A wave of violence in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, this month was directed from inside a state prison in the border city, according to authorities.
There have been 91 homicides in Juárez in November and 50 bomb scares at factories, schools, businesses and government offices. At least 37 vehicles have also been set on fire, killing eight people.
Chihuahua authorities say the violence was ordered by imprisoned members of the Mexicles, a Juárez gang allied with the Sinaloa Cartel that has allegedly controlled the Cereso 3 prison since 2016.
The aim of the violence, authorities say, is to stop an inspection to detect weapons, drugs, cell phones and other prohibited items inside the jail.
State Attorney General César Peniche Espejel said there are two main instigators: imprisoned Mexicles leaders Luis Santiago E.C., also known as El Milo, and Jesús Eduardo S.R., aka El Lalo.
Mexicles members on the outside who follow their orders are rewarded with drugs, he said.
The joint federal and state inspection at the prison began on November 5, triggering an outbreak of violence that claimed the lives of at least 26 people in just four days.
At least 20 vehicles, including transit and factory-owned buses, were set on fire in the same period. In addition to deaths, nine factory workers suffered first and second degree burns in vehicle fires.
The chaos and violence were reminiscent of scenes from 2010, the most violent year in Juárez’s history, and terrorized local residents.
There was a lull in violence for 60 hours from November 11, the newspaper El Universal reported, but attacks resumed on November 14, killing 15 people.
Several bomb threats were made the same day and a bus was set on fire. Six passengers managed to escape unharmed.
A further 21 people were murdered between November 15 and 18, a period that coincided with the annual four-day shopping event called Buen Fin.
Two weeks after the commencement of the prison inspection and the resulting surge in violence, the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office has still not disclosed what it has found inside Cereso 3.
Isabel Sánchez, head of a Juárez citizens’ group that focuses on security and justice issues, urged state authorities to provide an update about what is happening inside the penitentiary as the inspection continues.
She condemned the reaction to the inspection by organized crime, saying that innocent people were victims of the violence and that society had once again become a hostage of crime gangs.
The federal government’s super-delegate in Chihuahua, Juan Carlos Loera de la Rosa, said that state authorities are working with the federal Attorney General’s Office to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He agreed with state authorities that the violence is a reaction to the prison inspection, saying it was designed to sow terror among citizens.
Homicides rose sharply in Juárez in 2018 compared to 2017 and this year is even more violent. There were 1,440 murders last year, while as of Monday there have been 1,347.
The record for homicides was set in 2010 when there were more than 3,600.
According to Chihuahua authorities, 80% of homicides in the border city are linked to turf wars between drug cartels. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has said that the fragmentation of criminal groups has also contributed to increasing violence in Juárez.
Among the internal conflicts is one between the Mexicles and the Artistas Asesinos, both of which are affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel.
Source: El Universal (sp)