In the last few years, Mexico has been living a very complex public security situation. For decades, criminal organizations were allowed to grow and gain strength, which seriously affected the lives of ordinary citizens in towns and cities across Mexico. But in few parts of the country had the situation reached such dramatic levels as in Ciudad Juárez. Crime and violence here grew systematically, due to three main factors:
First, the expansion of criminal organizations as they diversified their main line of business from exporting illegal drugs to the U.S. to retail sales of drugs in Mexico. In Ciudad Juárez, two large cartels started a violent fight for control of the city, as it repre- sents both a strategic entry point to the U.S. and a profitable drug market. These organi- zations also moved into new criminal activities like robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.
Second, the weakness of local law enforcement agencies. Criminal groups aimed to control state and municipal police corps, first by corruption and then by threats. Having to decide between being on the cartels’ payroll or being dead, and with no support from their superiors, local police officers were no longer protecting the people from crime.
Third, a serious weakening of the social fabric. Free trade created a strong expansion of the export manufacturing sector in Mexico. People from all over the country migrated to industrial border cities like Ciudad Juarez, seeking better job opportunities. The city’s population grew by a factor of 2.3 between 1980 and 2010. While the newcomers often found better-paid jobs, they settled in areas that lacked basic services like water, electricity, sewage, and paved streets. These neighborhoods also lacked adequate health, educational and recreational infrastructure for young people. This, combined with problems such as low social cohesion, contributed to the spread of drug abuse as well as violence and gang involvement among vulnerable youth. Years before the peak of drug-related violence, Ciudad Juárez already had a serious social crisis, which had as its most tragic impact the unsolved, violent murders of dozens of women back in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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