JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Calling the recent arrest of two municipal police officers on migrant kidnapping an isolated event, the mayor of Juarez said he will not stand in the way of their prosecution.
“The city police, in a way, was involved in the arrests. If there are more officers (involved), let them be punished to the full extent of the law,” Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar told Border Report on Monday.
His comments come even as city Police Chief Cesar Omar Muñoz reportedly told local news media another municipal police officer who tried to drive a car with migrants past a highway checkpoint south of Juarez eluded arrest and is under investigation.
Migrant kidnappings and murders have spiked in Juarez in the past nine months. Although no one has been arrested in connection with those murders, activists including a Juarez lawyer who runs a migrant legal services nonprofit say Mexican police at every level are often involved in the extortion of migrants.
Border Report on Monday went to see if Muñoz was available for comment at his south Juarez police station but was instead provided a statement by his assistants.
“The chief of police collaborated with state prosecutors in the arrest of (Officers) Saulo D.G. and Juan Manuel R.I. for their presumed responsibility in the June 9 kidnapping,” the statement said. “He has duly carried out the mandate by Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar that there be no impunity in the police department. Those implicated in any act of wrongdoing will be subject to investigation and sanctions.”
The statement said city police officers are periodically monitored to identify possible public “trust” issues and also receive mental health screenings.
Border Report talked with random citizens near Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Downtown Juarez. Most said they don’t trust the police.
“The violence remains the same. Instead of doing something about it, they join in,” said Martha Zuniga, a homemaker. “We don’t know if to be afraid of the criminals or the police.”
Perla Garcia, who operates a mobile food stand, said she has seen police officers search people at random in the market area and sometimes empty their pockets.
“They should not stop just anybody. They search them, they keep their money,” she alleged.
The Juarez mayor’s office urges anyone with a complaint against a public servant to file a report at the city’s official website.