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Over a span of four years, the number of drug-related killings in Mexico was over 16 times worse than in the United States, according to new information in the El Paso Times.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports show from 2007 to 2010, 2,049 drug-related murders occurred in the United States; compared to Mexico’s 34,551 for the same four years, according to the Mexican government’s database of drug war murders.
The radical divergence in drug-related murders between the two nations becomes increasingly evident after Mexican President Felipe Calderón declares the war on drugs in that country in 2006. Over 2,800 drug-related murders were reported in Mexico in 2007, which jumps to 15,273 in 2010.
The explanations for the divergence take in many factors.
“Drug cartels are reluctant to operate in the United States as they do in Mexico because of our judicial system,” said Eileen López, a sheriff’s deputy for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. “Cartel members know (that) here in the United States if they’re caught doing any illegal activity or drug activity, they’re going to face the consequences. They will be prosecuted.”
Dr. Tony Payan, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas-El Paso and faculty member at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, said a major reason Ciudad Juarez’s violence is so high, compared to El Paso, TX, is not only because the city serves as a drug smuggling corridor to the United States, but economic factors are also to blame.
“It spiked up in the early to mid-2000s, when the city began to experience a serious economic slowdown, higher unemployment rates, continued migration with a low capacity to absorb the new migrants into the urban and market settings, and disputes among rival groups within the city began to pick up,” said Payan.
The comparison in drug-murders in the neighboring countries is nowhere more dramatic than in the sister cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.
The cities, which share a border and have a combined population of over two million, are a tale of two very different realities. Sixteen murders occurred in El Paso in 2011, while over 2,000 murders were reported in Ciudad Juárez; 80 percent of which were related to drug violence.
For several years, research publisher CQ Press has ranked El Paso one of the safest large cities in the United States.
El Paso Mayor John Cook believes that the fact that El Paso residents aren’t afraid to report crime to police is one reason why El Paso has relatively remained violence free.
“I think on this side of the border, we trust our police officers,” Cook said.
The mayor, who is chairman of the U.S./Mexico Border Mayors Association, said one way to address violence is through community and economic development and that the lack of job and economic opportunities in Ciudad Juárez feeds the violence of the drug cartels.
“They had no hope,” said Cook. They turned to illegal activity to support themselves. “I can say the same thing would happen in the United States if you didn’t have social safety nets,” which include food stamps and welfare.
Payan said the violence in Ciudad Juarez has been dropping with more law enforcement patrolling and with much of one drug gang leaving the area. In 2010, there were 3,200 murders, and 2,100 in 2011, according to Payan.
“I think much of the crime scene in Ciudad Juárez is resolving itself in part because the Juárez Cartel is mostly gone, the State of Chihuahua’s police has begun to take people off the streets, and many entrepreneurial would-be criminals simply stood down under the possibility of getting caught,” said Payan.
Over 116,000 homes, representing up to 400,000 people, were abandoned in Ciudad Juarez due to the war on drugs by mid-2010, according to the city’s planning commission, El Instituto Municipal de Investigación y Planeación.