A Mexican woman police chief who vowed to take on drug cartels has been shot dead after only two months in the job.
Hermila Garcia, 36, was killed by several gunmen as she drove to work in the town of Meoqui, outside Chihuahua city in the north of the country.
Ms Garcia, who did not carry weapons or have bodyguards, was one of a small but increasing number of women to take on top police jobs because men have been too afraid of reprisals by criminal gangs.
“La Jefa” — the chief — as she was known, was fond of saying: “If you don’t owe anything, you don’t fear anything”, when asked why she had no security.
A lawyer by profession and unmarried, Ms Garcia was commended for her bravery as she pledged to tackle the drug wars that have claimed almost 30,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels.
Her murder has been interpreted as a warning to other women such as 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia, a student who became the police chief of Praxedis, in the Juaraez valley in the same state.
Yesterday, gunmen ambushed the police chief of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state’s largest city, which is separated from El Paso in Texas by the Rio Grande. It has been reduced to a state of near-anarchy by cartels battling for control of the drugs trade. Alvaro Gilberto Torres Ramirez, 41, was killed in his car.
About 7,200 people have died in drug violence since January 2008 in Chihuahua as Mexico’s most notorious trafficker Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman made a push to control the city and its lucrative smuggling routes.
Police captured another gang leader last weekend who they said has confessed to ordering most of the recent killings in Ciudad Juarez. Arturo Gallegos Castrellon is alleged to be the leader of the Aztecas gang, whose members work as hired killers for the Juarez drug cartel.
Gallegos had ordered 80 per cent of the murders in Juarez over the past 15 months.
“He is in charge of the whole organization of Los Aztecas in Ciudad Juarez,” said Luis Cardenas Palomino, the local police chief. “All the instructions for the murders committed in Ciudad Juarez pass through him.”
Despite the arrest of thousands of gang members in Chihuahua, the crackdown on cartels has provoked a wave of violent crime, as jobless young men fight over kidnappings, drugs, extortion rackets and prostitution.
– Article from the London Evening Standard.