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Thursday, December 16, 2010


Ciudad Juarez - A rusting seesaw is sinking even further into the marsh on the edge of the world's most dangerous city.  A year ago, only a few of the relentlessly identical brick houses in the area were abandoned, burned out or turned into crack dens.  Now, whole swaths of them are empty-or converted into lairs for the drug-dealing street gangs that control the terrain and tag it: PFK, WEST SIDE.  The MK 18 gang has apparently taken over a row of houses leading down to an open sewer. 

The stench of excreta and trash wafts on the breeze.  Two men with walkie-talkies are sitting on deck chairs, keeping watch at their post.  "This is ours," grunts one of them.  "If you stay here, we'll see you're not harmed. 

But once you've been here, don't cross to the other side of the sewer." Up one street, every house is an incinerated shell apart from the one belonging to a man called Mario, who returns wearily home with his children pushing buggies full of scrap foraged from the empty homes to sell. 

These are the desolate remains of Riberas del Bravo, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez.  The city, opposite El Paso, Texas, is the fulcrum of the US-Mexico borderline and the kernel of the war that rages throughout Mexico.  Some 28,000 people have been killed-many of them with perverse cruelty-since President Felipe Calderon mobilized the Mexican military in December 2006. 

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