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Texas charities curb Mexico outreach amid violence

Texas charities curb Mexico outreach amid violence

With the death toll in the Mexican city of Juarez mounting, the bloody struggle for control of the city across the Rio Grande from the American city of El Paso, Texas, can now count one more victim: charity from its American neighbor.
At least two American church groups have chosen not to send members over the border to aid the poor because of the drug cartel war.
"It pains us. The violence is out of hand. We actually had a parishioner who was kidnapped, so it's too close to home," said Monsignor Arturo Banuelas, of El Paso's Roman Catholic diocese.
Banuelas, whose nephew was killed in the west coast state of Sinaloa earlier this year, said parishioners from El Paso would normally make several missions around Juarez to deliver food, clothing, blankets and gifts at this time of year.
But because of the drug war _ more than 1,300 people have been killed in the city of 1.3 million this year _ he canceled the church's outreach.
Officials with the Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso also have canceled trips to orphanages and local ministries that aid Juarez's poorest.
Pat Rodriguez, the center's outreach director, said her church group has been forced to wait for aid organizers from Mexico to cross the border and pick up supplies. And even that effort has waned as the violence has mounted.
"I'll go two or three weeks, or even a month, without seeing them," Rodriguez said of her Mexican colleagues.
Both Rodriguez and Banuelas said their churches have usually taken youth volunteers to pass out food or do community service, but the risk now is too great.
For Banuelas, the proof came this summer when a youth group returned from an outreach mission south of Juarez. Shortly afterward, more than a dozen people were killed in the same small town.
"If it was just persecution against the church, or against what we believe, I'd be the first one there," Banuelas said. But it's not. "It's just drug and cartel violence," he said.
Cartels have been fighting for control of the city's drug and human smuggling trade. Mexican authorities have stationed thousands of soldiers and police in the city, but the fighting has intensified.
Armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom have increased across Mexico. Officials estimate that more than 5,300 people died in Mexico in organized crime-related slayings in the first 11 months of 2008.
Banuelas said he has directed the efforts of his parishioners away from Juarez and toward poor communities around El Paso, instead.
He estimated that thousands of people in Juarez are likely to be cold and hungry this winter because so many charities in El Paso are afraid to cross the border.
George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, said violence is likely to continue until the Mexican government regains control of Juarez.
"One speaks of failed states, Ciudad Juarez is a failed city," Grayson said. "It's a no man's land. It's totally out of control."
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Updated : 2021-04-20 07:09 GMT+08:00