JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Despite assurances from police they would deal with cartel violence that claimed 11 lives in a single day recently, homicides in Juarez continue to increase.

The city recorded 123 killings in August, compared to 111 in July, according to police and media reports. That brings the year-to-date total to 717, including 87 women.

Police officials and Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar on Thursday continued to attribute most of the murders to drug gangs.

“This was a very atypical month. As you know, we had a very difficult day […] and a very complicated weekend,” Perez Cuellar told reporters. “But we were able to restore the peace and life went back to normal. I hope that in September, we will be able to bring the numbers down.”

Others say people in the United States must share the blame for the violence in Mexico.

Jose Contreras, vice president of international relations for the Juarez Chamber of Commerce, told Border Report the business community continuously presses police officials to do something about the violence, which affects the quality of life for locals and may scare away tourists and investment.

But the business leader realizes this is not an easy task given the ruthlessness and greed of organized criminal gangs who refuse to give up on their activities. Those gangs exist in large part because of the demand for drugs north of the border, one business leader said.

“We have a situation in which drugs are going to the U.S. and being consumed in that country. As long as you have a market for something like this, you have this (other) crazy market that supplies it,” Contreras said. “So, this is an international problem. If we don’t work on it, it’s not going away – ever!”

The latest victim of the violence in Juarez. (Border Report photo)

One U.S. federal official who represents 40% of the southwestern border agrees that it is time to ramp up the fight against the Mexican drug cartels.

U.S. lawmakers want to designate cartels as ‘terrorist’ organizations

With a district that includes more than 800 miles of U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales is aware of how Mexican cartels see America as their “cash cow.”

Not only do they send tons of potentially lethal but popular drugs like fentanyl, heroin and meth across the border and profit from their sale, but also in recent years have taken over migrant-smuggling routes as well.

Gonzales is a sponsor of the Security First Act of 2021-2022. The legislation would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit to Congress a detailed report on whether the Mexican drug cartels meet the criteria for designation as foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs). Those are groups that engage in terrorism or terrorist activity or have the capability to do so, according to the U.S. State Department.

“This is important because there have to be some repercussions to those causing so much damage to the United States,” Gonzales told Border Report. “Texas and Mexico have a very close bond and we have to make sure security is at the forefront. We saw what happened in Juarez a few weeks ago, and that really scared a lot of people.”

On the afternoon of August 11, a fight between two gangs inside Cereso 3 prison in Juarez spilled outside the walls. By midnight, 11 people were dead and several businesses and a handful of vehicles had been torched.

What made the event extraordinary is that cartel gunmen here for the first time in at least two years targeted civilians at random. That included the killing of four members of a radio station crew doing a promotional event outside a pizza shop. Also, security cameras at various businesses captured bullets flying across glass doors and striking customers.

“What happens in Juarez certainly impacts El Paso. It’s as if we are one city in two countries and […] holding the cartels who are oftentimes responsible for this is vital,” Gonzales said.

The Security First Act proposes the designation of the Juarez Cartel (a.k.a., La Linea), the Sinaloa cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas (Northeast Cartel) and the remnants of the Tijuana Cartel as foreign terrorist organizations. The Jalisco cartel, in particular, has reportedly targeted Mexican police chiefs, judges, politicians and civilians. The Zetas have been linked to the massacre of 72 migrants in 2010 and 193 civilians in 2011.

According to the State Department, FTO designations are “an effective means” of curtailing support for terrorist activities and for pressuring groups into giving up such activities. It allows the U.S. government to disrupt financial support networks for these groups and freeze their assets.

Gonzales, like Contreras of the Juarez chamber, says this activity affects business and investment opportunities on both sides of the border.