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Gang violence leaves border town without police force, again

July 9, 2015

An abortive attempt to return law and order to the border town of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos has been brought to an end. Mayor Gabriel Urteaga Nuñez closed up the police department yesterday, after the town's police chief and sole remaining officer was shot dead last week. The gangs that have scared off half the roughly 9000 residents in the last five years "don't want a municipal police force" he said.

The murdered officer, Joaquin Hernandez, and his 14 year old son, were shot dead on Tuesday while driving to investigate a highway accident. According to Milenio newspaper, the accident was staged in order to trap the unarmed Hernandez.

Hernandez had only been in the post a week. He and his three colleagues quit the force on June 21st when their former chief, Maximo Carillo Limones, was killed, beaten to death and crushed by a pickup truck, his body abandoned in a baseball field. But on the 29th, Hernandez returned alone to perform less confrontational policing such as enforcing traffic laws and other "social welfare" actions. He and the mayor were resolved to avoid taking on organized crime.

Carillo Limones had just been appointed this year. Before that, the town had been without a police force for five years, after another chief and the town's first female office, Erika Gambara was abducted and killed in 2011. Her own death came six months after that of the town's previous mayor. According to a New York Times report at the time, federal police and the military are in charge of police drug gangs that terrorize the town, which lies just 500 meters from the US border. The report suggested that their activities consists of perfunctory investigations after major killings by gangs, and rarely in preventive patrols. Residents told the paper they lock their doors after five, and refuge to open them, even to investigating police.

Sources: Milenio, NY Times


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For 15 years, Conrad lived in Mexico, where he worked as a freelance radio and print journalist. His work took him into a minefield, a gunfight, a dugout canoe and the homes of many fascinating, brave and generous people. He is also an avid teacher and has led classes in radio, robotics, soccer, physics and anthropology in a diversity of places, including office towers, lecture halls, fields and palm thatched huts.