JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Scores of businesses in Juarez remained closed on Friday after a night of widespread violence that claimed 11 lives and left storefronts and vehicles on fire the previous day and night.
The mayhem began just after 1 p.m. Thursday inside Cereso 3 prison where a fight between two gangs left two inmates dead and 20 wounded, some by gunfire. Mexican officials said the fight between the Mexicles and Los Chapos gangs spilled beyond the walls of the prison.
While Juarez officials initially characterized the violence as gang-on-gang, the attacks later targeted employees and customers at convenience stores that typically remain open late. Two women were killed at a Rapiditos Bip Bip store and four members of a radio station crew doing a remote from a pizza shop were shot dead.
The victims included radio personality Alan Gonzalez, 105.9-FM promotions director Lino Flores, operations manager Armando Guerrero and driver Alex Arriaga, the station and employees confirmed on their social media page.
By Friday morning, hundreds of police officers and soldiers were patrolling the streets and government officials claimed order had been restored.
“Today, Juarez residents are in mourning but there are also hundreds of (police officers) working for their city. Since the start of these cowardly attacks, the municipal police has been on the streets putting their lives on the line to restore order,” Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said.
He characterized the attacks as terrorism.
“It is terrorism because they attacked innocent people, but amid this tragedy the arrest of these people is good news,” Perez Cuellar said on Friday.
Juarez municipal police Chief Cesar Omar Muñoz said 12 people were in custody in connection with the shootings and arson. Authorities identified most of the arrestees as members of the Mexicles, a local gang engaged in drug trafficking and other criminal activities mostly in Juarez’s Lower Valley, or El Valle, for more than a decade.
Nonetheless, members of the Movimiento Civico political party said they would call for the Chihuahua Legislature to declare a state of emergency in Juarez due to the violence and threats of new violence.
Munoz also called for caution amid conflicting information in the press and social media. However, authorities themselves contributed to the confusion, initially reporting that three people had died at the prison and, on Friday, the federal government was reporting 11 people dead during the attacks while local officials put the death toll at only eight. Late Friday morning, a Chihuahua state official confirmed 11 people were dead.
Perez Cuellar said security would remain ramped up on the streets of the city and at the prison where the violence began.
“We are not eluding our responsibility,” he said.
Late Friday morning, Chihuahua Attorney General Roberto Fierro called on Juarez residents to trust that their authorities have regained control of the streets and to return to their routines.
We are working and talking to the chambers of commerce so life can return to normal. We understand they may be afraid because of psychosis, because of a lot of messages sent through social media that contribute to fear and disrupt life. That is their (the criminals’) intention,” Fierro said in a news conference broadcast on social media.
Fierro said 11 people were killed on Thursday, beginning with the two inmates, two women at the Bip Bip, the four radio station employees, a child at a Circle K and two men at different venues.
“This will not go unpunished. We are analyzing the videos, we have identified the groups,” he said. “We reject these actions and will continue to fight impunity. To the people of Juarez I ask them to have confidence and trust that the authorities will recoup the space that criminals are trying to take away from us.”