El Paso – Once known as the murder capital of the world, Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez has recently seen a 40 percent decline in murders.
Between January and September of this year, 681 murders were reported in Ciudad Juárez. While not a low number by anyone’s count, the murder rate is still down from 1,571 during the same time in 2011, according to statistics compiled by Molly Molloy, a researcher at New Mexico State University.
The suspected reason for this dip in violence is the apparent end in the war between the Sinaloa and Juárez, with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel taking control of the Mexican border city, according to Dr. Kathleen Staudt, professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso.
“We once had competition between the Juarez and the Sinaloa cartel and some people think the Juarez cartel has now been suppressed,” Staudt said.
One of the main things that fueled the violence beginning from before 2008, but exploding in 2008, is the hopelessness of all these young people who see no opportunities for themselves.
The installment of a new police chief may be a reason for the slowdown in homicides in the border city, Staudt said.
Julián Leyzaola took over in 2011 after working as police chief in Tijuana. His tough reputation, military background and alleged penchant for torturing suspects may be keeping Juárez’s criminal underground relatively quiet, Staudt added.
“People may be laying low because of him,” she said.
Poverty and lack of opportunities in Juárez have driven many young men into the drug trade, creating more drug enforcers and violence.
“One of the main things that fueled the violence beginning from before 2008, but exploding in 2008, is the hopelessness of all these young people who see no opportunities for themselves,” Molloy said.
Molloy warned that while the murder rate may be starting to dwindle, there is still no clear end in sight.
“I think we’re going to see continuous waves of violence to one degree or another,” added Molloy.
When the violence slows down in one region, it often moves to another area of the country. Right now the most dangerous area is northeastern Mexico, Staudt said.
The Zetas cartel is suspected to be on the rise in northeastern Mexico as it moves in on the turf of its former employers, the Gulf Cartel.
Ciudad Juárez’s deadliest year was 2010, when 3,115 murders were reported – an average of eight murders a day, according to the El Diario de Juarez. Last year the number dropped to 2,086.
The decline in violence has allowed citizens to reclaim some of their city and get more people back on the streets.
Nancy Ruiz, an accountant who lives in Ciudad Juárez, said during the height of the violence, she and her husband rarely went out at night.
“People go out more," she said. "You see families in the parks. People are taking back their city.”