JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Law enforcement officials in Juarez celebrated a small victory this week, even as drug violence threatens to surpass last year’s near-record levels.
Two young men nicknamed “El Juanito” (Johnny) and “El Diablito” (Little Devil) were sentenced to 48 years in prison for the murder and dismemberment of a man near Downtown Juarez two years ago.
The two were part of a La Linea drug cartel crew of assassins believed responsible for the deaths of 18 men and women during a five-week stretch in 2018, said Jorge Nava, deputy attorney general for the state of Chihuahua.
Juan de Dios Pulido Barajas (Johnny), 23, and Mario Cesar Lopez Ramirez (Little Devil), 31, face two additional trials later this year that could net them another 70 years in prison, Nava said.
“We are trying to procure an exemplary punishment for those who commit crimes of extreme violence, such as killing and mutilating their victims,” Nava said. “We would not like to see them free in the future to inflict damage on any additional victims or families.”
Pulido and Lopez have been gang members since they were teenagers and became associated with La Linea in 2018, the former acting as a lookout and assisting Lopez and other triggermen in drug hits and the disposal of murder victims, police officials said.
The 2018 spree began on June 4 with the murder of a man on a street corner in a neighborhood just south of Downtown Juarez, police said. It escalated with the homicide of a young couple on June 16 in the same area and put them on a police most-wanted list after the murder of four people outside a small restaurant on June 26.
Police arrested them in July 2018 after yet another double murder in Downtown and suspect they were involved in at least another nine homicides.
Nava hopes a strategy he describes as arresting “some of the principal generators of violence” in Juarez will diminish drug violence. However, homicide stats don’t seem to be on his side.
A total of 114 men and women have been murdered so far in October, matching last month’s total. A total of 1,426 people have been victims of homicide this year, compared to 1,497 in all of 2019.
Nava said more than 90% of the murders committed in Juarez are linked to drug sales or other organized criminal activity. He said he’s asked federal authorities to help with drug investigations, but they refuse.
“Most homicides have ties to organized crime […] drug trafficking, illegal weapons, organized gangs of 20 people or more. That is defined as organized criminal activity anywhere,” Nava said Tuesday in a teleconference. “We continue to solicit that the federal (police) take responsibility over organized crime investigations […] specialized assistance is needed to dismantle these (criminal) structures that are responsible for the violence.”
Other state officials have also complained that federal judges are finding reputed gang leaders not guilty and that federal prosecutors are refusing to take alleged drug traffickers to trial, even when the state police tries to hand over evidence to them.