Peace in Juarez?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary It may be too premature for me to say that. In 2010, drug cartel slayings in Ciudad de Juarez (located in Chihuahua state), were so bad that the murder rate for Juarez was 229 individuals per 100,000 people. This killing rate was the highest in the Americas. The Mexican government under former President Felipe Calderon sent 7,500 soldiers into Juarez to try and end the drug cartels’ virtual reign of terror. It did not seem to happen, and the murder rate remained high. Just as worrisome were the number of Mexicans who were fleeing Juarez for the safety of El Paso city on the U.S. side. In fact, so many Mexicans were relocating to El Paso that real estate agents had a kind of mini-boom in rental properties from those escaping from Juarez. The number of Mexicans fleeing depressed real estate prices in Juarez, and this threatened the industrial sector in Juarez.

Since Enrique Pena Nieto became Mexico’s president, Nieto has promised a new strategy of not so much trying to capture the heads of the drug cartels (although that is still a priority) as sending soldiers and federal police to areas most affected by drug cartel and gang violence. Is this strategy working? There has been, according to the Mexican government, a 57 percent drop in murders in Juarez. Is this due to the new strategies having been put into place? Is this due to the cartels having been badly decimated? Is this due to better policing? There are too many questions, and no real answers at this point. But two things have happened. First, people in Juarez are less afraid of going out compared to the year before. Second, a growing number of Mexicans now living in El Paso are moving back to Juarez. Perhaps the perception that it is getting better is helping. But a growing number of Mexicans are moving back, and many hope that this will help business in Juarez grow again.

All of this may be premature. We are still not sure if the areas being targeted by the Mexican government in its new strategy is making a difference. We are still not sure if the drug cartels may be reorganizing and then they strike back with a vengeance. We are not sure if the Mexican government’s rooting out of corruption and all the dead wood in the judicial system has any effect. There are just too many “ifs” and no real confirmed changes that can be measured at this time. Still, for those Mexicans who had to flee their homes, or who live in fear of the drug cartels, there is hope that peace and stability will become a reality again in those parts of the country badly affected by the drug war.

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