As cartels renew battle, violence in border city of Ciudad Juarez spikes again

After a few years of relative peace, the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez could be headed for the sort of violence that earned it the title of the world’s most violent city less than a decade ago.

Speaking to the Mexican newspaper El Universal, a drug cartel enforcer identified only as Jorge said that the violence actually has never disappeared from the city – the killers only hid their victims better, he said. And, he added, as divisions continue to fracture the once-omnipotent Sinaloa Cartel, the levels of violent crime will continue to rise.

"It is a lie that Juárez changed," Jorge told the newspaper. "Absolutely nothing has changed, just the order was that we be more discreet, that we don't shoot at people in the street, [because of that] there's a s---load of clandestine cemeteries ... Now one can burn them, bury them or throw them in the sewers."

Jorge – who claimed to head up recruiting for the Juárez Cartel’s enforcement wing, La Línea – said that the root of the conflict is about what drugs move through the border city and who is in control of the transshipments.

Ciudad Juárez sits directly across the border from El Paso, Texas, and is one of the main launching points for illegal drugs entering the U.S.

"The war is because [the Sinaloa Cartel] wants [to sell] the crystal, and we aren't going to leave. There are orders to do whatever in order to not permit any of that," Jorge said.

The hitman said the Juárez Cartel prefers to traffic heroin, because methamphetamine users are more likely to die.

"The people that use the crystal only last three years, and they die" he told El Universal. "What they spend on crystal, they can use on heroin [instead]."

Local officials seem to agree the spike in violence is related to the rise in popularity in the southwest United States of meth.

"The traffic and sale of [crystal meth] is what provokes the executions," Chihuahua state attorney general Jorge González Nicolás told reporters recently. "[The killings] are between people who distribute this drug ... This clash is not yet over."

The new spike in violence has put 2016 on track to be Ciudad Juárez’s deadliest year since 2012. In the month of October alone, there were 90 homicides in the city and 183 in its state, Chihuahua, according to El Proceso newspaper.

The surge in killings has gotten so bad that Mexico's army – which was sent into the city in 2008 and was at least partly responsible for the spike in violence there according to human rights groups – was once gain called into the city in August.

The news that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán might be extradited to the United States soon has weakened the crime group and disrupted its control in Juárez. Historically, when a dominant group’s power is contested, violence tends to increase, Gustavo Fondevila, a security expert, told InSight Crime.

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