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TribBlog: Juárez's Outgoing Mayor Mulls Future

Jose Reyes Ferriz on what he'll do next, why his successor isn't corrupt and why the violence in his crime-ridden city will continue.

Juaréz Mayor-elect Hector “Teto” Murguía and current Mayor José Reyes Ferriz

Outgoing Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz is defending his successor, Hector “Teto” Murguía, against allegations he is linked to organized crime. He's also warning that violence in the crime-ridden city will continue indefinitely.

Reyes Ferriz was in Austin on Monday, his second visit in three months, speaking at a conference on substance-abuse treatment hosted by the Texas Behavioral Health Institute. He's nearing the end of a three-year term that coincided with what will undoubtedly be considered one of the darkest times for the Mexican metropolis. Since he took office, there have been 5,000-plus murders carried out by the warring drug cartels and street gangs.

Reyes Ferriz said Murguía, who previously served as mayor from 2004 through 2007, couldn’t have been expected to know that the man he appointed as chief of the municipal police department, Saulo Reyes Gamboa, was a drug smuggler. Juárez slipped into mayhem shortly after Reyes Gamboa was arrested in El Paso for attempting to bribe someone he believed to be corrupt law enforcement official.

“It’s very hard for the mayor to know the particulars of everybody in the administration, even though Reyes Gamboa was a very high-level police [officer],” he said. “He was recommended by one of the local chambers, so it isn’t something that can be directly attributed to him.”

Reyes Ferriz said he leaves Murguia with what he himself didn’t have: an honest police department.

“I couldn’t trust them. The good police officers in the police department didn’t trust the bad police officers. Most of them didn’t want to go out to patrol the city,” he said. As the federal police officers — which replaced military patrols in April — continue to make arrests in Juárez, Reyes Ferriz said its citizens should expect more bloodshed, including extreme tactics similar to last week’s car bomb on a major thoroughfare that left three people dead.

“One day before, they arrested a gentleman [Jesus Armando Acosta Guerrero], whose nickname is ‘El 35,’” he said of the bombing. “And a couple of others [were arrested] that were very high operatives, so the impact on the criminal organization is high.”

Some of the highest-profile slayings in the city include a U.S. citizen and employee of the consulate’s office, Lesley Enriquez, who was gunned down alongside her husband, and an assistant Chihuahua Attorney General, Sandra Ivonne Salas Garcia. Salas Garcia’s alleged assassin, Cristian Rosado Mendoza, claims the hit was an inside job. A suspect in the Enriquez slaying claimed she was targeted for fixing visas for the Sinaloa cartel, the Juarez cartel’s main rival.

“You can’t believe a criminal. You can’t take what they say with full value. They’ll do anything; they’ll say anything,” the mayor said.

Beyond staying vigilant and continuing to exercise the same caution that has kept him and his family alive after numerous threats on their lives, the mayor is unsure about his future. He said he will consider practicing law again — he has a J.D. from Notre Dame and is licensed to practice in the U.S. and Mexico. He's also considering an offer from Chihuahua Governor-elect Cesar Duarte to join his staff.

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