Hillary Clinton in Mexico amid escalating violence

| Jan. 23, 2011 |

Ciudad Juárez, Mexico—Violence in the notorious US border town of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, has hit a new low as gunmen attacked a popular shopping centre, leaving a policeman and one attacker fatally wounded.

Dramatic video footage also shows a civilian violently punching and kicking a gunman as he lays dying at the entrance of the Galerias Tec shopping centre, expressing the anger that many residents of the city feel against the organised crime which has transformed Juárez into the world’s most violent city.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Mexico today to meet the country’s foreign secretary Patricia Espinosa. The pair will be keen to discuss their joint operations against drug crime just as it appears to be escalating with no sign of abating.

Mrs Clinton will be keen to brush over Wikileaks revelations that showed Washington’s frustration at the government of President Felipe Calderón’s inability to combat organised crime.

Mrs Clinton sparked anger in Mexico in September when she compared its drug problems to an "insurgency", suggesting that the US military may need to intervene.

Focusing on the huge number of deaths, car bombings and kidnappings, Mrs Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington that Mexico was looking "more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago".

President Barack Obama, however, weighed in against Mrs Clinton, rejecting the comparison. "Mexico is vast and progressive democracy, with a growing economy, and as a result you cannot compare what is happening in Mexico with what happened in Colombia 20 years ago," Mr Obama told Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinion.

Mexico refuted the allegations claiming that its problems were less political, while also bringing up the "enormous, gigantic demand for drugs in the United States". Mrs Clinton herself admitted this during a visit to Mexico in March 2009.

Tensions run both ways. A sign on the Mexico border in the United States’ safest city, El Paso, Texas, proclaims, “Entry of firearms into Mexico prohibited.” The irony is that 90 per cent of weapons used in Mexico’s drug wars come from north of the border.

The unknown civilian filmed beating up the shopping centre gunman is now being lauded as a hero in the local press, along with the policeman who was killed.

Citizens of the border city are accustomed to an average of eight murders every day, adding up to more than 3,000 last year. While drug crime is the most popular target of blame, and certainly holds sway in the wider context, common criminals are now disguising their offences as being narco-related in order to take advantage of the impunity that these crimes receive.

The shopping centre bodies had been removed the following day. Fresh paint covered the blood and bullet holes that adorned the walls, allowing no time for any serious investigation into yet more killings in Ciudad Juárez.