President Obama, are you listening? Instead of sending troops to Central Africa maybe you should be sending them into Mexico to assist the Government there to eliminate the drug cartels that are sending hundreds of tons of drugs into the USA every year! You have a war on your southern border; do something about it, now!

Marisol Valles García, 21 years, a mother, graduate in crimonology and the former Police Chief job in the town of Praxedis G Guerrero, 50 miles east of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a few miles from near the Texas frontier now lives with her family in a safe house in the USA.

This is her story gleaned from various media and FBI reports.

Every year US$300 billion of drugs are smuggled from Mexico into the USA. Praxedis is the epicenter of this operation. Therefore, a vicious battle for this lucrative area is fought between different cartels. It is more dangerous for civilians then Afghanistan!

Some useful background information.

–        40,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drugs cartels in 2006. The region of Chihuahua – encompassing Ciudad Juarez and towns in the surrounding Juarez Valley – is by far the worst affected area.

–       In 2010,  4,500 people were killed in Chihuahua state alone, as the cartels slaughtered each other – and innocent bystanders – to wrestle for control of the valuable trafficking routes.

–       Ms Valles’s predecessor as chief of police, Juan Manuel Carbajal, 45, was executed as he drove through the streets of the town of Caseta. His predecessor, Martín Castro Martínez, 62, was four days into the job when he was abducted. His head was left outside the police station in a coolbox.

–       Originally they had 18 police. But 16 of them were killed or fled.

–       Mayor José Luis Guerrero de la Peña took the job  because there were no other candidates. His predecessor Rito Grado Serrano, 59, and his son Rigoberto Grado Villa, 37, were executed in their homes in October last year. Their deaths took to 13 the number of mayors murdered in Mexico in 2010. The tally for 2011 is still being tallied!

–       A 75-year-old grandmother, whose grandson was on the wrong side of the tracks, has been told she will be killed inside Mexico.

–       A businessman from Chihuahua who refused to pay extortion money to the gangs was snatched by a cartel from a sports stadium and, while his friends were watching, they sliced his feet off.

–       In the west, the Sinaloa cartel has assumed monstrous proportions, with its leader Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán the FBI’s most wanted man, after the death of bin Laden.

–       Apparently a FBI agent is in a safe house in the USA as a hit has been sanctioned by the drug cartels!

Media reports on Marisol Valles García :

Born in Praxedis to a housewife mother and mechanic father, she attended school there before studying criminology in Ciudad Juarez.

The mayor held dances and fiestas, and people would even visit the region. But as she got older, the situation deteriorated.

“People you didn’t recognise started turning up in the town,” she said.

“Then people would start disappearing – friends, people I went to school with. Sometimes their bodies would turn up, sometimes not.

“At the beginning it was really shocking. But after a while you got used to it, as it happened more and more.

“Kids that I went to school with, humble kids, would suddenly start driving flash cars. I’d ask them ‘Where did you get the money for that?’ and they would reply with a shrug, ‘I’m working’. We all knew what they were up to.”

She remembers one close family friend, Aaron. He sold bread in the town and was “very happy, chatty, always making me laugh,” she said.

He would help Ms Valles’s mother run errands, and was quietly making his way in the world – until he was gunned down, aged 22, while driving his car. His grandfather, sitting in the passenger seat, was also executed.

Was he into drugs?

“No, I really don’t think so. He was just doing his thing, getting on with life,” she said. “But then, you never know who is working for the gangs.”

Of all her school friends, Ms Valles says “the majority” have gone – disappeared, fled, or murdered.

This was the cycle of violence that she wanted to stop.

Beginning in October last year, her work went well.

Despite initial suspicion, she and her all-women team of police would conduct house-to-house inquiries, mediating in domestic violence cases, talking to parents worried that their children were going off the rails, and finding ways of keeping the young people out of the clutches of the cartels.

“At first I was really scared, and my family were very worried,” she said. “I was well aware of the dangers, but I wanted to do it. I wanted to rediscover what we had.”

But then, in February, the threats started.

“I was with my mother when the first call came on my mobile,” she said. “It was a ‘number withheld’ call, so I was a bit suspicious, but I actually thought it must be a joke. I answered, and a voice on the other end said: ‘Didn’t you receive the message? We don’t want you here.’

“I was angry at that – I don’t know how, as looking back it was terrifying. But I answered back, and said to them, ‘I’ve told you, I am not messing with you. I’m not armed, and I’m not interested in you. All I am doing is my job, to help the community’.

“Then I hung up. I don’t know where that courage came from.”

Ms Valles continued her work, but with new fear. She wanted to keep her job, did not want to leave.

“It’s very difficult – you have obligations,” she explained. “But it was very frightening, even in the middle of the day. You’d see a car pass by slowly, and wonder whether they had given you a bad look.

“I carried on, but I was more and more scared. I told the mayor, and he admitted that the same thing had happened to him – he too was receiving death threats.”

The calls kept on coming, with increasingly detailed knowledge about her movements. The cartels told her that if she supplied information to them, on police operations and municipal projects, she would be allowed to live.

Ms Valles says she knows who, inside the police office, was feeding information to the cartels. And she says he is still there.

In March, she could not stand it any more and gathered her family for the dash to the border.

“We didn’t tell anyone – we just left, stuffing anything we could into a bag. My dad was furious, my mum was crying, panicking that she had forgotten keys or a bag or something. We were all hysterical, terrified. We thought we could be stopped at any moment.

“We got to the border and were all in a terrible state. I told them who I was and what had happened, and that I wanted to go across.

“So they let us flee. Once over, I began to breathe again – even though I had never crossed before, and didn’t speak a word of English. We called an uncle in the US to tell him what had happened, and here we are, waiting for our asylum process.”

The family are now in a safe house in the United States, far from the border.

“It’s hard, because we can’t work and still live in fear. But better to be alive in the US than dead in Praxedis.”

Praxedis itself is surrounded by soldiers. Troops have taken over the local sports hall and are using it as their barracks, crouching behind sandbags, training binoculars on everyone entering and leaving the town.

Ms Valles lives in hope that the situation will change, and that her son Dylan will grow up with a better future than the children in Praxedis today.

“When I was young, we were playing basketball, racing around on bikes,” she said.

“Now do you know what their favourite game is? Playing siccarios [hit men]. You hear them: ‘OK, I’m the siccario, and you’re my target, bang bang!’

“They learn from what they see. And if they know no better, the cartels use them, and give them 200 pesos to run along and shoot that guy quickly.”

 “I want to go back. But not to that.”

Amen.

For more information, see www.marisol-valles.com

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