NPR Story
5:30 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Street Dealers Fuel Spike In Violence In Tijuana

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 11:56 am

More than 250 people have been killed in Tijuana so far in 2013. That’s a 25 percent increase compared to the same time span last year.

Between Monday and Tuesday of this week, local authorities registered seven homicides.

The spike comes shortly after American judicial authorities in San Diego declared the end of the Arellano-Felix drug trafficking organization. The Arellano-Felix group had ruled the drug trade in Tijuana and fueled much of the violence there.

But other traffickers have moved in to take over the business. Experts say the powerful Sinaloa cartel now largely controls the area. But it’s using a different method, said Tijuana journalist Vicente Calderón.

“The big drug trafficker organization used to have its own people working [in] the field,”Calderón said. “Now it looks like the big drug traffickers, the drug cartels, are kind of hiring local cells, like freelancers, that are moving drugs or selling drugs [in] the neighborhoods.”

Calderón said these street dealers are the perpetrators and victims of most of the violence in Tijuana these days. And they operate largely independently.

"[The cartels] don't give them as much protection, but at the same time, they don't have the same control over them," Calderón said.

Still, violent crime is much lower in the city than during its height from 2008 to 2010, when drug traffickers battled in the streets and hung bodies from bridges.

Experts have speculated that a truce among high-level traffickers is behind the relative calm in Tijuana. And spikes like the one this week could be anomalies.

Meanwhile, drug-fueled violence has moved to other parts of the country. The Tijuana newsweekly Zeta counts more than 8,000 killings related to organized crime in the five months since Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took office.

Mexican officials put the count at around 5,300, but Zeta and other Mexican media accuse the Peña Nieto administration of ignoring the violence and trying to push it off the front page.

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