MEXICO CITY – The 5,000 federal police currently deployed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, will not be withdrawn, interior minister Francisco Blake said, contradicting an earlier statement by the mayor of the border city.
Mayor Hector Murguia said Tuesday that he was officially informed the federal cops will begin to leave Juarez in September.
His announcement came hours after a score of federal agents fired on the convoy of Juarez’s police chief, the latest in a series of ugly incidents between the feds and local authorities.
“The federal forces will not abandon Ciudad Juarez nor its citizens in the face of the criminal phenomenon the city is experiencing,” Blake said in a statement after meeting Wednesday with the governor of the surrounding state of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte.
The efforts of the federal forces in Juarez have been “successful,” Blake insisted.
Ciudad Juarez, a metropolis of roughly 1.2 million people just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has suffered nearly 9,000 homicides since the beginning of 2008.
The carnage is blamed on a turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels, both of which rely heavily on local street gangs to carry out attacks.
Contrary to Blake’s assertion, the deployment of nearly 10,000 soldiers and federal police – the troops were pulled out earlier amid an avalanche of abuse complaints – has had no measurable effect on the level of violence in Juarez.
The city’s top cop, Julian Leyzaola, said at least 20 federal police officers shot at vehicles carrying him and his bodyguards in the wee hours of Tuesday as the chief was traveling to the municipal jail to quell a riot that left 17 inmates dead.
City clerk Hector Arcelus dismissed the federal cops’ claim that the shooting was the result of confusion.
The federal officers are “perfectly” familiar with the vehicles used by Leyzaola and his escorts, according to Arcelus, who said it was “neither logical nor credible that they (the feds) acted randomly.”
Tuesday’s episode followed the killing by federal police of a member of Mayor Murguia’s security detail at a checkpoint in Juarez.
The mayor, who demanded that the officer who shot his bodyguard be charged with homicide, subsequently got into a shouting match with federal cops who pointed their assault rifles at Murguia during a chance encounter in the city. EFE