|The "X" monument in Juarez, Mexico (City of Juarez)|
[DZ editors: The following exclusive Frontera Norte/Sur report contains material largely ignored by other U.S. media in the region. Juarez is a major Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas, and the home of numerous U.S. and other foreign-owned assembly plants that employ thousands of Juarez residents. In the past, references to the drug trade during the Mexican election season were considered taboo, despite the fact that Juarez has been and continues to be an epicenter for drug smuggling. Frontera NorteSur is to be congratulated for assembling this informative special report that we reprinted with permission.]
Frontera NorteSur Special Report
JUAREZ, MEXICO -- With less than three months remaining before voters go to the polls in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, the political thermometer is red hot.
What’s more, the political scene is framed by internal splits in the major political parties and candidates hopping from one party to another in various thrusts for political power.
The Juarez mayor’s race was jolted this month when unknown perpetrators displayed on city streets two so-called narco-banners addressed to independent candidate Armando Cabada, a longtime newscaster for his family’s Channel 44 TV station who retired from the news desk to seek a career in politics.
Signed by “Associates of Farfan,” the message read: “Cabada, you and your wife ‘La China’ robbed the cartel. Now we are coming for ours.” In a subsequent press conference, Cabada acknowledged that his wife, Alejandara Carrillo, had once been married to an individual named Farfan but left the man after six months when she discovered that his transportation job entailed moving more than just legal commodities.
The local press identified the wayward ex-husband as 52-year-old Joel Farfan Carreno, a drug trafficker associated with the Juarez Drug Cartel who was arrested in Spain in 2005 and extradited to the United States, where he reportedly is serving a 25-year prison term.
Calling the banners “an act of cowardice,” the former newsman disassociated himself from any criminal group, adding that he would later reveal who was behind the apparent threat. “I’m not going to be intimidated,” Cabada vowed. “I have nothing to hide, and I don’t owe anything to the narco.”
On the ground in Juarez, popular speculation stirred over the intellectual authorship of the message, including the possibility that one of Cabada’s political rivals was behind it.
Hailing from a family historically associated with the ruling PRI party, Cabada is among seven candidates of as March 21-four men and three women- vying for the Juarez mayor’s job.
The other mayoral candidates and their respective parties include Hector “Teto” Murguia (PRI), a former mayor who is making his third bid for office; women’s activist Vicky Caraveo (PAN); Juan Carlos Loera de la Rosa (Morena); Lluvia Luna Nevarez (PRD), who is taking up a third political banner after a stint with the PAN and a job in one of Priista Murguia’s administrations; Edna Lorena Fuerte (independent); and Alejandro Ramirez (independent).
At March’s press conference, Cabada contended that a “dirty war” of defamation had been launched against him, illustrated by the filing of multiple and unsuccessful legal challenges to his candidacy by the two independents in the race and the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party).
Candidates trade allegations
Yet the Juarez mayoral election is just one contest where the specter of the narco has reared its multi-sided head. Getting even more national attention is the escalating war of words between the PAN (National Action Party) and its gubernatorial candidate, Javier Corral, and partisans of Chihuahua PRI Governor Cesar Duarte.
At a rally in Chihuahua City celebrating his candidacy, Corral promised to see Duarte prosecuted for alleged acts of corruption. “We are going to do justice in Chihuahua, and the shadows of the past will be left behind,” Corral told supporters.
Additionally, Corral wrote federal Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong (a member of the PRI), requesting that the federal government investigate the PRI’s registration of two primary candidates allegedly linked to drug cartels, including the mother-in-law of a man said to be a cartel leader and a friend of Gov. Duarte.
Corral also claimed that the PAN was unable to register candidates in two municipalities that it governs, Bachiniva and Chinipas, because of threats from organized crime.
According to Vazquez, Duarte’s niece, Estela Ganem Duarte, was married to a Juarez police chief during the first administration of "Teto" Murguia, Saolo Reyes Gamboa, who was arrested in the U.S. for attempting to smuggle a ton of marijuana in January of 2008.
Duarte’s spokesman, Chihuahua state communications chief Sergio Belmonte Almeida, shot back with an open letter against Vazquez which was published in the March 13 edition of the Mexican daily newspaper Norte de Ciudad Juarez.
