The trouble in Juarez

Juarez, Mexico, is a place of profound sorrow and persistent fear. Drug cartels have terrorized the city and killed 5,000 people there in the last two years, among them many innocent adults and children.

In the Villas de Salvarcar, a neighborhood on the city’s south side, assassins confused a birthday party for a gang gathering last January. The ensuing massacre left 15 dead, including 11 middle and high school students.

“The kids were all there, there was so much smoke and dust,” said the mother of a teenage son who was slain. “The bodies were all over the place, they’d fallen on top of each other. My son was a very good kid.  He was a good student, he wasn’t a gang-banger.”

Fearing for their lives, she has sent her surviving children to live outside of Juarez — and she’s not alone. An estimated 400,000 people have fled the violence in Juarez in the past two years including at least 30,000 who fled across the border into El Paso, Texas.

In March of this year, the violence made headlines when a U.S. consulate worker and her husband were gunned down in Juarez in front of their infant child. The husband was targeted by American gangs working for the cartels on both sides of the border.

“Those gang members came from the U.S.; it brings forth very clearly that the U.S. has a problem. This isn’t just a Mexican problem, this is a joint problem,” said Juarez Mayor José Farriz.

But U.S. involvement goes far beyond borderland gangs. Americans consume $23 to $25 billion in drugs from Mexico every year, a demand that drives much of the trafficking. And 90 percent of the firearms in Mexico are traced back to the U.S., according to Robert Champion, the special agent in charge of the evidence vault at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in El Paso.

“We are a gun nation, so, we have a lot of what they need down in Mexico right now… and money is not an object for them,” said Champion.

Governments on both sides of the border are fighting an uphill battle to make change despite the widespread corruption of officials.

“When I first came in I had very large suspicions of the management staff at the police,” said Juarez Mayor Jose Farriz. “I fired all the managers at, at the police force. And operational head of the police force was stopped a couple of months later going into the U.S. with a ton of marijuana in his car. So that really puts the level of corruption into, into perspective.”

On the U.S. side of the border, there were 839 allegations of corruption involving Department of Homeland Security employees in 2009.

“We find that some are willing to compromise their authorities and sell out their allegiance to those that would harm our country in any way they can and harm our agents in any way they can for remarkably small amounts of money,” said James Tomsheck, an official for the Department of Homeland Security’s internal affairs unit.

The Obama administration has spent $11 billion a year to secure our borders and has given $1.4 to support Mexican law enforcement by providing equipment and training. President Caldarón has committed $300 million to social infrastructure in Juarez, where the judicial system is broken and there are few high schools. And Mayor Ferriz has added hundreds of newly trained officers to his police force.

But the dispatch of military and federal police into Juarez has done little to control the violence. And for the Mexicans enduring this bloody war, like the mothers of the teens murdered in Villas de Salvarcar, change has not come fast enough.

“Everyday it is so depressing knowing my son will not come home, that he won’t ever eat my cooking again, that I’ll never see his face,” she said. “It is very hard.”

Related stories:
Calderon talks immigration, gun control in visit to U.S.
Seeking asylum from Mexico’s drug wars
Why now, why Arizona? Misconceptions about Mexican migration
El Paso teens talk about drug violence
A walk to Juarez
Mexico’s drug war

 
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Comments

  • E. Rivers

    Shallow, uninspiring, “if it bleeds, it leads”, style over substance. This is the same old stuff. If you’re going to replace NOW & Moyers, can you try to get us news that’s involving? You start with an idea and then flop.
    For instance, if this war is partially caused by USA’s drug apitite, would it help if we greatly reduced our demand? If so, how long have we had an anti-drug program in the USA? Has it worked? Are we Puritanical hypocrites? What are other methods? Other countries have legalized drugs, what are the proven pluses and minuses? If we legalized most drugs, what would happen? Not just pot, that’s lame. Should we develop other cheaper, addictive drugs so our drug addicts wouldn’t want to buy from outside? What would PHARMA have to say about that? Would that help save the costs of prisons? If so, how much? What if we come down hard on all gun sales in the states adjacent to Mexico? We keep giving money for Mexican police, armaments, and judicial programs. What happens if we stop, will it help or hurt? Get creative, what other ideas are out there?
    This show continues to use commercial tactics (beautiful hosts, impressive theme songs, spinning visuals, sensationalistic sounding reporters, etc.) that helps it look even more lighweight than it is. Meacham suggested in his introduction that this edition would discuss the criminal elements. Is that what you want, just a shallow version of mainstream media news?
    Don’t take the ex-viewers of Moyers as idiots, give us good, insightful & provacative news. Be journalists.

  • jan

    “Be journalists.”

    They can’t. They aren’t.

  • Paula

    you make it sound as if the drug cartels are coming here and buying tons of automatic weapons.
    where are they buying them? for your information, the guns are being supplied to the mexican army by the u.s.gov’t to help them with the drug war. but of course, the army and the police, are in bed with the cartels. so don’t blame the people of america for supplying guns to the drug lords, even if it is a natural reaction. blame us first. try hiring some real journalists for a change, and not mouthpieces for the current administration.

