Church targeted in Mexico violence: Residents rush to put out fire after attempted arson

| April 5, 2010

A group of armed men tried to burn down a Catholic church in the Valley of Juarez after warnings for everyone to leave.

A watchman for the church located in El Porvenir, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from Fort Hancock, said the armed commandos tried to break down the structure's large wooden front door near midnight Friday.

After the armed men failed to open the door, they poured gasoline on the front and started a fire before leaving.

Neighbors who got wind of what was happening rushed to put out the fire at the Church of Nuestra Senora del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. No one was available to comment Sunday for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ciudad Juarez.

Federal agents were deployed to the village to keep an eye on the church during Easter services. The Hudspeth County Sheriff's Office was on alert and had extra patrols in the Fort Hancock area to prevent any violence spillover at the border.

A number of communities in the Valley of Juarez have come under attack in recent months by warring drug cartels.

"I am worried about my relatives who still live there," said Gloria Garcia, a Kansas City resident, who has in-laws in the Valley of Juarez. "They are burning houses there every week, and now they tried to burn down the church in El Porvenir.

"It's not just the drug cartels anymore," she said. "Some people are taking advantage of the violence to commit other crimes, such as killing people out of revenge over things that have nothing to do with drug-trafficking,

or to frighten people away so they can steal their property."

Residents complained that authorities are not doing anything to prevent the murders and arsons. Chihuahua state officials said federal agents and a helicopter were dispatched to keep an eye on things.

Authorities said the bodies of a teenage boy and another young man riddled with bullets were found Saturday in the cemetery at El Sauzal, which also is in the Valley of Juarez.

"According to my relatives and neighbors, some of the killings and kidnappings were never reported," Garcia said.

During the past two months, unknown people have been systematically burning businesses and homes in the Valley of Juarez.

Last week, anonymous messages on the Internet and banners warned residents in Guadalupe and Praxedis Guerrero to leave the area by Easter Sunday because the worst was to come.

Some residents said they heard unconfirmed rumors that a jailed drug dealer who works for the Carrillo Fuentes cartel threatened to have the villages destroyed if Mexican authorities did not set him free.

The West Texas border region near the Rio Grande is considered a strategic drug smuggling corridor.

During the past two years, the Carrillo Fuentes and Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman cartels have waged a bloody battle for control of the Mexican border region, from Palomas, across the border from Columbus, N.M., to El Porvenir.

Many Mexican citizens fleeing the violence have taken refuge in places such as Socorro, Tornillo, Fabens, San Elizario, Horizon City, El Paso, Sunland Park, Deming and Chaparral.

Others, like Garcia's in-laws, are trapped because they cannot leave their homes.

Tags: , ,

Category: Church Security