Mexico police take refuge from Ciudad Juárez drug gangs
By Dialogo February 02, 2012
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – About 2,000 police are hunkering down in hotels in Mexico’s most violent city of Ciudad Juárez after a drug gang threatened to kill an officer per day if their chief refused to resign.
Eight police officers have already been killed this year in the city across from El Paso, Texas.
The mayor of Ciudad Juárez this week ordered police to use several local hotels as temporary barracks to protect themselves from attacks on the way home from work in the city at the heart of the drug violence in Mexico, which has claimed the lives of at least 50,000 I five years.
Mayor Héctor Murguía said on Feb. 1 that police would stay in hotels for at least three months, with approximately US$1.5 million put aside to pay for it.
Murguía stood by his police chief, Julián Leyzaola, a controversial former soldier who has been asked to resign by human rights groups for his alleged heavy-handed policing.
“The chances that [Leyzaola] resigns or that they force him to resign are zero percent,” the mayor told journalists.
At the entrance to the Rio motel, on Las Torres Avenue, several patrols stand guard to protect access to the improvised barracks, as others monitor vehicles pass by.
Last week, several banners signed by the “New Cartel of Juárez” appeared around the city of 1.3 million, to announce the killing of a police officer each day as long as Leyzaola stayed in charge of the local police.
Some of the messages also accused the police chief of protecting another group, “New Generation,” allied to powerful Sinaloa drug cartel of fugitive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
According to the mayor, the threats only showed how concerned the drug gangs were in the face of Leyzaola.
Murders fell to fewer than 2,000 in the city last year – when Leyzaola took control – from 3,100 in 2010. Key leaders of city gangs like “the Aztecas” also were apprehended.
Leyzaola already provoked controversy when he led police in another border city, Tijuana in northwest Mexico. Authorities lauded him for reducing crime there but organizations such as Amnesty International sought to put him on trial for the alleged torture of prisoners, backed by witness accounts from at least 25 police.
[AFP (Mexico), 01/02/2012; Eluniversal.com.mx (Mexico), 01/02/2012]