Mexican authorities have arrested a police chief who has been linked to the murders of nine American Mormons near the U.S.-Mexico border in November.
Reuters reports that “Several Mexican media outlets reported that law enforcement agents arrested Fidel Alejandro Villegas, police chief of the municipality of Janos, which lies in the neighboring state of Chihuahua, on suspicion of involvement in the crime.”
The Americans — including three women and six children — were apparently caught up in a war between two competing cartels. They were killed when their caravan of three cars was ambushed near the town of La Mora.
The corruption of the police is so widespread in many of the Mexican states that border the U.S. that it’s an open question just how much control the Mexican government has over the region.
The arrest confirms a longstanding criticism of the country’s law enforcement: that many are on cartels’ payroll.
“It’s common knowledge down here that the police work with the criminals,” Julián LeBarón, a relative of the victims, told The New York Times. “They have a monopoly on security and they get paid a wage for protection, and later we find out that they participate in the murder of women and children,” he continued. “These people take resources to protect us and they are murderers themselves.”
As tragic as the deaths of the Americans are, it’s just a footnote in the violent recent history of Mexico.
The incident was just one example of the immense violence taking place in Mexico, particularly in the country’s northern region. The Mexican government estimates more than 250,000 people have been slain in cartel-related violence since 2006 — and the violence appears to be only be escalating. The homicide rate has climbed to historical levels under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with well over 29,000 homicides in 2019 so far, surpassing 2018’s sky-high rate.
“I’ve been marching in Mexico and speaking out against the violence,’’ he continued with The NYT. “And I have never seen a case where a victim has had justice.”
President Lopez Obrador was elected promising to use “hugs, not bullets” to fight the drug war. As has been obvious for many months that it’s not working. The homicide rate is up and there is a real danger that the vicious drug wars being fought between rival cartels will spill over the border into U.S. territory. At present, there have been several incidents in border towns like El Paso, but the large-scale violence happening on the streets and barrios in Mexican border towns like Ciudad Juarez has blessedly not happened in America — yet.
The president has offered to assist Obrador with military aid but he knows he’d be politically dead if he allowed U.S. troops onto Mexican soil. Meanwhile, the corruption of the police gives the violence free reign and innocents continue to die.