CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Authorities in this border city that has become Mexico’s murder capital were seeking tips from the public after Friday’s slaying of a pair of off-duty police officers, which followed a threat from a drug cartel to kill a cop a day until the municipal public safety chief steps down.
Municipal police officers Yadira Rodriguez and Adrian Herrera, a married couple, were fatally shot at 8:00 a.m. while driving in a private vehicle in the southeastern part of Ciudad Juarez, police spokesman Adrian Sanchez told Efe.
A drug trafficking outfit proclaiming itself the successor of the once-dominant Juarez cartel vowed on Wednesday that it would kill one municipal cop for every day that Julian Leyzaola remained as the city’s police chief.
The threat prompted members of the force to ask permission to carry their service weapons while off-duty, given that most of the police slain in Juarez have been attacked at home or on the way to work, but Leyzaola rejected the request as contrary to department regulations.
“Criminality will end when the citizens themselves decide to end it, combating it by reporting information” to authorities, the Juarez city government said Friday in a statement.
Friday’s double-murder brought to seven the number of Juarez police killed this month.
Leyzaola implemented a new strategy against organized crime and corrupt cops when he became Juarez’s police chief in March 2011, fresh off his success in improving public safety in another violent border city, Tijuana.
The recent attacks on his department show that the new approach is hurting the cartels, the chief told the press this week.
Ciudad Juarez was surpassed last year as the world’s deadliest major city by San Pedro Sula, Honduras, according to a report from a Mexican NGO.
This gritty metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, experienced more than 3,100 homicides in 2010 and nearly 2,000 more last year, or 148 murders for every 100,000 residents.
Authorities attribute most of the violence to a territorial conflict between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels.
The cop killings in Juarez came a day after nine people were gunned down in Monterrey, Mexico’s third-most-populous city and the home of many leading industrial corporations.
Eight of the victims were young men lined up against a wall and shot by enforcers from the Los Zetas drug cartel.
Mexico’s government said 12,903 people died in drug-related violence between January and September 2011, bringing the drug war death toll since December 2006 to 47,515.
The country’s murder total has grown every year of President Felipe Calderon’s military offensive against the well-funded, heavily armed drug gangs.
Unofficial tallies published last month by independent daily La Jornada put the drug-war death toll at more than 50,000. EFE