Meet Marisol Valles García. She's a 20-year-old college student studying criminal justice who this week was sworn in as police chief in one of the most dangerous zones of the Drug War - the town of Praxedis G. Guerrero, a town of 10,000 near the city of Juarez, the bloody epicenter of the war. Unsurprisingly, Marisol was the only applicant for the job as mayors, public officials, and scores of police officers in the Juarez valley which stretches along the Rio Grande border of Texas have been assassinated - some even beheaded - by the vicious drug cartels.
The AP reports, "The tiny but energetic Valles García, whose only police experience was a stint as a department secretary, says she wants her 13 officers to practice a special brand of community policing. She plans to hire more women - she currently has three on the force - and assign each to a neighborhood to talk with families, to promote civic values and detect potential crimes before they happen." The article reported that Valles García won't carry a gun but has been assigned two bodyguards.
Her aim is to establish programs in neighborhoods and schools, in order to win back security in public spaces and to foster greater cooperation among neighbors so they can form watch committees. In an interview with CNN Español she said, "The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention." It almost sounds like she's studied some COIN...
Valles García's decision to accept the job, whether seen as courageous or foolhardy, surely wasn't taken lightly - as the AP story reports the situation in the Juarez Valley: "Local residents say the drug gangs take over at night, riding through the towns in convoys of SUVs and pickups, assault rifles and even .50 caliber sniper rifles at the ready. The mayor of one nearby town and the assistant mayor of another were recently assassinated even after they took refuge in the nearby city of Juarez." The stakes, then, are very high.
"Yes, there is fear," Valles García said in the CNN interview, "There will always be fear but what we want to achieve in our municipality is tranquility and security." God be with her...this lamb among wolves. Protect her, O Lord, and give her strength.