JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – A man in a striped T-shirt lies on the pavement in the middle of the street. A pool of blood can be seen behind his head. On a street corner, a woman keeps her hands about her head and a girl aged 9 or 10 cries loudly in the arms of a stranger – a man who witnessed the execution-style murder in front of an eatery known for its menudo plates and for being a pre-pandemic favorite for visitors from El Paso.
The first of six Juarez police vehicles arrives a few minutes later. Officers quickly close off the streets to cars that pass by to look at the spectacle but whose occupants make no effort to try to render aid. A male uniformed officer and his female colleague approach the family and start asking questions.
“Do you know who did it? Where did they go?”
Neither the woman nor the child responds. The witness, a man in his 50s still holding the crying girl, tells them it was a man in a white car who fired the shots and drove away. The woman suddenly blurts out, “I need help.”
The homicide, Juarez’s 851st of the year, took place less than a mile south of the Bridge of the Americas leading to El Paso and less than an hour after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador outlined the steps his administration is taking to reduce violent crime in Mexico.
Lopez Obrador on Sunday morning inaugurated the National Guard barracks near Juarez Airport. The building will be a staging point for patrols near the Rio Grande looking for large groups of migrants and migrant stash houses operated by smugglers. It is the first of three Guard buildings planned for Juarez.
“In less than two years, we have built 182 facilities like these in all regions. We will have 500 by the time our government ends, to have a National Guard presence in all cities, in all regions, in all states so people are protected,” the president said.
Lopez Obrador created the National Guard in 2019 primarily to stop migrant trafficking. More than 2 million international citizens have passed through Mexico on their way to the United States in the past three years. However, the plan is for the guard to also get involved in the fight against organized criminal groups.
Homicides in Mexico have reached record levels in the past two years and authorities attribute that to infighting among drug cartels big and small.
Lopez Obrador said restoring peace to Mexico is one of his priorities. But, taking a page out of Joe Biden’s playbook, he said solving the problem requires addressing its root causes.
He said he’s fighting poverty through the new community-based Wellness Banks and trying to keep young people from joining drug gangs by giving them scholarships.
“In Juarez, 38,473 high school students have received a scholarship … schools have received federal fund to guarantee their maintenance,” the president said.
He made no reference to plans for fighting groups affiliated with the Juarez or Sinaloa cartels that are known to operate in the El Paso-Juarez corridor nor said anything about the growing fentanyl traffic into the United States or the crystal meth sales that local authorities say are detonating street violence in Juarez.
The president stressed COVID-19 vaccination efforts on Mexican border cities. He said those communities – places like Tijuana and Juarez – are now on par with their U.S. neighbors in terms of vaccination rates.
Lopez Obrador credited the Biden administration for supplying COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico in the past few months and hinted more may be on the way.
“They (U.S. leaders) have donated vaccines to us. We are going to talk on Monday (with Vice President Harris) to continue our cooperation agenda. I am sure we are going to receive additional assistance,” Lopez Obrador said at the guard event.
The president is scheduled to hold a news conference in a military facility in south Juarez Monday morning before heading back to Mexico City.