A 21-million-peso army base intended to improve security in the Rarámuri Sierra of Chihuahua today sits empty, abandoned by the military after just five months.
The problem? It is subject to flooding.
Building the military facility was a promise made by former governor César Duarte Jáquez, now a fugitive from justice, and the Army approved the plan in 2013. It would be built in the municipality of Guachochi, located near the fertile poppy and marijuana country of the Golden Triangle, an area where there has been an increasing number of confrontations among drug cartels.
The Duarte administration pledged that the 400-million-peso base would be ready the following year, but construction took two years in the end.
And the facility that was finally delivered, which cost only 21 million pesos (just over US $1 million), was used by the military for just five months because it flooded constantly during the rainy season.
Five-hundred soldiers moved in last May, bringing specialized all-terrain equipment and heavy artillery that would bring peace and security to the region. By September, they had left, leaving the base completely abandoned.
Governor Javier Corral Jurado has said that his administration will look for the resources to build another facility instead.
“I’ve told [the military] plainly and clearly about the [state’s] finances; we’ll both look for the resources because they were promised a 400-million-peso headquarters but received a 21-million-peso barracks that’s not even worth 4 [million].”
“There was a lot of stealing there . . . .”
The military carries on operating in Guachochi, using a facility it has occupied for years, conducting joint operations with municipal, state and federal police that are known as Mixed Immediate Reaction Forces.
According to the state Attorney General’s office, there were 233 homicides linked to organized crime in the area during 2016: 73 in Guachochi, 15 in Balleza, 17 in Batopilas and 128 in Guadalupe y Calvo.
The increased acts of violence by warring drug cartels in several areas of Chihuahua have triggered the deployment of additional military personnel, said the governor, who added that the Federal Police presence will be augmented by another 450 officers.