Mexico sends troops to border city in bid to control drug violence
The buildup in Ciudad Juárez, an entry point for drug smuggling on the US border, is meant to stop vicious fighting between drug cartels.
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Signaling a sharp uptick in an already volatile war, Mexican troops this week poured into a city on the US border, the first of many such deployments expected in coming days.
Soldiers moved into Ciudad Juarez to try to regain control of a city in which more than 2,000 people have been murdered over the past year.
Officials say they intend to have 7,000 troops and police in position by the end of the week.
Rival gangs are battling for control of the city, which is a key entry point for drug smuggling into the US.
The influx of thousands of Mexican soldiers into Juárez is being credited for a sharp drop in the number of daily homicides while officials prepare for the military to take command of city police and other departments.
Three homicides occurred in the Juárez area in the first three days of March compared with 28 in the first three days of February, which ended with more than 200 people killed, according to information provided by Chihuahua state police.
But the El Paso Times adds that the move has drawn negative commentary as well.
The army surge, described by a columnist as the "green tsunami," is not without its critics, who contend that civil rights are being violated with unlawful searches of homes, detentions and torture. Military officials have denied abuse allegations.
The border city is in the throes of a vicious turf war between a local drug-smuggling organization and rivals from the northwestern state of Sinaloa. The feud, and the Mexican government's 2-year-old crackdown on organized crime, has sent killings soaring.
The violence has reached such a furious pitch that the Pentagon warned of the possibility that Mexico could become a failed state, as Time magazine reports.
The specter of U.S. troops fighting the cartel armies on Mexican soil is not simply a product of paranoia, however. The possibility was raised in a Pentagon policy document last December. The report by U.S. Joint Forces Command, entitled "Joint Operating Environment 2008", focuses on the challenges potentially facing the U.S. military over the next 25 years. It speculates that the Mexican state could face "a rapid and sudden collapse" from the onslaught of cartel paramilitary armies, and says the U.S. forces would have to respond to such a threat. "Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone," it says.