By Luis Chaparro
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Parents marked Children’s Day in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, amid fears of new attacks by drug gangs, with some people taking part in events across the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, or visiting area cemeteries.
Families gathered on Saturday in parks around Juarez to celebrate the holiday, but in smaller numbers than in previous years.
About 50 children between the ages of 6 and 13, according to the La Red por la Infancia advocacy group, have been murdered in the border city in 2011.
The drug-related violence in Ciudad Juarez, located in the northern state of Chihuahua, has claimed the lives of nearly 600 people since January.
Relatives of children and teenagers killed in the crossfire of shootouts and hits by the drug cartels fighting for control of the area also visited cemeteries.
The families of brothers Joseline and Efrain Enriquez Torres, as well as the relatives of siblings Jorge Antonio, Luis and Joana Rodriguez Salas, whose bodies were burned by criminals, visited their graves on Saturday, Efe confirmed.
About 290 minors have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez, where drug traffickers have stepped up their recruiting of young gunmen, since January 2009, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office said.
More than 8,500 people have been murdered in Juarez since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico’s drug cartels, making it the most dangerous city in the country.
Gunmen went to a house in a poor Juarez neighborhood on Feb. 23 in search of a drug dealer, failed to find him and opened fire on three girls ranging in age from 12 to 15, killing them.
A woman and her two daughters, ages 17 and 15, were shot dead at point-blank range inside a house in the Panamericano Jardin subdivision on Feb. 14.
Two massacres of young people rocked the border city last year.
Gunmen killed 15 young people attending a birthday party on Jan. 31, 2010, in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood, and 11 young men were gunned down on Nov. 6 at a house in Juarez.
Hundreds of parents decided Saturday to celebrate Children’s Day in El Paso, Texas, to avoid getting caught up in a violent incident.
Joaquin, the father of three boys ages 6, 9 and 11, told Efe he opted to cross into the United States for his family’s safety.
“In Juarez, it’s more dangerous now to be in the streets in large crowds. It was better to come to a park in El Paso, here my kids can play in peace and I can feel more relaxed,” the Mexican father said. EFE