EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Javier Esquivel on Thursday night learned of the cartel attacks that claimed 11 lives and set fire to cars and businesses across the border in Juarez. On Friday, he got on his bicycle and set off to visit his mother in Mexico, as usual.

Javier Esquivel

“There is a lot of mistrust, yes. As you can see, there’s little traffic (going to Mexico). But I have my mother and my brothers on the other side,” the Central El Paso resident said as he prepared to cross the Stanton Street Bridge. “I visit them every two weeks. Hopefully, things won’t get any worse.”

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said the family, business and cultural ties between El Paso and Juarez are strong. So much so, that even extreme acts of violence won’t deter some from crossing.

“Our economies are interdependent. We have a symbiotic relationship with Ciudad Juarez. I’m not ready to tell people not to go over there but be extremely prudent. Rely on your relatives. Make sure they understand the environment they are going to visit,” Samaniego said.

The county judge said the violence in Juarez affects the entire region, as it makes it more difficult for government officials and business promoters in El Paso to convince companies from elsewhere in the United States to relocate their operations here.

Also, businesses on both sides of the Rio Grande are just coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic that decimated their bottom line. If El Pasoans stop visiting Juarez, businesses that rely on tourism, including medical tourism, will suffer. If the violence keeps Mexicans from making trips to the United States, El Paso businesses will suffer.

The Stanton Street Bridge in Downtown El Paso fields little traffic on Friday afternoon. Usually, lines of cars several blocks long wait to cross into Mexico at the facility. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

“We understand the dangers, but in the world we’re living in, we cannot get to a point that we don’t want to come out of our house. […] I think people know they have to coexist with a situation as you are working to make it better. You just need to be prudent.”

Alejandro, a young entrepreneur from Juarez, said that Mexican border city of 1.5 million people has no more crime than other big cities all over the world. “I have crossed the (international) bridge at 3 a.m. and walked home with no problems. You can be safe as long as you’re careful,” he said. “Sometimes things will be good and sometimes they will turn bad. You have no control over that.”

‘We own the streets’

Mexican authorities responded to Thursday’s drug cartel violence by flooding the streets of Juarez with soldiers and police patrols. That was meant to reassure residents the city was safe.

They also released additional details on some of the 11 victims. They included two women, ages 18 and 54, gunned down inside a convenience store, a 12-year-old child and a 54-year-old man apparently killed inside or next to a pickup truck. The two Cereso 3 inmates killed inside the facility — the act that authorities said sparked the violence — were identified as Kevin Alan Campos Aguilera and Raúl Abraham Sepúlveda Olivas.

Prior to Thursday’s events, Border Report had been documenting a steady increase in drug-related killings in Juarez. Some included beheadings, dismemberments and bodies wrapped in blankets left in front of schools and in parks.

Authorities seemingly dismissed these acts as gang-on-gang events not having much of a bearing in the general population. They told reporters at the time that it was them, not the cartels, who were in control of Juarez.

On Friday, after the latest round of violence, they repeated that claim.