National/World

Mexican female police chief speaks to Art Rascon

Monday, November 08, 2010

Mexican drug cartel killings are out of control. Police, mayors, federales and bystanders are being gunned down in record numbers.

In one small Mexican town, the last two police chiefs have been killed. But now they have a new chief, a 20-year-old woman. The cartel owns most of these border towns, including Praxedis Guerrero.

A deadly highway t runs right through the middle of town. Drug cartels, two them, have been desperately fighting over this region for years and Juarez, the deadliest city in the world, is just up the road.

The town's last two police chiefs have been killed by the cartel. No one wants to fill the job. That's until now.

"Since you were small you have lived here?" we asked the current police chief, Marisol Garcia, who's only 20 years old.

Garcia is likely the bravest woman in Mexico.

"Tiene miedo? (Are you afraid?)" we asked.

"Siempre," she replied. Yes. It's common. It's natural, she says, to be afraid.

In a town with 60-percent unemployment, she's was the only applicant. She says everyone is afraid. Everyone has to be afraid. She's afraid for good reason. A week doesn't go by without a shooting rampage in this area. This town is full of fear. Nobody talks. Everyone hides.

We walked up to four or five men and they immediately fled, as quickly as one can. Fear has taken over, but Marisol, who will be the face of this town's defense, will face it without a gun.

"Las mujeres nunca van a llevar armas? (They are never going to carry weapons?)" we asked Marisol.

"No. No," she replied. "They're never going to carry weapons."

In fact, the chief's bullet proof vest, gun and baton are locked up. Her handcuffs hang from a high school cheering trophy but just above her desk, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The new chief's approach instead is to hire only females, like 22-year-old Lydia, who is afraid to show her face. She's doesn't carry a gun, and goes door to door with other female officers, sharing a message of peace.

"What is it you're trying to do here?" we asked her.

"Instead of being in the house, you can go out and make a sport, or do something and go to the park, without being afraid," said Lydia.

"You have drug cartels that are roaming around and controlling this town," Art told her.

"I'm not going to say anything about that," she said.

"You don't want to talk about that?" we asked.

"No, I don't want to talk about that," said Lydia.

Under orders from the police chief, officers don't even acknowledge that there is a cartel problem. Just listen to one new police hire, also refusing to be on camera.

"Are you scared in this little office?" we asked.

"No," she replied.

"I mean there are drug cartels roaming the street and killing people," we said.

"I don't know that," she answered.

"No. You don't like to talk about the drug cartels do you?" we asked.

"I don't know. I'm just doing my work and that's all," she replied.

"It looks like you have a few bullet holes here. Look at this. One, two, three, four, and then you have five, six. Doesn't that make you nervous?"

"No," she replied.

"It doesn't? You don't know anything about this do you?" we asked.

"No," she replied.

This is just one town of many shot up by drug thugs. Just down the street, in a neighboring town, cartels blasted a brand new police station. Every officer quit the force the next day. The clear message from the cartel -- 'Leave us alone.'

"As a police officer, you're not going to try and investigate the drug cartels are you?" we asked.

"I don't know," replied the officer.

"You don't know if they exist?" we asked.

"I don't know nothing about that," said the officer.

This cartel violence is everywhere around this town, but in Marisol's world, it doesn't exist.

"You're not going to investigate them?" we asked.

"No," she replied.

A naive approach, absolutely. But considering the fate of her predecessors, this approach just may save her life.

The town has 13 police officers, 11 of them are women. Three are men, and only the men carry guns.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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mexico, national/world, art rascon
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