Crime has plagued the border town of Guadalupe, Chihuahua, for a long time but an international infrastructure project may help bring some peace and prosperity to a place notorious for the murders of its police officers.
Guadalupe is considered a ghost town by some after organized crime overcame its police force and all but vanquished its municipal authorities.
Nobody is sure how many people are left in Guadalupe, which according to the last census, in 2010, had 7,000 inhabitants. Mayor Gabriel Urtega claims there are more than 6,000, but after hundreds fled — some even across the border — there’s no certainty.
A tense calm falls over the town after 2:00pm when municipal headquarters shuts down for the day. The residents who have stayed on take cover in their homes as there hasn’t been any local police presence since early July, when the police chief, who was also the force’s only officer, was murdered, and by no means the first to meet such an end.
Ciudad Juárez lies just over 50 kilometers to the northwest of Guadalupe, but police officers from that city don’t enter, claiming that the jurisdiction in Guadalupe is federal and that the army should patrol the town.
But a binational project six years in the planning may well represent Guadalupe’s opportunity to return to a more normal life, some say.
The 168-meter-long bridge between the Chihuahua town and Tornillo, Texas, is just the last stage of a large customs complex planned more than six years ago by both countries. All that’s left to build lies on the Mexican side, such as border facilities and a highway system that will link the bridge to larger interstate roads and railway stations.
Benefits for Guadalupe are seen by all but the mayor, who wonders how the small town will manage to fulfill the public services needs of all the businesses that state and federal authorities say will arrive.
Martín Hueramo worked for the municipality until February 2009, when two of his co-workers were murdered and he received death threats. He was granted political asylum in the United States and has been living there since.
Hueramo fled fearing for his family and himself, without major considerations, but now he reckons that the intention of organized crime in threatening the population of Guadalupe was to empty the town of most of its inhabitants in order to keep the profits the bridge would bring for themselves.
A lawyer from Guadalupe, also now living in the U.S, concurs. Carlos Spector represents 400 people from 150 Guadalupe families, all political refugees like Hueramo, and like him, all uncertain of the future of the real estate they left behind.
Source: El Universal (sp)