El Paso/Cd. Juarez

Friday, August 13, 2010 6:35 AM

El Paso  is a city in and the county seat of El Paso County, Texas, United States, and lies in West Texas. According to the United States Census Bureau's 2008 population estimates, the city had a population of 665,055.[4] It is the sixth-largest city in Texas and the 22nd-largest city in the United States.[3] Its metropolitan area covers all of El Paso County. In 2009, the El Paso metropolitan area had a population of 751,296.[7]

El Paso stands on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. The image to the right shows Downtown El Paso and Juárez, with the Juárez Mountains in the background. The two cities form a combined international metropolitan area, sometimes called Juarez-El Paso, with Juárez being the significantly larger of the two. Together they have a combined population of 2 million, with Juárez accounting for 2/3 of the population.

El Paso is home to the University of Texas at El Paso (founded in 1914 as The Texas State School of Mines and Metallurgy, and later, Texas Western College; its present name dates from 1967) and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso. Fort Bliss, one of the largest military complexes of the United States Army, lies to the east and northeast of the city, with training areas extending north into New Mexico, up to the White Sands Missile Range and neighboring Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo. The Franklin Mountains extend into El Paso from the north and nearly divide the city into two sections, the western half forming the beginnings of the Mesilla Valley and with the eastern slopes connecting in the central business district at the south end of the mountain range.

Ciudad Juárez, also known as Juárez and formerly known as El Paso del Norte, is a city and seat of the municipality of Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Juárez has an estimated population of 1.5 million people.[1] The city lies on the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte), across from El Paso, Texas. El Paso and Ciudad Juárez comprise one of the largest bi-national metropolitan areas in the world with a combined population of 2.4 million people. In fact, Ciudad Juárez is one of the fastest growing cities in the world in spite of the fact that it is “the most violent zone in the world outside of declared war zones.”[2] For instance, a few years ago the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas published that in Ciudad Juárez “the average annual growth over the 10-year period 1990-2000 was 5.3 percent. Juárez experienced much higher population growth than the state of Chihuahua and than Mexico as a whole.”[3]

There are four international ports of entry connecting Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas, including the Bridge of the Americas, Ysleta International Bridge, Paso Del Norte Bridge, and Stanton Street Bridge, which combined were responsible for 22,958,472 crossings in 2008 [4]. This makes Ciudad Juarez a major point of entry and transportation for all of central northern Mexico. The city has a growing industrial center which is made up in large part by the more than 300 maquiladoras (assembly plants) located in and around the city. According to a 2007 The New York Times article, Ciudad Juárez “is now absorbing more new industrial real estate space than any other North American city.”[1] In 2008, FDi Magazine designated Ciudad Juárez “The City of the Future”.[5] However, the city is also the site of widespread poverty and violence, including an infamous series of unsolved murders of female factory workers. The violence generated by the narco-insurgency translated into some 6,000 killings in 2008. More than 1,600 of them occurred in Juárez, three times more than the most murderous city in the United States.[6] In response, business groups in Juárez have called for UN intervention.[7]


The average annual growth in population over a 10-year period [1990–2000] was 5.3%.[10] According to the 2005 population census, the city had 1,301,452 inhabitants, while the municipality had 1,313,338 inhabitants. According to the 2009 census Ciudad Juárez is now larger than Tijuana, BC.[11] During the last decades the city has received migrants from Mexico’s interior, some figures state that 32% of the city’s population originate outside the state of Chihuahua, mainly from the states of Durango (9.9%), Coahuila (6.3%), Veracruz (3.7%) and Zacatecas (3.5%), as well as from Mexico City (1.7%).[10] Though most new comers are Mexican, some also are immigrants from Central American countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.[citation needed]

However, a March 2009 Wall Street Journal article noted there has been a mass exodus of people who could afford to leave the city. The article quoted a city planning department estimate of over 116,000 abandoned homes, which could roughly be the equivalent of 400,000 people who have left the city due to the violence. [12]

Crime and Safety

Criminal activity in the domestic metropolitan area of Juárez has increased dramatically since the rise of maquiladoras and especially following the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, two factors which attracted both international commerce and many younger women and their families to Juárez in search of better economic opportunities. Violence towards women in the municipality has increased dramatically in the past twenty years;[15] since the early nineties there have been approximately 600 femicides[16] and at least 3000 missing women.[15] Escalating turf wars between the rival Juárez and Sinaloa Cartels have led to increasingly brutal violence in the city since the mid-2000s.