    .

  • frank mack

    The 90% American guns figure has been discredited. You people ought to stop using it. fm
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/04/02/myth-percent-small-fraction-guns-mexico-come/

  • Jesse L

    ha,

    foxnews is your credible source? go eat a ge corn dog, watch “out-foxed”, and realize the lies and poison you’ve been sucking on for years with your “some people say” approach to journalism. foxnews idiocracy journalism has been proven as biased and caught forcing it’s reporters to lie for political reasons.

    On the backside, this was “real” journalism. I thank the courage of this news team for getting into the real bario and uncovering some truth for us. Keep it up – some actually educated people are listening!

    :)

  • http://wso.williams.edu/blogs/alan/2010/05/30/links-for-2010-05-29/ Life of Alan » links for 2010-05-29

    [...] "The trouble in Juarez" [Need to Know] Juarez, Mexico, is a place of profound sorrow and persistent fear. Drug cartels have terrorized the city and killed 5,000 people there in the last two years, among them many innocent adults and children. In the Villas de Salvarcar, a neighborhood on the city’s south side, assassins confused a birthday party for a gang gathering last January. The ensuing massacre left 15 dead, including 11 middle and high school students. (tags: Chihuahua) [...]

  • Gary Ogletree

    The ATF has proved itself to not be a credible source and FOX news is more credible than the other networks. Give your dogma a rest, Jesse. But money can get guns anywhere. Money drives the crime and government corruption. To shut off the money the US needs to destroy the black market by ending prohibition. The War on Drugs is a war on our own people. The drugs are widely available after nearly 40 years of locking up a lot of decent people along the the criminal element. California already has de facto legalization of pot. It’s not the government’s business to prohibit drug use by adults. It’s a matter of personal responsibility. An honest education program aimed at youth, using recovered addicts could be funded by taxes on licensed producers and customers, just like liquor and cigarettes. I’m not saying anything most people don’t already know. The problem is politics, who has the guts to tell it like it is?

  • c

    Have any of you been to Juárez recently? As you sit in your privledged positions to have the time to sit and rant about issues you will never doing anything but talk about, people are dying. Yes, you can sit and argue about journalism and Fox news. But if you know anything about the real world and research on real issues, you wouldn’t site a news source…. you would site a journal or author who is credible and published. Obviously the people posting on here didn’t make it past a Bachelor’s degree at best.

    The reason is political, but it is also about economics. I have been working there and doing REAL research there for over 2 years. There are many layers to the problems the people are facing now. The turf war between the drug cartels are just part of it picture. If you look at why so many people are part of this war, are part of this illegal billion dollar industry you will find it is because companies owned by U.S. citizens, but located in places such as Juárez, do not event pay enough money to allow one to feed themselves let alone a family. They work 11 hours a day, 6 days a week and are paid on average $6.50 per day. Whereas the cost of living, food housing and rent starts at $33/day. Not to mention the practice of forced pregnancy testing, forced birth control, sexual harassment and the constant threat of being a victim of the femicide. Many women that have been killed have been on their way to or from work at a maquila (which is a foriegn owned factory)
    I did research and found that many items, such as a coffee maker or new children’s clothing for instance is actually more expensive in Juárez than it is in El Paso Texas.

    So, tell me, if there are decreasing job opportunities, and the ones that do exist won’t even feed your families, and there is absolutely no social infrastructure what are you going to do? For instance, you are a teenage boy and you see your mother working two jobs gone night and day, left to be in the streets of Juárez and get word of being able to make money without having to work very hard, but its risky. You see your neighbors loosing their jobs, the maquilas are being set on fire daily (probably for insurance purposes because of the collapsing economy and the increasing violence), you see people begging for food on the streets and you know that your next door neighbor has no food and no work, and she has 3 kids to feed. As a teenage boy in this situation its highly likely you will take this opportunity. Thus it begins.

    In Juárez there are no food stamps, no dependable food banks, no good paying jobs, no cash assistance from the government, not even opportunities for education, even if you are a child. Though school is suppose to be free in Mexico parents still have to pay around $30 per year per child for fees, then they have to pay for uniforms and supplies.

    How did this come to be?
    NAFTA, have you heard of it? Yes, as NAFTA was instituted we U.S. citizens exported our jobs to Mexico, and Mexico agreed to set up free trade zones where labor standards are bent, wages are very low, and authority turns their heads. But most importantly U.S. companies do not have to pay taxes or customs to import goods..leaving more room for profit.

    Over time the U.S. set up more trade regional agreements in other parts of the world creating more free trade zones where labor is even cheaper and there is more room for less monitoring of labor conditions. Because safe labor conditions are not cheap.. profit is at the forefront of all of the major decisions. However, this is unjust. People working 11 hour days not even making enough to buy dinner for their family after 11 hours of work. They do very repetitive work and many many people suffer from chronic pain and problems, but there is no insurance or workers compensation to protect them.

