University librarian keeps tally of the murders in Juárez, Mexico

Since the escalation of violence in Mexico in 2008, Molly Molloy has been keeping a tally of the murders in Juárez and informing the public on the drug war through the online newsgroup, Frontera List.

Molly Molloy/ Photo by Theresa Westbrock


Living 50 miles from one of the most dangerous cities in the world, New Mexico State University (NMSU) librarian has taken on the grisly role of keeping count of the murders in Juarez, Mexico.

Molly Molloy, 56, Border & Latin American Specialist,  held an interest in the so-called war on drugs and the lack of in-depth coverage it received inspiring her to attempt to fill that void.

In 2009, she began hosting a newsgroup through Google groups, which has now accumulated nearly a thousand subscribers mainly consisting of academics and journalists interested in border issues. By pulling information from sources such as El Diario de Juarez, Molloy provides her subscribers with detailed accounts of events generally glossed over in other media outlets.

The reason  for the violence is commonly attributed to Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s call to war against the drug cartels, however, little is said of the effects of NAFTA that led to the loss of jobs and the Merida Initiative, which continues to funnel millions of dollars to the Mexican military. The increase in poverty in this border region and the rise of corrupt government officials has created an environment for illegal activity to thrive thus perpetuation the violence.

“I think that most US coverage is pretty shallow and seems almost always based on the latest press releases from Mexican government entities. Of course when there is a high-profile event like a massacre, multiple homicides, atrocities with narco-banners, etc., there is a flurry of wire service coverage, but there is almost never any follow-up,” said Molloy. “ Also, I know that there are many reporters from major media based in Mexico, almost all of them in Mexico City.There, they have access to the major government agencies, cabinet officials, etc. What they do not seem to have is access to local and state officials in areas where the worst violence occurs. There is seldom any reporting from rural areas.”

In her first post, Molloy wrote:

“El Diario reports that July is the most violent month in the history of
Juarez with 244 murders. The total for 2009 is now 1,125. Last year at
this time, the number of killings was 688, so there has been an
increase of 63%.  July has also seen the highest toll of women
killed–13 in all.”

Noticing the absence of an accurate account of events and the discrepancies in the numbers of deaths among various news outlets in the US, Molloy felt it important to “keep the count.”

Molloy’s tally of the homicides in Juarez has become one of the most dependable sources of information regarding the violence in Mexico with reporters often times consulting Frontera List for an up-to-date count.

Shannon Young, a radio reporter based in Oaxaca, states, “What Frontera List has been particularly helpful with is keeping up with the death count from Juárez. Keeping up with these statistics can be depressing, but it’s really important work that no one else really seems to be doing.”

Mainly relying on El Diario de Juarez along with, El Norte de Cuidad and INPRO, a database of reports from Chihuahua provided through her library, for the bulk of her posts, she has developed an extensive archive with the hope of one day organizing it for future reference.

Author and Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Erin Siegal states, “I appreciate the fact that Molloy pulls from both mainstream and independent sources.”

Molloy relies heavily on El Diario de Juarez for the death count and had initially begun following the daily tally kept by El Diario reporter, Armando Rodriguez. This prompted Molloy to contact him in March 2008 and they maintained contact through emails exchanging their daily counts until he was gunned down in November of that year, a victim of the very violence he covered.

In one email exchange, he writes, “Si, es sorprendente, parece guion de pelicula de terror de bajo presupuesto!” comparing the violence to a low-budget horror film.

As of May 2012, Molloy estimates over 10,000 have died in Juarez and roughly 90,000 overall since 2008 yet most stories still report roughly 50,000 deaths.

“I’ve never seen a report in the US press about the extraordinarily low numbers of military casualties (for instance). There was a report last December saying that something like 126 army members had been killed since Dec 2006,” said Molloy. “ If the army is really engaging and fighting drug cartels all across Mexico, then how is it possible that 100,000 Mexicans have been killed and almost no soldiers?”

A new website, Facebook and Twitter have been established in order to further disseminate Molloy’s work and develop an archive of the more than 5000 posts and numerous reports she’s collected through the years.

“I do want frontera list to be more than current awareness though, I want to mine it for data on who the victims are,” said Molloy. “ What we need is to convert all the information into a database that will be a real historical resource.”

In the meantime, she will continue managing the site and providing information otherwise overlooked while maintaining a platform for discussion.

Journalist Susanna Hayward extols the value of Frontera List saying, “As a former Mexico correspondent and someone who lived in Mexico for 18 years, Frontera List is essential for me to keep up with the news, particularly along the border. The drug war has caused most of the Mexican media to be silent about the violence and its staggering death toll. Molly Molloy fills that void as a reliable, expedient source of information, keeping me abreast of developments, with accurate figures and insights into the confusing world of organized crime. As a freelancer often writing about Mexico’s nascent violence, I rely on Frontera List to provide accurate information and insightful analysis.”




Tags:  Ciudad Juárez drug violence drug war Frontera List Juarez Molly Molloy

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