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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ten thousand dead and counting: Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city that’s deadlier than Afghanistan

CIUDAD JUAREZ — In March, municipal police officers detained the two brothers of Armida Vazquez and whisked them away in patrol cars.

Vazquez and her mother searched for Dante and Juan Carlos, cellphone shop workers in their mid-20s, and checked with the local and federal police here, to no avail. Nineteen days later, the strangled bodies of the brothers were found on the outskirts of this notoriously violent city. Witness testimony and other evidence led to three policemen, now in jail awaiting trial.

But the police pushed back. Policemen in civilian clothes, Vazquez says, approached her mother outside church and told her to stop making trouble. When Vazquez made a statement against the suspects last month, she says other policemen and relatives of the officers threatened her outside the courthouse.

There were only 300 murders here in 2007, but when the violence arrived in early 2008 it rolled across the city with a vengeance. The government sent in 10,000 troops and federal police to try to quell the mayhem, but the deaths kept rising.

State officials counted 3,622 homicides in 2010, making Ciudad Juarez the city with the highest murder rate in the world at 272 per 100,000 residents. Authorities cite a drop in killings this year as a sign of success, but the murder rate is still more than six times higher than it was in 2007.