Friday, July 16, 2010

Tit for Tat, and a Turn for the Worse?: Car Bomb Kills and Maims in Ciudad Juarez

Could the Mexican drug war worsen? (Note the following graphic video from Ciudad Juarez TV outlet Canal 5.)





It seems so. On Thursday 15 July the Mexican drug trafficking organization (DTO) La Linea detonated a car bomb in Ciudad Juarez. La Linea are a rival organization to the Sinaloa "Cartel."


Mexican authorities believe the group used the car bomb--which killed four, three at the scene and one in hospital--as retaliation for the arrest of La Linea's Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, also known as "35".

It's the first bomb to have detonated in Ciudad Juarez in living memory. And it was also a trap for police and ambulance workers and one reporter -- all of whom had arrived to assist or document the body of a dead/or injured man dressed as a police officer in a vehicle. While they worked on the man's body, the bomb in the vehicle went off. The cameraman was injured in the blast.

Scenes of the aftermath appear in the following video, which comes by way of UK's ITN.




Making the police a target of narcoviolence should come as no surprise. Since President Calderon's strategy of using the Army to target the drug trafficking organizations has failed both in Juarez and across the country, the Mexican State has turned to using the Federal Police, directed by the Attorney General Arturo Chavez Chavez. This puts another institutional actor into an already heady mix to combat drug trafficking organizations. For what it's worth, Attorney General Chavez quickly discounted that the car bomb was a new tactic in the arsenal of narcoterrorism.


Also in the past week, Mexico's Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont resigned. This position takes responsibility for implementing President Calderon's national security strategy. No reasons were given for the resignation, but some analysts, including Andrew Selee of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, believe he walked from his job for political reasons, not those of national security.

Yet news of the resignation came as Mexico's Attorney General released statistics demonstrating that the number of dead in the Mexican drug war had almost reached 25,000 people since 2006.

And now of course there's a new grim tactic of killing, the car bomb, which can be added to the repertoire of beheadings, torture, mass graves, and disappearances. The car bomb may yet prove to be a turning point, but it's an unwelcome addition to a macabre moment in Mexico's contemporary history.