Mexican mayor discusses border violence in Austin

April 12, 2010 5:27:54 PM PDT
On Monday, the mayor of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico traveled to the University of Texas in Austin to discuss the violence that has plagued his city. But he says he's confident that his campaign to clean up his city, reform the police department and reclaim Juarez is working. It is hard to just figure out why Jose Reyes Ferriz would want to be mayor of Ciudad Juarez, arguably one of the toughest mayoral jobs in the world.

He's 48 years old, a lawyer by training and father of two. He's served as mayor for two and a half years and survived more death threats than he can count from the cartels he says are terrorizing his city.

"I started getting threats when I was campaigning," Reyes Ferriz said.

The last death threat was delivered to him at the end of March along with the head of a pig saying he'd be dead by March 23. Obviously, he's survived that one and shakes the rest off.

Juarez has for several years been one of the most dangerous cities on earth, competing with the likes of Baghdad for the infamous dishonor of the murder capitol of the world.

By now, you know the grim numbers. There have been 4,600 murders since 2007, more than 600 this year alone; and there's been massive police corruption at the heart of the problem when he took over.

"The police department were the criminals," Reyes Ferriz said.

On Monday, Reyes Ferriz spoke at the University of Texas in Austin to give students there an honest assessment of just how serious the problems are in Juarez.

And they're not good.

"We measure our rate, unfortunately, by murders per day," he said. "We had in the month of August the worst month that we have had in the last two years. It was 12 murders per day, and that has continued to (decrease to) less than five in February."

That would be more than 1,800 killing this year, almost five times what Houston will experience.

The war, he insists, is not over.

But insists he is winning.

"From what we have seen, especially the flow of cocaine into the United States through Juarez has stopped," he said.

To say that it's stopped is probably overly optimistic.

There was one dead in Juarez on Sunday, and six dead on Saturday. The reality is that the cartels may have stopped fighting each other over shipping cocaine into the United States from Juarez, but there's still a great deal of fighting on the ground there.

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