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A Report from Juarez, Mexico, the Bleeding Front Line in the War on Drugs

Page 7 of 7

Daily, she scours the local press, analyzes, compares, checks and rechecks her figures.

In her constant stream of posts, Molloy regularly critiques and challenges news articles and official announcements that don't pass the smell test.

"I began to pay close attention to the numbers of murders in Juárez in the early part of 2008. More than 40 people were killed in the month of January and this had never been seen before in the city," she says. Her research became part of the book Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden.

"There is ample evidence that people are targeted and murdered for many known and unknown reasons and that the killings have only continued to increase since the army first arrived in force in Juárez," she said. "Evidence of guilt is seldom, if ever, provided...The huge majority of victims are poor people."

Many in Juárez think they've been forsaken, that the government is letting the violence play out until a cartel winner emerges. Mexico ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) when Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, won the presidency under the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, in 2000. Mexicans viewed this election as the country's first democratic balloting, and there was hope that with it, corruption would decline and rule of law would materialize.

Calderón maintains most of the murders are related to cartel violence, that about 5 percent are innocent or bystanders. When answering questions from the public or media about the success of his strategy, the president insists it's a problem of "perception."

"We all have to work on the image of Mexico and the perception of the violence," is an oft-repeated answer.

Calderón won in 2006 in a highly contested election, and when his term ends in 2012, Mexicans could opt to return to PRI rule, when a policy of criminal tolerance reined in drug violence. The question is what role the U.S. government will play in a nation averse to foreign intervention.

"The consulate killings put Mexico drug violence higher up on the U.S. agenda. But will this be enough to change the bleak panorama for both nations?" Chabat asked. "The truth is not clear, at least in the short term. How long can Mexican people and even the U.S. government endure this violence?"

In the meantime, the people of Juárez are trapped.

"We lock ourselves up," said the U.S. consulate driver. "And at night, we dream of the dead."

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Susana Hayward