Irrational Exuberance on Juarez

August 24, 2012 Topic: Security Blog Brand: The Buzz

Irrational Exuberance on Juarez

A piece by William Booth earlier this week in the Washington Post might have you planning a vacation to Ciudad Juarez. Unfortunately, Booth’s reporting on the precipitous drop in violence overstates the safety of this still-cartel-run city.

As many know, the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels have fought turf wars in Ciudad Juarez for years, resulting in over 10,000 dead from drug-related violence since 2010 alone. Recently though, homicides have dropped to 48 a month compared to 300 a month as reported by El Diario. While this decrease seems promising, the overwhelming belief of many locals is that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel have finally triumphed, winning control of both smuggling routes north and the local drug trade.

Yet instead of uncovering the potential problems of a fragile city now firmly in the grasp of a powerful criminal group, Booth paints a strangely rosy portrait. Where once “the morgue ran out of room, the corpses stacked to the ceiling in the wheezing walk-in freezers” now “families have begun to celebrate birthdays in restaurants again.”

His praise of the city is so glittering that it would make some consider moving south of the border: “Customers wander into the downtown cantinas, once a no-go zone after dark. The recession is over, and the assembly plants, which now pay about $13 a day, are humming. Some 20,000 jobs have been created according to city hall.”

This all may be true, but a town’s domination by one drug cartel instead of two remains problematic. Violence could explode at any time, particularly when the Sinaloas are likely to be challenged for their lucrative smuggling route. Booth addresses none of this and seems to declare: The decapitations have stopped, everyone in the pool! It’s a flawed conclusion based on incomplete reporting.

The battle for Ciudad Juarez may have paused, but the war undoubtedly rages on.