Mexico: Cartel threats force Ciudad Juarez police to sleep in hotels
Ciudad Juarez police chief Julian Leyzaola ordered his officers to sleep in local hotels, after the New Juarez Cartel threatened to kill an officer per day, and reportedly killed 5 officers over the past week. The cartel accuses Leyzaola of siding with its rival, the Sinaloa cartel. (Photo: Facebook)
The entire police force of Ciudad Juarez is sleeping in local hotels for an unspecified amount of time, and will not be allowed to go home after their shifts following death threats against police officers and the murder of ten members of the force in January.
According to consulting agency Stratfor, the New Juarez Cartel displayed several banners around the city of 1.5 million last week, promising to kill a police officer per day, until Juarez police chief Julian Leyzaola “stopped supporting” the Sinaloa Cartel.
The New Juarez organization, which is currently fighting the Sinaloa cartel for control of local drug routes, reportedly killed 5 police officers after it issued its threats, including a husband and wife who worked for the force.
Leyzaola is a former army colonel who ran the Tijuana police department a few years ago and is widely credited for improving safety in that border city.
During his first three months as Juarez police chief last spring the murder rate went down by by roughly a third, when compared to the same period in 2010.
However, Leyzaola’s critics accuse the police chief of torturing drug traffickers and policemen suspected of collaborating with the cartels during his days in Tijuana.
A New Yorker profile on Leyzaola published in 2010, also details that Leyzaola helped out the Sinaloa cartel by eliminating rival gangs in Tijuana, although it does not find any evidence that Leyzaola purposefully collaborated with the cartel.
Leyzaola, for his part, vehemently denies accusations that he is in cahoots with the Sinaloa Cartel.
His decision to house his police officers in heavily guarded hotels, enables Ciudad Juarez cops to avoid the risk of cartel hit men shooting at them, or attacking them at their homes, while they are off duty.
A female officer who spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity, said she agreed with the move.
“I don’t want my family to become collateral damage if I become a target,” she said.
However, rooming Ciudad Juarez’s 2,500 cops in hotels could present some financial problems for the beleaguered city, which will have to spend around $1.5 million per month to pay for hotel rooms, according to Juarez Deputy Mayor, Hector Arcelus Perez, who told Mexico’s Milenio newspaper that he is seeking funds from the federal government to cover the police department’s new housing costs.
Local newspaper Norte Digital, reports that the city will initially use funds from the Municipal Security Subsidy or Subsemun to pay for hotel rooming costs.
In ‘normal’ times, Subsemun funds finance scholarships for officers’ children, and provide economic relief to the families of officers killed in the drug war.