MEXICO CITY — Nearly 1,000 Mexican troops arrived at the Ciudad Juarez airport Friday to deal with a surge in drug war violence that's sent tremors throughout the country, local media reported.
Mexican authorities said they're part of the more than 2,000 soldiers and federal policemen involved in "Operation Joint Chihuahua" who are being dispatched to combat narcotrafficking operations that have terrorized much of the state of Chihuahua, particularly Ciudad Juarez, Palomas and the city of Chihuahua, the state capital.
More than 200 people have been killed in the area, which borders El Paso, Texas, since the beginning of the year, according to local media reports. Thirty were killed over the Easter weekend.
"Today, in the state of Chihuahua and particularly in the border zone of Ciudad Juarez, we face circumstances of violence that burdens and worries us all," Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said Thursday at a news conference announcing additional military forces. "The problem, and it is necessary to call it by name, is organized crime and specifically the crimes of drugs at all levels that have been established, live and operate business in this zone."
National Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan said that over the course of the next week, the 2,000 soldiers and federal police, 180 tactical vehicles and three military aircraft would make their way toward Chihuahua. Armed military helicopters will be placed on reserve to patrol the region.
In Ciudad Juarez, 10 military bases will be created from which military forces will conduct patrols of urban and suburban areas. Forty-six mobile control posts will be set up. Each post will be manned by 30 troops.
In nearby Palomas, the chief of police, Emilio Perez, recently fled the city and requested asylum in the United States after receiving death threats. He said two of his deputies had quit the department because of the violence.
"The challenge that we face is to recover all the spaces that organized crime has snatched from society," said Mexico's interior minister, Juan Camilo Mourino. "The criminals will surely react and react with violence, but in spite of this, the will of the Chihuahuenses is to make its territory a place where they can live peacefully."
(Ordonez reports for The Charlotte Observer.)