Pubdate: Sun, 06 Jul 2008
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2008 El Paso Times
Author: Daniel Bourunda


Deaths fueled in part by the drug cartel war in the Juarez area are 
approaching 600, and at least one expert says the violence is not 
likely to end soon.

As the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels battle amid a crackdown by 
federal forces, more than 560 homicides have occurred so far this 
year. The total number of homicides for all of 2007 was 304.

"There are at least two reasons why it might get worse," said Tony 
Payan, a Mexico expert and political science professor at the 
University of Texas at El Paso who is closely watching developments.

"One, there seems to be an impasse between the cartels. Neither seems 
to be winning out," Payan said. "Right now, it seems to be pretty much a tie."

Secondly, Payan said, the Mexican federal government does not appear 
to be willing to negotiate with the cartels as it is rumored to have 
done in the past. "The government seems determined to finish them off."

The staggering toll is believed to be the highest in Juarez history. 
By comparison, in all of 1997, 250 people were slain. Some of those 
deaths occurred after the July 4 death of reputed drug lord Amado 
Carrillo Fuentes caused a power struggle within his cartel.

Nuevo Laredo, population about 350,000, has had about 500 murders 
since 2003 because of a cartel turf war, according to report by the 
Advertisement Click Here! Congressional Research Service on Mexico's 
drug cartels.

"Chihuahua (state) continues to see the most pronounced levels of 
violence this year despite the deployment of troops and federal 
police," stated a monthly news report for June by the Justice in 
Mexico Project of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

The project, which studies criminal justice issues in Mexico, 
reported that the more than 500 "cartel-related deaths" in Chihuahua 
this year are more than three times the 2007 total.

The bloody attrition among smugglers, drug pushers and their 
associates, plus raids and multiton marijuana seizures by the 
military, is apparently crimping traffickers' cash flow.

Earlier this year, a Drug Enforcement Administration official in El 
Paso predicted that drug traffickers would start hurting financially 
as authorities began to pinch them.

In response, narcos have apparently found other ways to raise war 
money, including robbing banks and extorting and holding for ransom 
business owners, Juarez city officials said.

The kidnappings recently gained international attention with the 
kidnapping and subsequent release of a Juarez auto glass business 
owner related to the wife of U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.

The wave of kidnappings was foreshadowed in early June when La Linea, 
as the Juarez drug cartel is also known, supposedly posted a message 
on the popular video-sharing site The message demanded 
that prominent Juarez families and entrepreneurs pay a "quota" for protection.

A similar "war tax" was levied by drug traffickers on businesses in 
Nuevo Laredo during the turf war there.

Last month, several Juarez restaurants, nightclubs and other 
businesses were torched, and a group of about 300 owners of junk 
yards, mechanic shops, used-car lots and other auto-related 
businesses closed because of kidnappings and robberies.

Whether the businesses were linked financially or through other ties 
to drug traffickers, or were merely innocent victims of blackmail is debatable.

"If you are in doing an illegal business in Juarez, the cartels want 
you to pay them for protection or derecho de pizo, that is the right 
to use the plaza, as they call it, to do business," Payan said at 
recent El Paso Press Club event, describing the trend as "dangerous."

The violence has caused some Juarenses, mostly the wealthy who can 
afford it, to seek refuge in El Paso, but it is difficult to know how 
many families have crossed the border. Payan estimated the number to 
be fewer than 10,000.

"We are certainly seeing an increase of people coming over (from 
Juarez). People renting, buying and moving. In some cases, they 
appear to be moving businesses over here," said Dan Olivas, president 
of the Greater El Paso Association of Realtors.

"The thing we are hearing about more is the fear of the kidnappings 
than of being caught in the crossfire of the cartels," Olivas said.

Payan said that in some respects, Juarez residents are getting used 
to the daily death toll apparently targeting those involved in the 
drug business. Payan maintains the city is safe to visit, though 
tourists are advised to be cautious and go during the day.

"Something's got to give," Payan said. "One of the cartels will be 
weakened the government will lick it up."
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