Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Juárez police take refuge in fortress hotels to escape roaming cartel hit teams

"One dead cop a day," promises Juárez Cartel, which may have infiltrated police

Truly, Baghdad is like a laid-back desert resort compared to Ciudad Juárez on the U.S. border. Open season has been declared on law enforcement there.

Twice in January I've reported on bloody attacks against municipal police officers in Juárez, who are bearing the brunt of drug cartel hit men gone wild. Yesterday I posted on a morning commando assault against a local police station, carried out by 10 machine gun wielding sicarios. Those stories are linked below.

Seven or eight Juárez officers have been executed this month -- depending on which news sources one reads -- and 11 have been murdered in the past four weeks. I failed to report on one particularly brutal killing last month because I didn't learn about it until recently. In late December a police officer was kidnapped off a Juárez street -- not an unusual event in itself -- and early the next morning he was returned to almost the same spot from which he had been abducted. He was dragged out of a car handcuffed, drenched in gasoline and set afire. The officer died writhing on the street in view of horrified passersby. Minutes before, the executioners had phoned a local newspaper and told a reporter what was about to happen, and where, so that the story would be covered in the press.

The organization which controls drug trafficking and other crime in the the city, Nuevo Cártel de Juárez, has promised to kill a cop a day until the municipal security secretary resigns. Apparently they're upset because some of the measures he's implemented are having an impact. So the city decided to move the entire Juárez police force into hotels, which will be cordoned off and guarded 24/7. Officials say that the officers "are being hunted" and are not safe at home. Cartel hit men know where many of them live, or can easily find out, and given the chance would attack the officers when they're physically worn out, emotionally exhausted and ill-prepared to defend themselves. As if those factors were not enough, Mexican law forbids off-duty police officers from having a weapon in their possession, leaving them completely vulnerable.

The mayor of Juárez, Héctor Murguía, has not said how long municipal officers will be bivouacked and guarded in hotels, but $1.5 million USD is being set aside from the police department budget to cover estimated costs. There is no plan to protect family members. The saddest part of this story? Murguía acknowledges that there may be corruption and cartel infiltration within police ranks, and that some officers may have set up others for execution. An internal affairs investigation will be opened.

In 2011, about 2,000 people were murdered in Ciudad Juárez. An average of 5.5 per day, or one death every four and a half hours, around the clock, for a year. The incessant flow of narcotics moves north into the United States of America, just a few blocks away. Some advocate withdrawing military forces from the drug war . . .

Feb. 3: Effective immediately, the city of Juárez will allow off-duty officers to carry a firearm at all times.

Police are primary targets in Ciudad Juárez: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/police-are-now-primary-targets-of.html.
Revenge attack against Juárez police patrol: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/revenge-attack-against-juarez-police.html.
Local police suffer the most in Mexico's drug war: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/11/local-police-suffer-most-in-mexicos.html.
Polygraphs await half a million Mexican police officers: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/weeding-out-corrupt-local-cops-remains.html.

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