Friday, October 3, 2008

A Fresh Update on Violence in Juarez--from an American Mom

photo caption: In Juarez at 10 AM the army patrols a principal downtown street.

A letter arrived yesterday from North American friends living in Ciudad Juarez doing human rights work. I quoted it while presenting a couple powerpoints about Border life while here in the Midwest. These friends work with a Roman Catholic organization, connected to a local parish in the neighborhood where they and their young family live.

I'm reprinting their letter here--with names deleted for their protection.
Consider it a report from the ground in the midst of a bloody warzone:

"...since our last letter in April the violence here has escalated significantly. With our neighbors we share the daily struggle to live in faith and hope in the midst of a violence that has become very prevalent and ugly as two major drug cartels fight for control of this border area.

Since late March the Mexican government has sent 4500 federal troops to the state of Chihuahua, with the large majority coming to Juárez. Unfortunately, it is mostly show and has brought case after case of detention and torture at the hands of the troops who now patrol the streets of Juárez. What is really needed is an improved criminal justice program where crimes can be investigated. Of the more than 1000 people killed since January only 6 arrests have been made and no charges have been filed. One wonders if they don’t want to know who is behind it all. [B.E.: emphasis mine]

[Name deleted] has found his work at the Center for Human Rights, Paso del Norte to be very helpful in helping to gain a better understanding of what is happening. Although he hears more about human rights abuses than is good for his stress level, he has found the conversations with the lawyers, counselors and social workers at the center to provide a good perspective to this complex reality. He has been able to invite a team from the center to speak at each of the five chapels of our parish regarding the rights of individuals in the threat of improper detention and interrogation by police and military authorities. This is in response to ongoing searches and detention of innocent people, among them members of our parish.

People are worried. In general, the soldiers’ methods have not instilled a sense of safety. Over the summer it became common to see a convoy of military pickups driving up and down the streets of our neighborhood, 6 or 7 soldiers standing in the back with machine guns pointed out. Convoys of soldiers sometimes drive by as children are coming out of school.
photo caption: the kids at home in their Juarez neighborhood.

A few evenings ago three such trucks drove back and forth numerous times on our street, finally stopping in front of the house of a neighbor. While one masked soldier patrolled the front door of our 8 year old son’s best friend’s house, others entered a different house up the street. They were looking for drugs, allegedly tipped off by someone they had picked up earlier. But our son’s friend Pepe and his two younger brothers cowered under their bed, afraid that the soldiers would enter their home as well. While the role of the federal military is unclear, they have clearly managed to shake people up. Fortunately, the military did not enter Pepe’s house. No drugs were found in the other home and no one was hurt or arrested. The killings have been primarily targeted to gain control of the drug market (the victims have been mostly small, local sellers), but everyone has been affected, even if only by fear or distrust. The feeling of powerlessness can be overwhelming. As a parish we have been organizing a monthly march for peace in a neighborhood park. We pray for hope and wisdom and fortitude as well as peace.

It is sobering to realize how the battles to control the drug market have so negatively affected the people of Mexico and in many ways destabilized all of Latin America. It’s also sobering to see from this perspective the extent of drug use in the U.S. We recommend this website for more about U.S. government money earmarked for Plan México. As said before, we need much more investigation, including where the money flows." [B.E. again, emphasis mine]
I'm still on the road doing presentations on the Border and taking some family time. I'll be back to regular blogging next week.


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

What a sobering account.

Fran said...

Harsh times. How to begin to fix it?

Mariamariacuchita said...

powerful account. thanks for sharing this. I no longer go to juarez.

Dada said...

B.E. - Thanks for this report. Indeed, what is happening in Juarez is impacting the lives of most everyone there. There was a story on this tonight on local news. Some who were interviewed but refused to be identified, appeared to be suffering very traumatic effects as the result of the violence so prevalent in their communities.

Having recently been invited to the home of a family in Juarez with the caveat "if you choose not to make it we understand why," I was to subsequently learn this Juarez family no longer feels safe in their own country after a rather frightening incident involving one of the daughters in the family. While having nothing to do with the drug war (the daughter was followed and robbed at knife point of her cell phone), it had much to do with the current lawlessness that seems to dominate there.

Fortunately, the good news is this family will be able to relocate to El Paso legally, where they hope to eventually buy a home.(They are renting out their Juarez home in order to leave Juarez ASAP.)

However, we learned on the local news this evening, the vaccine for Human Papillomavirus for adolescent girls which is controversial (and OPTIONAL) for U.S. citizens is being made mandatory for all adolescent Mexican girls. (A deal manipulated by drug cos.?)

At $400/daughter, it is but another expensive hurdle that must be cleared to gain legal residency in the U.S.

Carol said...

I worry for our future. How do these children (and those in Iraq and other countries) become adults who don't continue harming as they've been harmed?

And Dada's report that Mexican girls are REQUIRED to receive the HPV vaccine... Makes me sick.

Randal Graves said...

Decriminalize and treat it as a health issue instead of a criminal one would be one first step. Only the feds and the cartels profit from this bullshit drug circus.

Dada said...

Carol: Yes, mandating all Mexican girls be immunized is outrageous. In my example, however, as disturbing as that is, the family of my example will be able to afford to do this. Sadly, however, many, many others cannot even move across the border, leaving the HPV outrage moot.

an average patriot said...

As usual today this too will only get worse. I know American troops have been offered but of course permission denied. Be careful!

Ingrid said...

So wow, while everyone's eyes are on Palin and the huge bail out..something is afoot and not/under reported in Mexico. I remember you mentioning this before..I'm glad that you bring these issues to our attention..

btw..can I link to this?


Ingrid said...

ps..some blogger blogs have a 'link to this' feature..perhaps you can go to your settings and see if you can fenagle it..I'd like to link back to this post..



susan said...

An excellent post. Please take care Mr. and Mrs. BE.

Border Explorer said...

The comments enrich this post. Thanks to all. A few points to a few individuals--

Dada, that info re. HPV regulation stuns me. "When pharmaceuticals rule the world": it's here. Now.

Carol: Unprocessed trauma is a time bomb ticking in our nation & on our planet.

Randal: decriminalization sounds like a reasonable first step. I fear we're all becoming implicated financially with the US economy dependent on drug money.

Avg. Patriot: I didn't know of this offer. (!!) Must learn more.

Ingrid: I tweaked the settings. OK now? Honored you'd link here.

And to all: We too feel the need to protect our safety and we feel called to greater personal involvement in Juarez. Thanks for your care.