May 10, 2013
Chihuahua, Chih. (apro).-The residents of Camargo, located in the south central part of the State of Chihuahua, have faced violence almost in silence, isolated, invisible. From 2008 to 2009, intentional homicides increased 550%, going from nine to 51, and from 2008 to 2012, they increased another 40%, from 65 to 90.
While murders decreased in municipalities like Juarez, Chihuahua, in Camargo they broke out. In only four years (from 2008 to 2012), 288 persons were killed — 268 men and 20 women — and there were at least five massacres.
Last year, when the alleged leader of the Sinaloa cartel for the southern part of the state, Lamberto Gurrola Hernandez, El Gato, was arrested in Parral, peace returned to Camargo.
From September, 2012, to this past April, the city fought to recover. The number of civic organizations increased and people focused on taking over public spaces and working, commented a businessman in the restaurant industry.
“We changed some of our practices. We prefer not to open our business too late, we’d rather open early and… well, whatever we can do. We’re OK, if a person is not doing bad stuff, he doesn’t have to worry, you just have to be careful”, is this businessman’s opinion, who prefers to remain anonymous because he says nobody can talk freely.
He says there are persons in Camargo, persons who are not from around there, who “become rich suddenly. You can’t say anything because they’ll kill you. Reality is different for those people, they live a different kind of life. There’s places where there are these huge houses and the people drive these huge trucks, but they don’t work or have a business, it’s very noticeable,” he adds.
The municipality (county) of Camargo has 47,000 inhabitants, and the county seat, where the last massacre took place, has a little over 39,000.
The apparent peace ended this past April 29th, when an armed group of men broke into the cock-fighting arena, El Coliseo, around 1:00 a.m. The fight had been over for more than an hour, when they came to murder four people, among them a 22-year old city police officer, an alleged gunman and two civilians.
The next day, the bodies of two men were found, who had apparently participated in the massacre. They were Francisco Alonso Salazar Chavez and Juan Antonio Martha de los Santos. They were wearing face masks and they had been shot between ten and 15 times with “cuernos de chivo” (AK-47 rifles) and other calibers. They were approximately 20 years old, according to Camargo municipal police.
“I don’t want to die”– murdered police officer to his chief
Daniel Alejandro Soto Giner was 22 years old and had been working with the municipal police for two years. On April 28, he was assigned to guard the entrance of the arena. Two other fellow police officers were inside, also providing security.
When the group of armed men wearing hoods came in, the first one they shot was Daniel Soto. Then they killed Sixto Ivan Aguirre Infante, Jose Raul Chavez and Jose Humberto Chacon Gomez — this last being the alleged gunman they were after, according to the investigation by the State Attorney General, Central Zone.
Daniel Soto was wounded and was taken to the hospital. There, he told his boss: “I don’t want to die, I want to go on working as a policeman and serve (the people).” But he died. The story was narrated by the municipal president, Arturo Zubia Fernandez, during the open casket ceremony they held for Soto in the police headquarters on April 30.
The mayor underlined the agent’s professionalism. “We are overcome by grief and anger, he was a young man who had recently graduated from the academy, a member of the tactical group, he behaved with professionalism and was cheerful. We feel this tragic loss, we are overcome with great desperation and impotence when these things happen,” he added.
His sister called for justice in front of police officers from Jimenez, San Francisco and Camargo.
|3 Relatives of the municipal president were kidnapped and killed|
Newspaper coverage, between anonymity and threats
Camargo lived peacefully for about six months, says journalist Luis Fernando Gonzalez, who, with his partner, Pedro Sarmiento, has covered the wave of violence quietly.
In 2008, they came face to face with escalating violence. “There was a death, then another one, more and more killings. Killings everywhere, they caught up with the numbers from the rest of the state,” recalls Luis Fernando….continued next page
In the communications medium they work for, TV Camargo, cable television, they have reported on massacres, persons whose throats were cut, incinerated, everything. “It has been very bloody, we have seen the worst,” they say.
With the arrest of El Gato, Gonzalez admits, the violence died down, violence that was caused by the struggle between two groups for control of the plaza. “Even the night life came back; nobody was going out any more, but people started going out again. Many had left,” he comments.
Now, with the return of the wave of violence, Luis Fernando agrees with the rest of the residents: “All is silence now, nobody talks about it, as if they were trying to forget and not relive what we experienced. It’s as if they want to forget, ignore it. Camargo was peaceful and what happened really has an impact.”
He maintains that people had begun to feel self confident, and social life was strengthened after years in which there was a lot of divisiveness. Organized civil society, he believes, did a good job and now the inhabitants refuse to accept the return of violence.
Camargo experienced at least five multiple murders between 2011 and 2012, four in bars and another one in a safe house. People stopped going out at night.
During the peaceful period — six months ago– Camargo residents got brave enough to go out and opened night businesses.
However, after the massacre in El Coliseo, the bars were closed again, among them one of the most popular ones. In addition, there have been kidnappings, the last one was that of a nurse who has not reappeared.
There are at least 30 persons who disappeared, estimates Luis Fernando Gonzalez, with emphasis on the case of Jose Gonzalez Marti, 80 years old. His family has paid the ransom twice and they haven’t released him yet.
“They opened up a new area in the cemetery. It’s always full of widows and orphans crying. There have been more than 200 Camargo deaths. It has been a nightmare that we have covered, with God’s help; it was a new thing for us,” says the journalist.
Because of the information they deal with in their work they have received anonymous calls complaining about reports or for them to get the word out. Their decisions have been based on common sense, depending on the case.
Without security protocols, and in complete isolation, they have reported on all the violent incidents, relying only on the citizenry, says Luis Fernando.
“It has been a macabre apprenticeship, we don’t have any protection, the people always help us. We have received threats, including (against) our families, but we have gone forward, with only our common sense,” recalls Pedro Sarmiento.
Camargo is located between Delicias and Jimenez, two cities in the south central zone, where violence has increased considerably this year. In April, it caught up with Camargo.