    In my informed opinion on the impacts of NAFTA on economies in the U.S. AND Mexico, in addition to the unjust labor conditions, and the economic and sociological consequences of NAFTA…. This law, these companies, their shareholders, and even the ignorant consumers who want cheap products at all cost (until there is a problem at home) they are all criminals. They are all participating in the perpetuation of this problem of massive poverty, increasing of illegal economies (such as drug trade, because no one can make any money on legal trade, accept for U.S. Companies and their shareholders), and they know about this.

    So my questions for all of you are: Are you going to educate yourself before you rant? Are you going to take time to do something different than gripe about the segment not being good enough for you, or will you actually look at what content is there and begin to understand that these are people? they like you, did not choose where they were born- Most importantly are you going to realize that though you have nothing to loose, nothing at stake, and therefore have no motivation to do anything about this, instead going to realize your ethical duty to do something besides marvel at the few people who are trying to help others in Juárez? Why don’t you do something? Not creative enough? Don’t know hot to use google? or many you lack the critical thinking skills it requires to comprehend such gigantic problems, even though they have simple solutions like a fair income or an alternative to the maquilas. Does my own rant anger you? Good, maybe you will do something about your anger, even if it is towards me. Hopefully you do something more than rant online. I dedicate most of my life to work I don’t get paid for, because sitting in front of a computer typing on forums and blogs only gets you as far as doing it some more..and soon..its all you have.

    Best Regards,
    C

  • k

    I applaud you! Well done, I hope that more and more people read what you have wrote, pull the tail from between their legs and stop bitching and start changing something! As I do myself. I am guilty by far for talking and not making things happen, American’s are controlled by their government and instead of realizing we don’t live in a perfect world in our bubble called the USA, we should put down the Ipod, computer, facebook, etc. etc do some research and find out the truth. SHare the truth and make shit happen!

    So thank you for your knowledge and all you do!! If only more people had the BALLS! to do what you are doing.

    Amen sister!!

  • IZREALMUZIK

    OBAMA NEEDS TO SEND OUR SPECIAL FORCES TO THE BORDER TO PROTECT OUR NATION, I BELEAVE THAT 99.9 PERCENT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL NOT MIND.
    OUR MILITARY WILL NOT SURCOME TO TEMPTATION AND CORRUPTION
    WE NEED TO OCCUPIE THE MEXICAN BORDER, I MEAN 100 MILES IN-LAND ALL ALONG OUR SOUTHERN STATES ON BOTH SIDES THATS A TOTAL OF 200 MILES WIDE AND 4 STATES LONG … WE CAN DO IT.
    WE DID GO TO THE MOON.
    WEVE TAKEN ON WHOLE NATIONS MUCH LARGER…
    IF WE CAN GO OVERSEAS AND OCCUPIE 3 COUNTRYS THAT DON’T EVEN TOUCH OUR BORDERS WHY CANT WE DO THAT HERE?
    WHAT WILL THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT DO…TAKE US TO WAR….WHAT A JOKE OF A NATION. WE NEED TO TAKE CHARGE AND STOP DRAGGING OUR FEET.
    IT’S GETTING WORSE EVERY DAY.

  • MILLER

    MEXICO HAS NO GOVERMENT.
    MEXICO HAS NO GOVERMENT IN CHARGE
    THE POLICE… WHAT POLICE
    I CAN CARE LESS IF THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO CANT MAINTAIN A STABLE COUNTRY
    WHERE CHILDREN AND WOMEN CAN LIVE SAFE AND NOT IN FEAR
    THATS NOT MY CONCERN.
    WE IN AMERICA FOUGHT FOR THAT RIGHT
    MAYBE THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO SHOULD STOP BEING COWARDS AND ARM UP AND TAKE BACK THERE COUNTRY AND STOP DEPENDING ON THE GREAT U.S OF A TO SAVE THE DAY.
    WE IN THE USA HAVE OUR OWN CRAP TO DEAL WITH..
    MEXICANS SEEM TO FORGET THEIR HISTORY OF MAY 5TH
    THE FRENCH HAVE BEEN LONG GONE , AND NOW YOU FOLKS HAVE THE DRUG CARTELS TO DEAL WITH. HERE IN AMERICA WHEN A POLICE OFFICER GETS KILLED THE POLICE SHUT IT DOWN OUR DRUG WANNA BE GANGERSTERS KNOW BETTER TO DEAL WITH THE POLICE … ITS A FINE LINE THEY DONT CROSS.. YOUR DEALERS DONT RESPECT NOR FEAR THE POLICE … STAND UP AND GET A PAIR ..RETAKE YOUR COUNTRY BACK

  • http://lasotrashermanas.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/the-trouble-in-juarez-it%e2%80%99s-more-than-drugs/ The Trouble in Juarez? It’s more than drugs. « Fashioning Social Change

    [...] The Trouble in Juarez? It’s more than drugs. By lasotrashermanas From LOH Executive Director, Charis Elliott.  A response to PBS’s “The Trouble in Juarez”. [...]

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