Foreign Policy Blogs

After Years of Escalating Violence, Juarez Calms

There were 48 homicides in Cuidad Juarez in July, according to the Washington Post: “33 by gun, seven by beatings, six by strangulation and two by knife.”

Forty of the murders are attributed to drug violence. Bad as that sounds, it represents a 70% reduction in the number of murders in the city still widely regarded as the “world’s most violent.” In 2010, Juarez recorded 3,622 homicides, on average more than 300 every month.

Crime scenes look different too. They used to be littered with hundreds of casings by AK-47s and other assault weapons. Now police and journalist report that shootouts are rare, and the casings recovered are typically from handguns.

Mayor Hector Murguia says, “Our city is no longer a town of ghosts.” Families venture out for dinner, birthday celebrations echo down city streets, and the city’s manufacturing economy is actually booming. Perhaps normalcy is returning to Juarez.

Law enforcement is stepping forward to claim credit, but many Mexicans suspect the reason for declining violence is that after a multi-year turf war, the Sinaloa drug syndicate, led by “El Chapo” Guzman, has finally established control over the area. Reports indicate that the Juarez syndicate, Sinaloa’s main competitor in the region, is running short on recruits and money. Is de facto control by Chapo the price Juarez will have to pay for peace?