17 de outubro de 2009

Return to Juárez, Violence Surges in Mexican Town

Violência no México atinge níveis insuportáveis.... CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — The hit men moved in on their target, shot him dead and then disappeared in a matter of seconds. It would have been a perfect case for José Ibarra Limón, one of this violent border city’s most dogged crime investigators — had he not been the victim. Relatives and friends carried the coffin of Andres Gutierrez, one of 18 men shot to death at a drug treatment center, during his funeral in Ciudad Juárez in September. Mexico has never been particularly adept at bringing criminals to justice, and the drug war has made things worse. Investigators are now swamped with homicides and other drug crimes, most of which they will never crack. On top of the standard obstacles — too little expertise, too much corruption — is one that seems to grow by the day: outright fear of becoming the next body in the street. Mr. Ibarra was killed on July 27 in what his bosses at the federal attorney general’s office consider an assassination related to a case he was investigating. As if to prove the point, less than a month later, one of the lawyers who had worked for Mr. Ibarra also turned up dead. Two days afterward, an investigator named to replace Mr. Ibarra insisted on being transferred out of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico’s murder capital. The current prosecutor investigating Mr. Ibarra’s cases is working anonymously, his or her name kept secret by the government. The Mexican government knows that revamping its problem-plagued justice system is an essential part of breaking the cartels that control vast areas of Mexico. Major efforts are under way to make the judiciary faster and fairer, and the United States has contributed millions of dollars to help bring more criminals to justice. But even with training programs by American lawyers and judges, American aid to improve forensics and screen more effectively for corruption, as well as other cross-border initiatives, the traffickers and the cumulative pressures they are putting on the judiciary are straining it as never before. “Obviously what happened affects us,” said Hector García Rodríguez, the federal prosecutor in Juárez and the supervisor of the slain investigator. “We’re still working. We can’t stop. But we know the dangers we face.” President Felipe Calderón points to the arrests of more than 50,000 people on drug charges since he began his antidrug offensive in December 2006. Many of the arrests appear to have come from top-notch detective work. Other suspects, though, are quietly released after they have been paraded before the news media. The federal government refused to provide statistics on how many arrests had resulted in convictions, how many suspects were still under investigation or how many arrests had proved to be mistakes. But independent reviews by scholars suggest that only about a quarter of crimes in Mexico are ever reported and that only a small fraction ever result in convictions. Compounding matters is the sheer number of crimes, especially murders. On a single September night in Ciudad Juárez, 18 men were shot to death in a drug treatment center near the border, more than the number of killings all year long in El Paso, just across the Texas border. “Law enforcement is overwhelmed,” said David A. Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and the principal investigator for the Justice in Mexico Project, a binational research initiative. “If you have murders with 13 bodies one day and then you have 4 more the next, there’s not a lot of investigation into who pulled the trigger specifically.” Fear Gets in the Way One of the two dozen or so cases that Mr. Ibarra had been investigating involved the killing of a journalist, Armando Rodríguez Carreón, 40, who had produced a string of scoops as the longtime crime reporter for the newspaper El Diario. Mr. Rodríguez was shot to death last Nov. 13 as he prepared to take his 8-year-old daughter to school. She was at his side and saw her father struck by at least 10 bullets. “It was similar to hundreds of homicides we’ve had here,” remarked Mr. García, Mr. Ibarra’s supervisor. “It was an execution.” It is also similar in that the perpetrators remain at large. Fear prevents many cases from being solved because investigators hesitate to dig too deeply, and witnesses refuse to talk. “Nobody cooperates with anything,” Mr. García complained. “They’re too afraid. Nobody wants to say what they saw. Nobody wants to give you a plate number.” Mexico is promoting confidential telephone lines and rewards to encourage witnesses, but resistance lingers, especially when news reports circulate about threats made to those who do call in. And there is considerable doubt that the reward money is worth the risk. The attacks on investigators only magnify the problem. “If you had a difficult case, you went to him and said, ‘Ibarra, what do you think?’ ” Mr. García said. Now in trying to solve Mr. Ibarra’s murder, his colleagues wonder aloud how he might have pursued his killers, possibly four men in all, who shot him many times in the head with .45-caliber and 9-millimeter weapons. The slain journalist’s wife, Blanca Martínez, said that she had met once with Mr. Ibarra, but that she did not think he had been murdered for closing in on her husband’s killers, despite his reputation for solving difficult crimes. “I don’t think he was really investigating,” she said. Prosecutors had asked once to interview her young daughter, a witness, but had never followed up, Ms. Martínez said. Pedro Torres, Mr. Rodríguez’s editor and close friend, was similarly unimpressed with the government’s effort to find the killers of his top police reporter. Fonte: The New York Times

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