Even as violence spreads and mounts across neighboring border states, including the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico's industrial and economic hub, Juárez is ground zero for Calderón's "Joint Operation Chihuahua," which allowed for deployment of the military and federal police.

Calderón's lack of success, highlighted by the March 13 murders a few feet from an international bridge to El Paso of three people linked to the U.S. consulate, has prompted a revision of the United States' so-called "Merida Initiative." Under this plan, the Bush administration had earmarked $1.3 billion for Mexico to fight organized crime, including money for intelligence and aircraft equipment for the country's military and police forces.

The consulate killings brought a high-powered U.S. delegation to Mexico City on March 24. It was led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who told the media that Mexico's military efforts were failing and there was fear of violence spilling across the U.S. border. The meeting with Calderón and top Mexican security and government leaders brought about a revision of the Merida Plan that signaled a move away from the military emphasis to one geared toward social efforts to fight the crime.

Among the new measures revealed last month, Clinton and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa announced a $331 million plan, part of the second phase of the initiative, to redirect the military spending toward social and educational youth programs and improved police training. There's also talk of creating a 10-mile cross-border commuter trail to link El Paso and Juárez, a secure mass transit system for business much like one in Baghdad's Green Zone, in many European nations and in Seattle-Vancouver. But it's too early to tell if it will work, and there's skepticism.

"In the short term, I don't see an option unless you legalize narcotics, but that won't happen quickly," said Jorge Chabat, a narcotics and national security expert and professor in Mexico City's Center for Research and Economic Teaching. "The likeliest scenario is that the violence continues and increasingly affects the U.S., like the violence during Prohibition in the 1930s, which led to the legalization of alcohol. It's an option to solve corruption and violence, not to end drug consumption."

Ciudad Juárez, named after Mexico's only indigenous president, Benito Juárez, was founded in 1659 by Spanish explorers as El Paso del Norte, or the pass to the north. Until recently, it was choked with traffic from trucks and people going about the business that is just part of daily life in neighboring Texas and Mexican cities. People normally go back and forth across international bridges, seeing relatives, shopping or working. Juárez and El Paso make up for one of the largest binational metropolitan areas in the world, together comprising 2.3 million people.

But the lifeline of this symbiotic relationship has now turned into a multibillion dollar key passage of drugs to the United States, and it's bearing the brunt of the impunity, brutality and inhumanity as the cartels battle for control of the illegal drug market to the States as well as the smuggling of high-powered weapons from Texas to Mexico.

"I was born in El Paso, but I live in Juárez because I was married to a Mexican. It was a good life, to be honest. My kids had nannies. I had household help, and we traveled to the interior of Mexico and had lots of fun," said one woman, who like most people interviewed didn't want her name used. "A year ago, I moved to El Paso and stopped going to Juárez. The violence is incredible. We're afraid."

Indeed, the violence for control of the key U.S. smuggling routes likely surpasses the height of drug carnage in the late 1980s in Colombia, where drug baron Pablo Escobar was viewed by many who protected him as a sort of Robin Hood who built hospitals, schools, soccer stadiums and apartments for the poor in his hometown of Medellin. But Juárez has no good guys helping the locals.

The code of mafia honor in which women, children, friends of friends or relatives of enemies went untouched has been abandoned in recent years.

"We live in terror that one day it will be me, or my daughters. You could be walking next to someone the narcos want, and they shoot you for the hell of it. Now the military and the federal police occupy the city. We don't know who's who. We don't trust anyone," said one man who moonlights as a chauffer for the U.S. consulate. Like others, he has seen headless bodies hanging from bridges and lifeless bodies strewn on streets.

"If I see something suspicious, I look away, because they'll come after me or someone I love. They know your license plates. They follow you. They know where you work and where your children go to school," he added.

Cocaine is smuggled from Colombia across Mexico's southern border and eventually into border cities. But Mexico also grows most of the marijuana and a small percentage of opium poppy for heroin sold in the United States. It also leads in crack cocaine production. The farming villages nestled along the Sierra Madre mountain range along the Mexican states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua are known as the Golden Triangle of marijuana growth.

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Peter Breitholtz
Peter Breitholtz

juarez sounds like a scary place and i can't imagine how alive the people living there must feel; not the worst thing in the world; as for the policy, i believe it's a measure lawmakers decided would help cut down on crime and a strained budget in the state of arizona; correct me if i'm wrong; i agree this country lacks a coherent immigration policy and i believe it is simply becoming more coherent under the Obama administration, not that he supports the Arizona policy, publicly, but seriously, there are plenty of neighborhoods in this country that are just as frightening probably to live in than juarez; or at least way more frightening than they should be considering they exist on American soil; i'm beginning to believe the only policy that will work is tough policy, for now; until two things happen: 1. cartels are inspired to stop selling cocaine in the united states (mexicans consume one fifth of the cocaine americans do) and 2. start creating opportunities in cities deep within mexico that attract mexicans at the border and foreigners for that matter i believe it's time for the world to intervene; unfortunately, i don't believe any other country cares that americans continue to buy mexican drugs; i understand that americans are beginning to consume less cocaine and due to the strength of the euro, coke is being trafficked to europe where cocaine abuse is reportedly increasing; the cocaine is being moved through countries like guinea bisseau; maybe europe might start caring and a coalition could be formed to militarily overthrown el chapo; it's delicate though because i would imagine the cartel shares; although, a cartel member told me they don't; the world's big problem is lack of opportunity and a media that rubs wealth in our faces


You site the incredible violence in Northern Mexico and the power and reach of drug lords in that area, then question why we want to stop people who want to leave from that country to ours illegally? As someone who moved here from a relatively illegal immigrant free part of the country the horrible differences I see living here already are stark and undeniable.


We should prosecute criminals.

There is a problem with a Society that allows Police and Firefighters write laws and comment on their passage.

If these two groups want to write the Laws they enforce, go to an outright commie country and live there, is what I recommend to them.

The other day I heard a State Lawmaker comment that the singer that came to town should but out and mind her business in her country, and stop trying to impose her beliefs on this one.

The monkey never heard of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America?

America is quickly becoming a village of idiots.

And Joe Arpaio is their king.



Hey. Pablo. Clue in. ALL laws EVER made at ANY time or ANY place are the product of the cohort that wants them. Period. You have the temerity to disagree? The essence of the existential is its banality - think it through. Good day, sir.

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