Ciudad Juarez sees dramatic decrease in murders

Experts: End of war between two cartels partially contributes to fewer killings

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Mayor Héctor ¨Teto¨ Murguía Lardizábal, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will tell nearly anyone who asks that his city has seen a 40 percent decrease in murders this year.

Still, the city of over a million in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua has had nearly 700 murders in 2012, but the decrease is significant.

"It is because we have strengthened our municipal police force and our social services," said Murguía Lardizábal, in broken English.

He wouldn't expand on that, however, and the lack of substantive proof for his claim leaves room for other opinions.

Most Mexican violence experts in the US, both in academia and the law enforcement communities, feel the drop in crime can be attributed to one thing—a brutal turf war between rival cartels coming to an end.

Levels of violence began spiking in 2008, when Chapo Guzman and his Sinaloa drug cartel began contesting existing drug smuggling routes, vying with the well-established Juarez cartel for control.

The confrontation escalated quickly, as both sides vied for control of smuggling routes worth billions of dollars.

Murders in the city reached their peak in 2010, when 3,115 people were killed. But since then, the numbers have gone down each year.

"The victory of the Chapo Guzman cartel over the Juarez cartel essentially lets one organized crime group run the city," said Dr. Howard Campbell, a cartel expert at the University of Texas at El Paso, just across the border from Ciudad Juarez.

The end result is a smaller body count, although public corruption and poverty still run rampant, said Campbell.

Campbell also argued parallels can be drawn between the course of events in Ciudad Juarez, and what is only just beginning in Nuevo Laredo, a border town just a few hours south of San Antonio.

"As the Zeta cartel is weakening there, due to the capture of killing of their leadership, the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels will be muscling in," said Campbell. "Typically when that happens, the body count begins to rise, and in the short term I believe that is what will happen in Nuevo Laredo."

Dozens of bodies have been found over the last several months, including some hung from a bridge.

Campbell said the violence in Nuevo Laredo might persist until one of the combatants prevail. The government, he said, is neither very willing nor very capable to change that.

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