Belmonte lashed out at the PAN leader for “ungentlemanly and cowardly” statements coming from political desperation. “I invite you to dispense with the verbal diarrhea that characterizes it and back up your statements with proof,” Belmonte declared. “I will continue publicly checking you for being pernicious and a liar.”
Scandalously aired in the mass media, Chihuahua’s current political discourse recalls the unprecedented battle of newspaper display ads that broke out in Acapulco (Mexico’s most violent city) earlier this year among different political parties and elected officials over the controversy involving the city’s police chief, who had not passed all the necessary employment filters designed to supposedly safeguard against criminal infiltration.
Corral has confirmed that one of his brothers was once involved in a drug trafficking scheme, having been arrested 14 years ago for attempting to cross marijuana into El Paso, Texas.
At this juncture it’s not clear whether the family skeletons being dragged out of Chihuahua’s deep and dark closet will lead to more solid evidence of corruption and criminal complicity.
Ex-Juarez mayor calls for vetting candidates
According to the gubernatorial hopeful from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s left nationalist Morena Party, criminal elements have already seriously disrupted the first phase of the election campaigns.
“The situation is completely out of order,” Munoz said last week, pledging to legally contest the legitimacy of the elections in the Sierra Tarahumara if secure conditions were not restored for campaigning.
In 2016, violence has continuously flared in the Chihuahua mountains between crime groups linked to the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels and possibly other cartels that are disputing control of a prime opium growing zone of strategic importance for the heroin export trade to the United States.
In other regions of Chihuahua, an independent aspirant for a city office in Delicias, an agricultural and industrial town south of the state capital of Chihuahua City, announced that he had dropped his bid after receiving telephoned threats and experiencing suspecting tailings by strange men.
Candidates receive threats
On Feb. 22, Alfredo Lozoya, a mining industry businessman seeking the Parral mayor’s post as an independent, filed complaints with the Mexican National Electoral Institute and Chihuahua State Electoral Institute alleging that he had received telephoned threats while his sympathizers were threatened with losing their jobs if they supported the independent political bid.
In another development with implications for the June state and local elections, the non-governmental organization Mexicans in Exile, declared last week that it had discovered 80 exiled or disappeared people from three Chihuahua municipalities on a list of PRI members, all enrolled on the date of Jan. 1, 2014, and without the consent of the individuals in question.
The list includes a disappeared woman related by marriage to the Reyes Salazar family, which suffered multiple assassinations before fleeing the Valle de Juarez (Juarez Valley) five years ago, as well as Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza and Rocio Alvarado Reyes, two women who disappeared in 2009 and whose case is now in the docket of the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In the lead-up to the elections, episodes of narco-tainted violence continue to unsettle Chihuahua.
In Juarez a man was shot to death while driving his truck on a public street, while the blanketed body of an unidentified woman was found early March 19 in an old building just south of the city's downtown.
On March 12, the body of Emiliano Herrera Hernandez, reputed owner of a dozen nightclubs, was found dumped near the federal penitentiary on the outskirts of Juarez. More than 20 people have been reported murdered in the border city so far during the month of March.
Meanwhile, the Chihuahua state prosecutor’s office announced the detention of 11 young men who were allegedly connected to the Sinaloa cartel and linked to numerous homicides. Ranging from 16 to 29 years of age, the suspects were picked up in El Millon, a small community in the Juarez Valley across from Faben, Texas. Two of the suspects were identified as originally being from neighboring El Paso.
According to Chihuahua state authorities, the men were arrested while in possession of several assault rifles, two pistols, ammunition, tactical gear and marijuana. A 1996 Dodge truck with New Mexico license plates was among the two vehicles confiscated by police during the operation that netted the 11 suspects.
Sources: La Jornada, March 20 and 21, 2016. Articles by Miroslava Breach and editorial staff. Nortedigital.mx, March 19, 20 and 21, 2016. Articles by Miguel Vargas and editorial staff. Frontenet.com, March 18, 2018. Article by Gustavo Ramos. Arrobajuarez.com, March 10, 18 and 20, 2016. Norte, March 13, 2016. Diario.mx., March 13, 2016. Article by Gabriela Minjares. Proceso/Apro, March 9, 10, 14, 15, and 20, 2016. Articles by Patricia Mayorga. Lapolaka.com, March 9, 10, 16, 18, and 20, 2016.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico