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Juarez mayor: Drug violence rooted in Mexico's social ills

By Nick Valencia, CNN
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, funerals for victims of drug cartel violence have become far too common.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, funerals for victims of drug cartel violence have become far too common.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jose Reyes Ferriz, mayor of Juarez, says police action can only go so far
  • President Calderon expected to visit Juarez Thursday for major announcement
  • Drug violence has killed close to 1,000 people in Mexico in 2010
  • Reyes, experts say children from broken homes make easy recruits for drug cartels
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(CNN) -- Jose Reyes Ferriz, the mayor of violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, said the drug cartel war gripping his city is rooted in social decomposition such as broken homes.

The president of Mexico is expected to make a major announcement on social intervention in response to the drug violence, which in 2010 has killed close to 1,000 people throughout the country, says Reyes.

President Felipe Calderon is expected to be in the city on the U.S. border across from El Paso, Texas, on Thursday.

"We have been working during the last couple of years on cleaning up and reinforcing our police department," Reyes said in a phone interview with CNN this week. "Having done that, it is time to go to the root of the problem. The root of the problem is a social problem that we did not anticipate. We need to work on that."

Also this week, in what is seen widely as a symbolic gesture in response to last week's house party massacre that killed 15, the Chihuahua state government on Monday temporarily moved its main offices to Juarez, Reyes confirmed.

"What will happen is the governor, state Supreme Court, as well as Congress will all operate out of Juarez," according to Reyes. "Them being here will expedite a lot of things that need to be done in Juarez."

He joins experts in saying it is a social decomposition of a new generation of cartel members that is causing such brutal killings. Broken homes, sometimes caused by drug abuse, leave children and teens vulnerable to a gang's plea for membership.

The young recruits are more ruthless than ever.

In one local report, the face of a drug cartel hit victim was found cut from the victim's head and stitched onto a soccer ball. In other reports, organized criminals have shot and killed children, targeted innocent students, assassinated doctors and lawyers and even extorted priests.

On January 31, 15 people -- most of them teenage students who had nothing to do with the cartels -- were massacred at a house party in southern Juarez. Witnesses described some of the hit men who carried out the killings as being about the same age as the victims.

A federal security spokesman told CNN last week that 10 drug traffickers -- part of a cell that worked for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel -- were arrested in the Valley of Juarez. One of the suspects told investigators children have been recruited as lookouts and are being paid between $40 to $80 a week to work for the cartel.

There is hope for progress. "We were down to five killings a day before Sunday's [house party] massacre," Reyes said. "The massive presence of police in the city discourages that sort of access."

Other measures have been proposed. One Mexican lawmaker wants to censor social media networks such as Twitter, suggesting cartels use the service to locate targets.

Reyes knows a life without cartels in Mexico is close to impossible.

"It's unrealistic to think that cartels will be stamped out entirely," the mayor said. "When you take a look at what happened with Florida. Most of the coke (cocaine) came through the Caribbean, through Florida. And ... when the [U.S.] federal government closed down that route, most of the coke started coming from Mexico. That's when the violence started in the country."

 
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