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The spin on President Felipe Calderon's visit to Juarez

March 17, 2010 |  8:01 pm

Juarez protest

Ciudad Juarez is "in flames," a security official in the border city told Mexican President Felipe Calderon during his visit this week. "Is it possible to win this war as it is currently being waged? Because not even the most powerful army in the world has been able to [win] in urban warfare. ... Iraq is among the examples."

The man behind these strong words is identified as Miguel Garcia in Thursday's lead story in La Jornada, a left-leaning daily in Mexico City that still dutifully covers every move made by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the "legitimate president," as his followers call him. The paper's story covering Calderon's visit on Wednesday played up locals' strong rejection of a data presentation by Calderon's Cabinet that showed, somehow, that violent crime and kidnappings in Ciudad Juarez have decreased since October.

Local officials were outraged and offended, La Jornada reports, arguing that the government's figures of a "fabulous world" in Juarez do not correspond with reality.

Meanwhile, Reforma, a Mexico City daily that is traditionally friendlier to Calderon's conservative party, corporate interests and the wealthy, had a completely different take in its Thursday coverage of the Juarez story.

The paper led with U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual's statements on the "diminishing" of narco warfare along the U.S.-Mexico border (subscription req'd). Reforma reports that Pascual urged Mexican authorities to remain vigilant despite the apparent drop in drug violence. The government's figures on that drop are not questioned, not doubted. (For its part, The Times reports that "killings have only soared" in Ciudad Juarez since Mexico's military took over the streets there.)

The range of spin on the news of the day in the Mexican press is often astounding. On any given story relating to politics or the drug war, a skeptical news consumer must usually consult two or three sources to get a decent sense of what's actually happening.

In El Universal, a paper generally considered to be middle of the road, Calderon is quoted defending his numbers, and his anti-narco strategy. The president, on his third visit to Juarez since the brutal mass slaying of 15 young people in late January, reiterated that the military will continue to be present in Juarez to help curtail the violence that is terrorizing the city.

At least 500 people have been killed in Juarez since the start of the year.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A demonstrator struggles with police in Ciudad Juarez during President Felipe Calderon's visit. Credit: AP.

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