One reason Marisol Valles Garcia did not have much competition for the police chief job could be that her predecessor’s head was left in front of the police station a few days after he was kidnapped.
Another reason could be that a fifth of the population of Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrero, a dusty, sun-baked town on Mexico’s border with Texas, has fled a wave of killings and burnings that have made this one of the most violent places on Earth. If being police chief of Praxedis for a monthly salary of not much more than? 400 sounds like a career option from hell, you are not Marisol Valles Garcia, a 20-year-old criminology student who seized the offer and started her new job this week.
For an undergraduate who paints her nails pink and has an infant son to be thrown into the crucible of the drug war has astonished Mexico, but Ms Valles Garcia appears to be sanguine: “I am frightened, I am only human, but you have to learn to trust and to have hope that things can change,” she said.
Ms Valles Garcia heads a force of just 13 agents, nine of them women, with one working patrol car, three automatic rifles and a pistol.
The town sits in Juarez valley, a transit point for cartels transporting cocaine, cannabis and other drugs to the U.S., which is a stone’s throw across the Rio Bravo.
The previous police chief, Martin Castro, was abducted in January 2009 and his severed head turned up days later in front of the police station, a warning that frightened away most of the force and left the police chief post unfilled for over a year.
Earlier this month a new Mayor, Jose-Luis Guerrero, started interviewing candidates for a new community police force. Ms Valles Garcia, a student from Juarez University who is due to finish a criminology degree in December, was working as the police secretary and applied to be a regular police officer. She so impressed the mayor that he offered the top job.
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