Mexican church officials call for change of strategy in Ciudad Juarez

MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Archdiocese of Mexico City has called on the federal government to change its strategy in the ongoing crackdown on organized crime as the death toll nationwide accelerates and increasing numbers of innocent bystanders fall victim to the violence.

The admonishment, published Feb. 7 in the archdiocese’s publication, Desde la Fe, came in response to the massacre of at least 15 individuals — mostly teenagers — at a party Jan. 31 in Ciudad Juarez, where a turf war between rival cartels has turned the city that neighbors El Paso, Texas, into one of the world’s most dangerous urban areas.

"Violence in Mexico has reached … dramatic and disturbing limits, particularly in Ciudad Juarez," the editorial read.

"The decomposition of the social fabric doesn’t just respond to government decisions, nor does its solution simply lie in anti-crime strategies. Global crime prevention programs are urgently needed that range from morals to religion to civics."

Father Hesiquio Trevizo, spokesman for the Diocese of Ciudad Juarez, echoed those remarks, telling Catholic News Service a change of strategy is necessary due to the increasing allegations of human rights abuses against the soldiers and police officers patrolling the streets.

"The number of deaths hasn’t decreased, but instead has increased," Father Trevizo told CNS in a telephone interview.

The call for a change of strategy reflects rising public dissatisfaction with the government’s three-year-old crackdown on narcotics-trafficking cartels, the rising levels of violence and brutality and the rising number of allegations of human rights abuses and corruption against the military — which has been rated in public opinion surveys as one of the nation’s most respected institutions.

It also reflects shortcomings in the ongoing crackdown in Ciudad Juarez and the northern state of Chihuahua, where a joint initiative of the federal, state and municipal governments to fight the cartels has failed to stem the violence.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon acknowledged after the massacre that the crackdown in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua has failed to produce satisfactory results and promised to overhaul the federal government’s approach.

Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont personally apologized to the families Feb. 8 and said none of the victims were mixed up in gang or cartel activities.

Father Trevizo, who was among the religious, business and civic leaders who met with Gomez-Mont in Ciudad Juarez, said partisan politics and power struggles among the various levels of government have hampered the ongoing crackdown.

"One of our most urgent calls (during the meeting) was for better coordination between the various levels of government," he said.

"Paradoxically, organized crime is very organized. It has enormous organizational abilities and similar efficiencies. Our governments (meanwhile) continue fighting with each other. … It’s a regrettable contradiction."

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