Friday, October 3, 2008
A Fresh Update on Violence in Juarez--from an American Mom
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.
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.