JUAREZ, Mexico — In light of a spike in organized criminal activity, the Mexican government is sending up to 2,500 more National Guard troops to the state of Chihuahua.
The National Guard troops in Juarez so far has been perfuming border patrol duties along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande; fresh troops are coming to help police stem a new tide of violence in the state, Juarez district attorney Jorge Nava said.
“This new National Guard contingent of 2,000 to 2,500 soldiers will participate in a public safety strategy to reduce violence and murder in cities like Ciudad Juarez,” said Nava. “We expect them here possibly next month and they will be part of joint local, state and federal preventive patrols.”
Homicides have surged in Juarez in the past few months, and authorities attribute the violence to renewed infighting among drug cartels and small-time drug dealers fighting for control of neighborhoods.
So far in 2019, the city and its rural suburbs have recorded 739 homicides, said Alejandro Rubalcava, spokesman for the Chihuahua State Police. April and May were particularly bloody, with 151 and 147, respectively, while 119 murders have occurred so far in June.
The rural suburb of Guadalupe, south of Tornillo, Texas, experienced gruesome street violence earlier this month in which people have been killed and body parts have been left inside coolers. Nava said authorities have retaken control of the town, where the drug gangs Mexicles and Gente Nueva are at war.
But, as in the bloody years of 2008-2010, the violence is again spilling beyond criminals killing each other off. A stray bullet last week killed a 6-year-old girl coming out of a kindergarten. It was the sixth homicide this year to take place in the vicinity of a public school.
“We will be identifying those schools located in high-crime areas so we can have an effective preventive police presence,” Nava said.
The soldiers will join mixed federal and local police patrols in selected areas of Juarez, he said.
This will be the first time since Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador deployed the National Guard on June 18 that the soldiers will be assisting police departments. Up to now, the Guard has primarily been tasked with stemming migration along the Mexico-Guatemala border and on the Rio Grande between Juarez and El Paso.
Human rights activists are already expressing concerns regarding soldiers caught by Juarez television camera crews detaining Central American migrants trying to cross the river into the United States.
The soldiers cannot arrest civilians, but they can assist federal police in making arrests, said Mario Dena, head of Chihuahua state government in Juarez.