Working as a contractor for a company that has a contract manufacturing plant in Juarez, I got the first hand story from a friend who is in Nashville this week.
On his last trip to the plant, coming back to El Paso, he saw a decapitated body hanging from a bridge on the main route. Some from his company had already refused to travel there and upon his return and telling what he saw, a policy was implemented banning all travel to Juarez.
American manufacturing has lost thousands of jobs to the cheap labor available in Mexico. NAFTA and greed at work. Working with Mexican manufacturers often needs a hands on approach to stay on top of the quality problems and differences in work ethic.
Having been to Juarez a few times in the past, I understand the poverty and the willingness of the people there to work for a penance. Now the drug wars there have virtually destroyed any semblance of a culture that was once there.
My contacts say that the manufacturing done in Juarez could be accomplished in Texas without a loss of profit. The problems out weigh any perceived benefits.
Perhaps sending our jobs to Mexico wasn't such a good idea after all.
Mexico's drug violence expected to intensify in '09
WASHINGTON – Drug-related violence in Mexico, already at unprecedented levels, is expected to escalate further this year, with targets likely to include top Mexican politicians and law enforcement agents and possibly even U.S. officials, according to diplomats and intelligence experts on both sides of the border.
The warning underscores the difficult choices confronting President Felipe Calderón as he takes on drug cartels while weighing the implications of growing casualties in a year of midterm elections and a slowing economy.
It also reflects rising concern among U.S. officials and analysts about the deteriorating security situation, corruption among Mexico's top crime fighters, and the vulnerability of the military to possible corruption in battling cartel gangs.
As the war against cartels escalates in 2009, so will the threats, particularly against U.S. officials and other Americans, officials, analysts and diplomats, including U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza, said in recent interviews.
"Calderón must, and will, keep the pressure on the cartels, but look, let's not be naïve – there will be more violence, more blood, and, yes, things will get worse before they get better. That's the nature of the battle," Garza said. "The more pressure the cartels feel, the more they'll lash out like cornered animals.
"Our folks know exactly how high the stakes are," Garza said. He advised Americans traveling to Mexico to check State Department travel alerts at www.state.gov.
A U.S. intelligence official based along the Texas border warned that U.S. officials, American businessmen and journalists will "become targets, if they're not already."
"All bets are off," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The more pressure you apply on the cartels, the bolder these thugs become."
The official, citing information from informants and other intelligence, said attacks against Americans may include car bombs placed outside consulate offices and embassies or attacks on "specific individuals."
The threats, the intelligence official said, are a result of "growing frustration" among cartel leaders and the internal dynamics of cartel organizations. He described the drug gangs as "transnational, with deep financial, cultural and social ties to Mexican and U.S. cities, whether Ciudad Juárez; Culiacán, Sinaloa; as well as El Paso, Houston or Dallas."
"The cartels are playing a game of chicken," said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, head of Washington-based Peschard-Sverdrup & Associates, a political consulting group. "They're testing the resolve of the Mexican government, society in general, and the U.S. government as well by targeting Americans."
Already, the violence is crippling regions and cities, some of them on the border with Texas. Some top U.S. officials and analysts describe these cities, including Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, as "failed cities," in which cartels, not city or police officials, have control.
Ciudad Juárez, whose mayor and other elected officials have moved to El Paso in recent months and commute to Juárez, ended the year with more than 1,600 drug-related killings. Nationwide, more than 5,700 – criminals, soldiers, police, journalists and bystanders – were killed. That's more than twice the estimated 2,300 slain in 2007.
Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor and expert on terrorism, characterized the ongoing violence in Mexico as "narcoterrorism, given the tactics used," including beheadings and efforts to silence and intimidate society through threats, gruesome videos and text messages.
"I think the situation in Mexico is very, very dangerous for everyone, including the United States," he said. "The situation hasn't yet registered in the mindset of Americans, but it will, especially when Americans become the target. All you need are two, three Americans killed and the issue will suddenly become important."
************************************************There are more secrets hidden in the deserted city of Ciudad Juarez, than there are sand crystals in the desert. This poverty-stricken city tells tales that will never be forgotten regarding the decade-long mystery of the women massacres, which began in the early '90s and continued through 2003. To this day, more than 400 murders of young women have yet to be investigated.
Before we get into the victims' stories, let me paint the big picture. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico resides just across the border from El Paso, Texas in the state of Chihuahua, with a population of about 1.4 million people. After the North American Free Trade Agreement passed in 1993, companies like General Electric, Alcoa and Dupont established factories (maquiladoras) in Juarez employing, by majority, women for cheap labor.
Low working class females usually reside in the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez where they live in shanty homes with no running water, electricity or telephones. They begin their journey to work by walking through dirt roads in order to catch the buses provided by the big Fortune 500 factories. Working for mere cents an hour, according to the article "Murder in Juarez: Gender, Sexual Violence and the Assembly Line," the maquiladoras provide higher wages than in any other factories around Mexico City and it has become the hot spot for women workers.
According to an article from Business Network, writer Jessica Livingston's investigation regarding maquiladoras connected with the deaths to the different women in Juarez, in many instances employers justify the reason for hiring women simply "because of their manual dexterity and their ability to tolerate tedious and repetitive work." I am a woman and hate tedious and repetitive work. Not a very good argument, Fortune 500s.
Livingston's investigation further explains that in some factories supervisors host "Senorita Maquiladora" beauty contests, and the dance clubs host "Most Daring Bra" and "Wet String" bikini contests. And apparently the buses provided by the company drops the employees at the night clubs.
How can big companies like General Electric promote this type of behavior? Livingston further explains that the lack of justice in Ciudad Juarez leads to constant cases of unresolved sexual assault and murder.
During a 10-year period, bodies of victims were found in the middle of the desert, raped and mutilated. More than 400 bodies of young women were found in the same circumstances, and by majority, were employed at a factory in Juarez. The young women had similar characteristics: tan skin, dark, long hair, slim bodies and of the young ages 12 to 19.
To this day the mothers have been fighting corruption, and investigators link the deaths with the police. Ciudad Juarez has become a battle zone between drug cartels and the police. According to different newspaper articles in the area, "anyone can get away with murder."
Juarez, that corner of the world just south of our border, feeds on the blood of young women. The cry for help from the different mothers continues to echo throughout the dark corners of the desert.
The mothers have organized activist groups to fight off corrupt police in Juarez and get the investigations rolling, but help has not answered. They looked to the North, but the U.S. government was too busy finding weapons of mass destruction and disregarded the matter.
After all, why should we worry? The sad reality of students, myself included, is to view Mexico as only a vacation spot where we can party endlessly with cheap alcohol.
Drug-related slaying in Juarez top 1,600 mark as 2008 ends
A couple of fatal stabbings and a homicide arrest were among the incidents that occurred as a bloody 2008 came to a close in Juárez.
A Chihuahua state police spokesman said official statistics for the number of homicides were still being compiled. But an unofficial tally shows that the Juárez area ended the year with a record high with more than 1,600 killings, most of them attributed to turf wars among drug cartels. more