Just days after the majority of military troops deployed to patrol the streets of the most violent city in the Americas withdrew, the city’s mayor concedes his local police force is still infiltrated with elements of organized crime.
“We have managed to clean up the police department as best we could. It’s not 100 percent clean and I am not going to suggest otherwise,” says Jose Reyes Ferriz, the mayor of the border town of Ciudad Juarez.
Local police still patrol the streets, but thousands of federal police officers have been sent to the city to replace the military. “With that, the army withdrew from the city of Juarez on Thursday of last week,” Reyes Ferriz says.
Reyes Ferriz spoke at the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, where he provided a timeline of the city’s current troubles, including actions undertaken by the United States government that have helped thrust Mexico further into disarray.
The municipal police force was the chosen ally of the Juarez Cartel and its leader, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. Fuentes is currently engaged in a violent turf war for control of the drug trade into the United States against Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his Sinaloa Cartel.
Carrillo Fuentes and his henchmen approached Colombian drug kingpins about expanding shipments of cocaine from South America through Mexico after the U.S. successfully shut down Colombian operations in the Caribbean, says Reyes Ferriz.
“They didn’t know how to do it, so this man (Fuentes) proposed to the Colombian cartels that they use the structure they had to bring in marijuana,” he says. “And a joint venture was formed between those two groups."
The U.S. Border Patrol’s initiation of Operation Hold the Line helped stymie the importation of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. and keep more of the narcotics in Mexico, he says, which fueled domestic demand and created a larger pool of criminals.
“The local consumption of drugs in Juarez is the largest consumption of drugs we have in Mexico. Only Tijuana compares, but they have a smaller rate,” he says.
Reyes Ferriz says the expiration of the U.S. ban on assault weapons also has fueled the violence. He denies that many of the weapons were once owned by Mexican military, which has had several thousand defectors in the last decade. The Mexican military, he says, doesn’t use AK-47s, a weapon of choice for hit men in Mexico.
The mayor’s visit comes one day after the Primary Elections in the northern state of Chihuahua, which determined the candidates in the July 4 election that will determine his successor.
Reyes Ferriz sat down with the Texas Tribune for an extended interview after his presentation, which will be available for viewers on Wednesday. A snippet of that interview is available now.