Juarez doctors stage protests after two of their peers are shot dead in rural communities
JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez doctors are refusing assignments in rural communities in northern Mexico, where criminals have murdered two of their peers in the past two weeks.
“The situation is worrying,” said Dr. Daniel Garcia, an internist who took part in a protest outside the Social Security Hospital in Juarez last week. “We cannot wait for another martyr before action is taken. […] We don’t want what happened to (Massiel) or our colleague from the University of Durango.”
The doctors and medical students carried placards that read “The dead cannot consult” and “How much blood does it take to make change.” It was the third protest in the past two weeks. The latest took place on Monday in front of the office of the Human Rights Commission.
On July 11, a man with an AK-47 rifle allegedly went on a violent pre-dawn spree in San Juanito, Chihuahua, fired shots into the air and broke into at least two homes to sexually assault women, Mexicans reported. news media. One of his victims fought and he allegedly shot her. The victim was Dr. Massiel Mexia Medina, a single mother and anesthetist at the local hospital.
Police arrested the suspect, 19-year-old Juan Alberto LG, after receiving an anonymous tip later that day. They found the man tied to a utility pole, badly beaten and with a sign next to him that read, “This happened to you because you killed the doctor and raped a woman.” Beside him was an AK-47.
Chihuahua’s attorney general’s office said a judge has ordered the suspect to stand trial for the murder of Mexia. Authorities have not said who arrested and tied up the man.
On July 15, three vehicles carrying gunmen allegedly under the influence of drugs and alcohol parked in the neighboring state of Durango in front of the hospital in El Salto. dr. Eric Andrade, an intern, went out to escort some patients and was caught in the crossfire when the men in the cars started fighting, Mexican media reported. He was shot in the head.
Peers said Andrade was two weeks short of completing his internship and Mexia was preparing to travel to her native Sinaloa to attend her daughter’s kindergarten graduation.
“This is not new. This didn’t start when Massiel died,” said Dr. Pamela Morales, a graduate of the Autonomous University of Juarez who took part in protests last week. The newly minted professionals are demanding that the Department of Health stop sending them for mandatory year-long internships to communities where drug traffickers roam seemingly rampant.
Mexican authorities and US security experts say the cells of the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels have been fighting for control of marijuana-growing areas and transportation corridors to the United States in the western mountains of Chihuahua for at least three years.
Each cell is almost autonomous, so if one of its members “derails,” there is little accountability, say drug experts such as Scott Stewart of TorchStone Global. Just last month, a drug trafficker in Cerocahui, Chihuahua, allegedly murdered a few locals and two Jesuit priests after arguing over a baseball game. The man, Jose “El Chueco” Portillo, remains at large.
The organizer of the Juarez protests, Dr. Jose Antonio Garcia, said medical interns have been threatened, attacked and sometimes kidnapped by members of organized crime gangs in rural Chihuahua since at least 2015.
“Madera, Bocoyna, Guadalupe y Calvo, Guachochi, Batopilas… they’re all high-crime cities that we know put our fellow interns in dangerous situations,” Garcia said. “We passed this on to (health authorities) and they gave us a lecture on the importance of community service. They told us it’s normal to experience danger, but we don’t want to be put in danger.”
He added that some of his colleagues who have been threatened by drug traffickers or even kidnapped have reported such incidents to health officials. But instead of contacting authorities, officials say “you’re lying, that you probably missed work because you were drunk. This is a complete lack of respect.”
Garcia said the latest internship destination list released this week does not include “dangerous cities.” However, he said health officials made similar adjustments for the 2017 class after students went on a hunger strike, only to restore the destinations in 2018.
Guillermo Asain, leader of the Juarez public safety watchdog group, Mesa de Seguridad, said he supports the establishment of a security protocol to protect medical personnel in isolated communities.
“We know that rural communities are extremely (dangerous),” he said. “We can’t tell the medical authorities ‘don’t send them there,’ but we believe that this dialogue will benefit our communities.”