Sharp debate over the direction of Mexico’s narco war has broken out in the wake of twin massacres in northern Mexico last weekend. As the death toll from the narco violence punctures past records, some political leaders propose drastic responses that could curb civil liberties.
In the northern Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila, Mayor Eduardo Olmos urged citizens to avoid going out at night unless they had urgent business. Olmos’ warning followed a Jan. 31 attack against a nightclub complex that left eight people and 41 others reportedly injured; initial reports indicated the victims were mostly between 19 and 23 years of age. In memory of the victims, Olmos appealed on clubs to close their doors this coming weekend.
On Feb. 1, Torreón was once again the scene of bloodshed. A shoot-out between the Mexican army and federal police on one side and suspected drug cartel gunmen on the other resulted in the deaths of seven suspects. Three officers and one soldier were reported wounded, while an injured suspect was taken into custody by authorities. Officials also announced two kidnap victims were rescued from the criminal group. Audible at a nearby shopping center, the armed showdown provoked public panic. [Authorities blame the Zetas in both Torreón attacks, the Los Angeles Times reports Feb. 3.]
In Mexico City, meanwhile, finger-pointing, recrimination and accusations of corruption characterized the political response to last weekend’s massacre of 16 people, mainly teenagers, at a party in Ciudad Juárez‘s Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood, the site of previous narco-executions.
A member of President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN), Congresswoman Antonieta Pérez Reyes of Ciudad Juarez said serious thought should be given to ordering a curfew in the border city. “A curfew should be considered now more than ever,” Pérez declared.
Although many shootings in Ciudad Juárez have occurred in broad daylight and in heavily-transited places, Perez did not say whether a curfew should apply round-the-clock.
On a similar note, PAN Senator Guillermo Tamborel of Queretaro proposed a “state of exception” for Ciudad Juárez, but did not give any specifics other than to say that drugs should not be legalized or the death penalty enacted.
After a sometimes heated debate this week, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution to make Ciudad Juárez a national priority. The legislators backed a new policy of crime prevention that would “reconstruct the social fabric and increase the efficiency of governments.”
Touring Japan, President Calderón pledged his administration will unveil a new comprehensive crime-fighting campaign in the coming days. In March 2007, the Calderón government also announced a comprehensive anti-crime strategy which, among other things, promised a focus on combating Mexico’s growing problem of drug addiction.
Nearly three years later, drug-related violence shows no signs of subsiding. Indeed, nearly 1,000 narco-executions last month wracked up a record monthly toll.
In Ciudad Juárez, state and municipal governments have also previously rolled out drastic crime prevention measures. In the late 1990s, the administration of Chihuahua Governor Patricio Martínez unveiled a “No Tolerance” policy by reducing bar hours and the times stores could sell alcoholic beverages. In subsequent years, however, homicide and other violent crimes surpassed all previous records.
In 2007 the administration of then-Mayor Hector “Teto” Murguia tried to implement a youth curfew, but the measure was later dropped after complaints of police harassment directed against young people. Similar to the Ciudad Patricio Martinez experiment, youth curfews were also enacted in different cities in the border states of Sonora, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
From Frontera NorteSur, Feb. 3