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May-20-2010 18:14printcomments

Election Season Opens in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua

In hindsight, bloody riots that rocked the Ciudad Juarez prison during Murguia’s term as mayor, functioned as dress rehearsals for the all-out war that erupted between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.

Ciudad, Juarez
Ciudad, Juarez

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - Ongoing violence coupled with tight budgets might have prompted authorities to cancel this year’s spring fair in Ciudad Juarez, but the state and local elections will go on as scheduled. This week political parties and candidates in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua officially launched their campaigns, draping the streets in electoral propaganda and engaging in rounds of hand-shaking with promises in stow. Election officials, meanwhile, began training thousands of poll workers.

On July 4, voters in Mexico’s geographically largest and most violent state will go to the polls to elect a new governor, new state legislature and local officials for 67 municipalities.

Regardless of their platforms and promises, the victorious candidates will inherit a landscape defined by a bloody drug cartel war, mass unemployment in the important maquiladora export industry, abandonment of rural towns and the flight of human and financial capital. In vast regions of the state, the breakdown of law and order is the name of the game. In short, a multi-faceted mess of the first order.

As the 2010 election season progresses, the credibility of politicians and political parties among huge sectors of the population is perhaps at an all time low.

For the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governs Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte’s name will appear on the ballot for the governor’s position. A controversial selection, Duarte was chosen by top PRI leaders as the party's candidate over other leading hopefuls, especially former Ciudad Juarez Mayor Hector “Teto” Murguia (2004-2007).

At 47 years of age, Duarte counts more than three decades in the PRI, and has experience as a rancher, farmer and auto salesman under his belt. The head of the PRI-affiliated National Campesino Confederation in Chihuahua, Duarte is also a former federal legislator as well as an occasional newspaper columnist.

Well-traveled in Colombia and Guatemala, Duarte takes credit for helping negotiate agreements that brought in elite Colombian commandos to train local police in anti-drug trafficking and kidnapping techniques. Born in Parral, Chihuahua, he lived for 15 years in Ciudad Juarez.

In one of his first campaign events, Duarte accompanied the PRI’s gubernatorial candidate in the neighboring state of Durango, Jorge Herrera Caldera, in a joint appearance earlier this week. Meeting in Los Charcos, Chihuahua, the two men pledged to complete the super-highway between Durango and Parral, a three-year project estimated to cost about $300 million.

Duarte’s principal opponent is former Chihuahua City Mayor Carlos Borruel of President Calderon’s conservative National Action Party (PAN). Of working-class background, the 45-year-old Borruel launched his professional career as a local journalist who specialized in the police beat.

During the administration of Chihuahua PAN Governor Francisco Barrio (1992-98), Borruel labored for a spell as spokesperson for the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office. He then went on to work in Mexico City at the National Institute for Combating Drug Trafficking (INCD) under another important PAN figure, Francisco Molina, who is presently a high-ranking official in the Office of the Federal Attorney General.

Although Murguia lost out in the PRI scramble for the governor’s candidacy, he hopes to retake the Ciudad Juarez mayor’s post in alliance with both the Mexican Green Party (PVEM) and the PANAL party. Lingering questions about Murguia’s alleged ties to drug traffickers hang over the race. Murguia has stridently denied local press stories that alleged his 2004 campaign was partly financed by narco money. The ex-mayor is likewise under scrutiny because one of his former police chiefs, Saulo Reyes, was arrested by US authorities for smuggling marijuana shortly after Murguia’s term ended.

After assuming office, the administration of current Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz reportedly dismissed hundreds of city cops allegedly linked to organized crime and corruption.

Murguia’s ally, the PVEM, is headed in Chihuahua by Maria Avila Serna, a young but rising politician who has lost two male partners in gangland-style killings. Another young man who was employed as a messenger for Avila and the PVEM, Alan Rubio, was found murdered along with two other men near Chihuahua City late last month.

In hindsight, bloody riots that rocked the Ciudad Juarez prison during Murguia’s term as mayor, functioned as dress rehearsals for the all-out war that erupted between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels immediately after Murguia left office in late 2007.

First played out inside prison walls, the battles pitted the US-Mexico Aztecas gang against the rival Mexicles and Artistas Asesinos. Today the fighting has moved to the streets, with the Aztecas emerging as major foot soldiers for the Juarez cartel, while the other two groups have reportedly gone with Sinaloa.

Murguia’s opponents in the Ciudad Juarez election include Cesar Jauregui Moreno for the PAN, Victor Manuel Reyes Gloria for the PRD, Victor Manuel Parra Portillo for the PT and Lluvia Esther Luna Nevares for Convergencia. The only woman candidate in the race, Nevares belonged to the PAN before only recently jumping ship to the Convergencia crew.

The fielding of separate candidates for the PRD, PT and Convergencia is the latest example of how three center-left parties that were unified in the 2006 federal election behind presidential aspirant Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have been unable to coalesce and present a stronger front at the local and state levels.

A group of non-party candidates has denounced the decision of the Chihuahua State Electoral Institute to bar them from appearing on the ballot in July’s elections. Independent gubernatorial candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez said the group was considering filing a complaint with the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. Chihuahua’s elections are unfolding in a charged national and local political atmosphere. Last weekend’s apparent kidnapping of 1994 PAN presidential candidate and prominent lawyer Diego Fernandez de Cevallos in the central Mexican state of Queretaro only deepened the sense of insecurity gripping Mexico.

On the same weekend in Ciudad Juarez, two vehicles associated with the Duarte campaign were shot at by soldiers near the city’s airport, further heightening tensions at a time when nerves are already seriously frayed by daily executions, shoot-outs and the dumping of chopped up bodies in the streets. The May 15 incident prompted an investigation by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.


Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

Additional sources:

  •, May 15, 18, 19, 20, 2010.
  • El Diario de Juarez, May 19 and 20, 2010. Articles by Gabriela Minjares and editorial staff.
  •, May 19, 2010.
  • La Jornada, May 17, 2010. Article by Ruben Villalpando.
  • El Universal, May 16, 2010., May 2, 2010. Article by Sergio Armando Lopez Castillo.
  •, April 29, 2010. El Heraldo de Chihuahua, June 26, 2007. Article by Dora Villalobos Mendoza.

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