Mexican Drug Cartels Targeting Rights Activists

Hitmen are killing human rights workers across Mexico’s most violent drug war city in brazen attacks that activists say authorities are unable and unwilling to halt.

Gunmen in Ciudad Juarez have set fire to activists’ homes, murdered disabled family members and even targeted their children, provoking an exodus of the few people willing to denounce relentless violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This is an emergency,” said local rights leader Emilia Gonzalez, who has been documenting abuses in the area. “There are a lot of activists, including some women, whose lives are in serious danger.”

Ciudad Juarez has become a dark emblem of Mexico’s drug war, with some 8,000 killings in and around the city over the past three years. Now one of the world’s deadliest places and gripped by lawlessness, gangs are fighting over smuggling routes into the United States, the city’s drug addicts, and lucrative extortion and kidnapping rackets.

Rights workers have accused authorities of corruption and rounding up drug addicts as scapegoats.

Assailants have killed at least eight prominent activists across Chihuahua state, which includes Ciudad Juarez, since early 2008, when drug violence began to escalate in the region.

Intimidation intensified last month when gunmen renewed attacks on activist Marisela Reyes and her family. The Reyes family has been decimated since it began campaigning for justice for victims of the violence and drawing attention to the government’s failure to combat the anarchy that is engulfing Ciudad Juarez.

President Felipe Calderon has pledged to end the violence in Ciudad Juarez and made a string of visits to the city, but the government appears unable to protect rights workers. That has led to accusations the army, police and authorities -violence in the city are turning a blind eye to attacks.

– Article from The Calgary Herald.