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Mexico: Federal Police Shoot Student in Ciudad Juarez During Forum Against Militarization and Violence

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Mexican Federal Police shot and injured sociology student José Darío Alvarez Orrantia during the 11th Walk Against Death in Ciudad Juarez on Friday, October 29.  Witnesses say that federal police fired at least five shots at Walk participants.

Alvarez Orrantia survived surgery and is in grave condition, reports La Polaka.  The bullet entered his body in the upper part of his buttocks and exited through his abdomen, exposing his intestines. Witnesses say police shot the victim from behind as he ran. Alvarez Orrantia's intestines have been perforated in multiple places.  If he survives his injuries, he will likely have permanent complications, doctors told La Polaka.

The 11th Walk Against Death was part of the International Forum Against Militarization and Violence, which was held this past weekend in Ciudad Juarez.  Alvarez Orrantia was shot just before a scheduled roundtable discussion entitled "Youthicide."

A statement from forum participants claims that federal officers shot Alvarez Orrantia at close range on the campus of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez, where the Forum was being held. Mexican law strictly prohibits police from entering autonomous university campuses.

Participants in the Walk say that the police targeted a group of graffiti artists who were painting walls during the demonstration, and that the officers chased the demonstrators onto the university campus, where they shot Alvarez Orrantia. Photos of the Walk show that the demonstration was peaceful in nature. Participants carried several large banners that clearly identified the gathering as a protest against the military's presence in Juarez. Alvarez Orrantia appears in several photos stenciling graffiti during the Walk.

The federal government contradicts witnesses' claims. It argues that the officers were pursuing homicide suspects when they inadvertently stumbled upon the Walk Against Death. "A couple of [demonstrators] had their faces covered," said the federal Ministry of Public Security in a statement, "leading the federal agents to get out of their vehicles and shoot warning shots into the air." The Ministry statement does not clarify how warning shots fired into the air could have injured Alvarez Orrantia. Internal Affairs is investigating two officers for their involvement in the shooting.

Juarez has been a laboratory where government officials have experimented new tactics and strategies in Mexico's increasingly violent drug war.  The military occupied Juarez and relieved local police of their duties from March 2008 to April 2010, when Federal Police took over policing duties from the soldiers. Juarez's mayor and the governor of Chihuahua, where Juarez is located, have sought advice and training from Colombian mayors and police.   Furthermore, a new phase of the US drug war aid package the Merida Initiative will reportedly focus on "institution building" and "rule of law" in Ciudad Juarez.

Despite the drastic measures, violence has only increased in Ciudad Juarez. The city now has the distinction of being the deadliest city in the world.