The Juárez police department had a force of approximately 800 officers in September 2008, following the removal of a third of its human resources for various reasons. Recruitment goals set by the department called for the force to more than double.[17] Juárez Citizens Command threatened to take action to attempt to put a stop to all the perpetrators of violence while government officials expressed concern that such vigilantism would contribute to further instability and violence.[18] In response to the increasing violence in the city the military and Federal Police‘s presence had been increased almost twofold. As of March 2009 at least 4500 soldiers and federal police were in the city attempting to curtail mostly drug cartel related violence.[19] By August 2009 there were more than 7500 federal troops augmented by an expanded and highly restaffed municipal force.[20] In the year leading up to August 2009 Juárez’s murder rate was the highest reported in the world, exceeding the holders of the second and third highest rates, Caracas and New Orleans respectively, by more than 25%. The rate of 130 murders per 100,000 inhabitants is the same as Caracas’ 2008 statistic for same period.[21] Journalist Charles Bowden, in an August 2008 GQ article, wrote that multiple factors, including drug violence, government corruption and poverty have led to a dispirited and disorderly atmosphere that now permeates the city.[8][22]

Drug cartel violence

The body count in Mexico stood at 5,400 slayings in 2008, more than double the 2,477 reported in 2007, officials said, with over 1400 in Ciudad Juárez alone.[23][24] The population of Ciudad Juárez had to change their daily routine and many try to stay home in the evening hours. Public life is almost paralyzed out of fear of being kidnapped or hit by a stray bullet. On 20 February 2009, the U.S. State Department announced in an updated travel alert that “Mexican authorities report that more than 1,800 people have been killed in the city since January 2008.” [25] On 12 March 2009, police found “at least seven” partially buried bodies in the outskirts of the city, close to the US-Mexican border. Five severed heads were discovered in ice boxes, along with notes to rivals in the drug-wars. Beheadings, attacks on the police and shootings are common in some regions.[26] In September 2009, 18 patients at a drug rehabilitation clinic called El Aliviane were massacred in a turf battle.[27] Patients were lined up in the corridor and gunned down in the early evening. On September 3, 2009 the Associated Press reported that the day before gunmen broke down the door of the El Aliviane drug rehabilitation center and lined their victims up to a wall shooting 17 dead. The authorities had no immediate suspects or information on the victims. Plagued by corruption and the assassination of many of its officers, the government is struggling to maintain Ciudad Juárez’s police force. Other police have quit the force out of fear of being targeted.[28] In late 2008 one murder victim was found near a school hanging from a fence with a pig’s mask on his face and another one was found beheaded hanging from a bridge in one of the busier streets of the city.[29]

Female sexual homicides

Over the past 10 years Juárez has seen over 400 women fall victims to sexual homicides, their bodies often dumped in ditches or vacant lots. In addition, grassroots organizations in the region report that 40 remain missing. Despite pressure to catch the killers and a roundup of some suspects, few believe the true culprits have been found. A 2007 book called The Daughters of Juárez, by Teresa Rodriguez,[30] implicates high-level police and prominent Juárez citizens in the crimes. This topic is also discussed in the 2006 book “The Harvest of Women” by journalist Diana Washington Valdez,[31] and in the novel 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, in which Ciudad Juárez is fictionalized as “Santa Teresa”, a border city in Sonora.

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