- Title: MEXICO: Army begins withdrawal from violent Ciudad Juarez
- Date: 9th April 2010
- Summary: CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO (FILE) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) SOLDIERS WALKING ON TARMAC SOLDIERS IN VEHICLES HELICOPTER IN MID-AIR SOLDIER STANDING IN STREET MORE OF SOLDIERS ON VEHICLES, PATROLLING STREETS
- Embargoed: 24th April 2010 13:00
- Location: Mexico
- Country: Mexico
- Topics: Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVADXFQAVZX9XJQ8L8F9GL3ZTW2W
- Story Text: Mexico's army begins withdrawing troops from Ciudad Juarez to give federal police control of security in the country's most violent drug war city even as cartel killings escalate.
Mexico's army began to pull out troops from the country's most violent drug war city Ciudad Juarez on Thursday (April 8) to give federal police control of security following accusations of rights abuses and lack of results in the fight against drug trafficking.
The Public Security Ministry said it will send 5,000 federal policemen, doubling the number of police officers already there. The army will be in charge of patrolling the areas in and around Ciudad Juarez including border bridges, airports and towns.
"Mexico's Public Security Ministry informs that the federal police will take control of security in Ciudad Juarez, concluding the army's participation in this city. The federal police will increase its analytical, tactical and investigative capabilities in kidnapping and extortion efforts to confront criminal organizations," Deputy Public Security Minister Facundo Rosas told a news conference.
"For this operational scheme, we have complete coordination and collaboration from municipal, state and federal authorities. The army set a security plan in motion to control international borders as well as aerial and land transportation terminals with 24-hour checkpoints at all entrance and exit points into Ciudad Juarez, as well as control of rural areas and in communities located in Juarez Valley," added Rosas.
It was unclear how many of the 5,000 soldiers currently in the city will leave.
The move signals a new strategy by President Felipe Calderon in the government's crackdown in Ciudad Juarez, the bloodiest front in Mexico's three-year drug war where 2,650 people died in drug violence last year.
Killings have jumped to up to 16 a day since the start of 2010. Residents blame the army for provoking the increase in daily shootings, beheadings and disappearances, which have grown steadily following a brief lull when the troops arrived.
Many local residents have held protests calling for the army to leave. Rights groups, including Amnesty International, say soldiers are rounding up innocent city residents in violent raids and beating confessions out of suspects.
The army denies any wrongdoing. Federal police are considered to be less heavy-handed and more adept at winning the confidence of locals, although some business leaders accuse them of running extortion rackets in the border city.
Area resident Rosa Hernandez thinks the situation will not improve.
"It's the same thing right now. I don't think it'll change. People started to get killed. Federal policemen patrol the streets but sometimes they see two people killing each other in front of them and they don't do anything about it; they run away. That's what has happened on many occasions and murders continue with the federal police, everyone, it's always the same. They arrive when everything's already happened (concluded)," she said.
Another resident, Teresa Galarza, is also pessimistic.
"There are soldiers everywhere you look but the killings don't stop. Let's hope it does so this will be over soon."
Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said there would be a total of 7,500 policemen working in the city.
"These 5,000 policemen will be helped by local policemen to form a operational group with more than 7,500 policemen dedicated to safety operations in Ciudad Juarez," he said.
Calderon's military strategy has scored recent victories with the capture of a Tijuana drug gang leader in January and the killing of the head of the powerful Beltran Leyva cartel in western Mexico late last year.
But U.S. officials, investors and ordinary Mexicans are concerned that drug violence is overwhelming state security forces. There have been more than 17,000 drug murders since 2006 -- most from brutal turf wars between rival gangs -- and cartels are growing in power, terrorizing rural communities along smuggling routes.
- Copyright Holder: FILE REUTERS (CAN SELL)
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None