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"We can't let fear beat us." - Valles Garcia, 20, top cop in Mexico Drug Corridor, "tired of everyone being afraid"


By WcP.Story.Teller - Posted on 28 October 2010

20-year-old swears in as new police chief of the border town of Praxedis G. Guerrero, near Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Marisol Valles Garcia will try to balance duties as police chief of a violent Mexican town with her studies in criminology

(quote)
Valles Garcia, who is the mother of a baby boy, said she took the job to change her community. "We're all afraid in Mexico now. We can't let fear beat us," she said after being sworn in. The district has 9,148 inhabitants, and a police force of nineteen. Valles Garcia says she intends to hire more women, and focus on community outreach and prevention. In the near city of Juarez, she's called by locals "La Adelita", a suitable nickname since it was the iconic figure of courageous women in times of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

CNN: 20-year-old woman becomes top cop in violent Mexican municipality. Valles Garcia, a criminology student, became the police chief this week of Praxedis G. Guerrero, one of the most violent municipalities in the border state of Chihuahua. She was the only person who accepted the top job in a police force whose officers have been abducted and even killed.

"Yes, there is fear," Valles Garcia said Wednesday in an interview with CNN en Español. "It's like all human beings. There will always be fear, but what we want to achieve in our municipality is tranquility and security."

20-year old woman stands up to drug cartels

There's good reason for the fear. Just this past weekend, a 59-year-old local mayor, Rito Grado Serrano, and his 37-year-old son, Rogoberto Grado Villa, were killed in a house in which they they were hiding in nearby Ciudad Juarez. Another area mayor was killed in June.

Juarez is the bloodiest city in Mexico, with a reported 2,500 people killed in drug violence this year. Praxedis G. Guerrero is located about 35 miles southeast of Ciudad Juarez. Both are in the state of Chihuahua, which borders Texas.

Nationwide, the federal government says, more than 28,000 people have lost their lives since Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels after taking office in December 2006.
Valles Garcia sees a non-violent role for her 13-member force, which will be mostly female and unarmed.

Marisol Valles Garcia, 20, Heads Police In Mexico Drug Corridor

Huffington Post: Marisol Valles Garcia, 20, Heads Police In Mexico Drug Corridor. Her predecessor was gunned down in July 2009 and the town had been unable to find a replacement for more than a year. There's a new police chief in this violent borderland where drug gangs have killed public officials and terrified many citizens into fleeing: a 20-year-old woman who hasn't yet finished her criminology degree.

Marisol Valles Garcia was sworn in Wednesday to bring law and order to a township of about 8,500 that has been transformed from a string of quiet farming communities into a lawless no man's land. Her predecessor was gunned down in July 2009 and the town had been unable to find a replacement for more than a year.

Two rival gangs – the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels – have been battling for control of its single highway, a lucrative drug trafficking route along the Texas border.

The tiny but energetic Valles Garcia, whose only police experience was a stint as a department secretary, says she wants her 13 officers to practice a special brand of community policing. She plans to hire more women – she currently has three – and assign each to a neighborhood to talk with families, promote civic values and detect potential crimes before they happen.

"My people are out there going door to door, looking for criminals, and (in homes) where there are none, trying to teach values to the families," she said in her first official appearance on Wednesday. "The project is ... simple, based on values, principles and crime prevention in contacts house-by-house."

Valles Garcia has been assigned two bodyguards but won't carry a gun. She says she will leave most of the decisions about weapons and tactics to the town's mayor, Jose Luis Guerrero.

She didn't respond when asked why she seeks women to do the job. She wasn't even in the market to do it herself.

But Guerrero solicited proposals from residents on how to make the town safer, and he liked hers so much, he offered her the chief's job. She took it, she said, because she loves the town where she has lived for 10 years, though she was born and has studied in Ciudad Juarez.

Whether her decision is courageous or foolhardy, the appointment shows how desperate the situation has become in the Juarez Valley. Local residents say the drug gangs take over at night, riding through the towns in convoys of SUVs and pickups, assault rifles and even .50 caliber sniper rifles at the ready. The assistant mayor of nearby El Porvenir and the mayor of Distrito Bravos were killed recently even after they took refuge in nearby Ciudad Juarez.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy of Raymundo Ruiz / AP, CC katesheet / Flickr, AP, AFP, and Reuters

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