Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juaarez

By Howard Campbell | Go to book overview
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Witness to a Juárez Drug Killing

The following account does not deal with drug smuggling per se, but with the psychological impact of drug violence. The numbers alone are staggering: there were 2,500 executions in Mexico in 2007 and at least 5,300 in 2008. Drug-related killings have ravaged Ciudad Juárez since the advent of the Cártel de Juárez, in 1993. From 1993 to 2007, approximately 200 people were murdered each year in the city. As of this writing (December 2008), more than 1,600 murders have been committed in Juárez in what has been the bloodiest year on record.

In addition to those executed, countless individuals have been levantado, that is, captured by armed commandos in the streets or taken from their homes, never to be heard from again. Witnesses to those levantamientos describe a common pattern: dark-colored Suburbans, Hummers, or other vehicles habitually used by the Mexican federal judicial police or the AFI [Federal Investigations Agency] roar up to the vicinity of the victims, and then groups of armed men, often in uniform, descend from the vehicles, capture the individuals at gunpoint, and immediately vanish. To date, despite the complaints and protests of the Association of Relatives and Friends of Disappeared Persons of Ciudad Juárez, led by Jaime Hervella, few civilians or police, military, or other governmental agents have ever been convicted of these crimes.1

In the border DWZ, persons suspected of stealing from, snitching on, or being hostile to the interests of a given drug-trafficking organization are murdered or maimed. The murders take place at all hours of the day, often in broad daylight in populous, centrally located parts of the city. In many cases, a shootout between hit men and their intended victims results in dozens to hundreds of shots being fired from automatic weapons. In other cases, the killings occur in secluded areas or behind closed doors. Thereafter, the often burned or mutilated bodies are de

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