MEXICO CITY – At least 12 people have been murdered since the start of the weekend in the border city of Juarez, Mexican officials said.
A total of 758 people have been murdered this year in Ciudad Juarez, which lies across the border from El Paso, Texas, despite the deployment of nearly 11,000 army troops and federal police in the city, officials said.
In 2008, Juarez earned the dubious distinction of being Mexico’s most violent city, living through days when dozens of people were murdered in the span of a few hours, and armed groups committed acts of violence in public areas that terrorized residents.
The border city, home to the Juarez drug cartel, ended 2008 with a total of 1,605 people murdered, according to press tallies, including 77 federal, state and municipal police officers.
Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, was considered Mexico’s most violent state in 2008, with 2,206 murders reported.
Eight of this weekend’s killings occurred in a span of 10 hours on Friday, city officials said.
A teenager was wounded Saturday and died several hours later, while the body of a man was found in a poor neighborhood and a woman was killed execution-style.
The woman’s body was found Saturday afternoon in the southern section of the city inside a late-model SUV that had New Mexico plates.
From January to mid-June, an average of four people per day were murdered in Ciudad Juarez, with 60 percent of the killings linked to organized crime, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.
Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000.
So far this year, according to a tally by the Mexico City daily El Universal, nearly 2,900 people have died.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix family, and the Gulf, Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.
Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Colima and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
“Los Zetas,” a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf organization, may now be operating as a cartel, some experts say.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police officers across Mexico in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.