Bowden on Ciudad Juarez: "I Thought I'd Stumbled Into Hell"

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Charles Bowden at Time:

Last week during the day, some kids in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were playing soccer in a park when a car slowed down, guys got out and executed a 13-year-old boy. And then they drove away, unmolested in a city with 11,000 army and police officers.

The Mexican government repeatedly states that 90 percent of the deaths in the current drug war are of people who are dirty; that is, criminals involved in the drug business. The killings of reporters and of innocent women, men and children continually belie that statement.

The child was not a cartel member in disguise. Nor were the 15 high school kids killed at a party in a small house in a poor barrio. Their parents had made them hold the celebration of a sports victory at home because it was too dangerous to be out in the city.

Now the city is dying. About 5,000 people have been slaughtered in Ciudad Juarez in 27 months. It is a destroyed city where 25 percent of the houses are abandoned and 40 percent of the businesses have closed. There were 2,600 murders last year and killings are going on at a faster clip this year. At night, no one is on the streets.

I realize that I was a fool in 1995. I had not stumbled into hell. That was the golden age.

But one constant remains: No matter how many die in Juarez, no matter how low the pay in the American factories, the U.S. government insists the War on Drugs is being won and that NAFTA is a big success.

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