On February 13, around 1,300 Mexicans took to the streets of Ciudad Juárez to protest the continued presence of the armed forces in the northern border city.
Civil rights groups say the deployment of 6,000 combat troops has worsened the drug-related crime wave and have organized a “March of Anger” to voice their opposition.
Ciudad Juárez is now infamous as the murder capital of Mexico and last year 2,660 people were killed in the city. Most deaths are the result of cartels fighting over drug-smuggling routes into the U.S.
On January 31, armed men gunned down 15 innocent teenagers at a party, triggering a response against the incessant bloodshed from civil rights groups. President Felipe Calderón initially said the youths had connections to drug gangs but later retracted his accusation.
The demonstrations took place just after the president visited Ciudad Juárez and vowed to refine his strategy against organized crime. Calderón also announced the deployment of a further 3,000 federal police officers to the city.
Bloggers in Ciudad Juárez and elsewhere have commented on the weekend’s protests. Worldfocus translated a few excerpts:
From S.O.S. Juarez, one of the organizing civil rights groups:
The state’s failure to provide public safety forces organizations out onto the streets and to take up the demands of the relatives of those massacred [on January 31]. We need to stand up for our rights and defeat the fear that has paralyzed a large swathe of society…[T]he protesters held three minutes of silence and, in a symbolic gesture representing hundreds of executions, threw themselves on the floor to remember the thousands killed. The fallen are the result of a senseless war declared by an illegitimate government [a reference to the contested 2006 general election].
From Chihuahua Resiste, on the reaction of one bereaved relative:
A central figure [of the protests] has been Luz María Dávila, the mother of two of the victims of the [January 31] massacre. Last Thursday she became known to the world when she squared up to President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and demanded swift justice for her children.
From Pocamadrenews, a blog that calls for further action against the rising violence:
Although there have been other protests in Juárez and other cities, I believe it is time to come together in solidarity and organize a national strike movement. This will create further pressure because protest marches achieve very little.
From Poverty News, a blog that comments on the allure of the drug trade for Ciudad Juárez’s youth:
Safety prevents many children from even receiving an education in Ciudad Juárez. Even if the streets were safe many families could not afford the costs for education that is not free for that region of Mexico. All of this this makes entering the drug trade an attractive option to earn a lot of money fast for pre-teens without an education.
– James Matthews