Mexican mayor fires young police chief in drug war

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:35 PM

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - A 20-year-old female student who became the police chief in one of Mexico's most dangerous drug war towns was fired by the mayor on Monday for not showing up to work after Mexican media reported she received death threats.

Marisol Valles, a criminology student in Mexico's violent city of Ciudad Juarez, took charge of the police force in the neighboring municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero near El Paso, Texas, in October, sparking intense media attention after few candidates dared to apply for the dangerous job.

Valles, the mother of an infant son, was due back at her post this week after taking leave on March 2 to attend to personal matters but Ciudad Juarez daily El Diario reported she had fled Mexico after being threatened by drug gangs.

Town hall officials in Praxedis last week denied she had sought asylum in the United States and said they had received no reports of death threats.

In a statement, the Praxedis mayor's office said she had failed to return to work on Monday without giving any notice, grounds for her firing.

Praxedis officials declined to comment on the possible motives for her absence, her whereabouts or her safety.

"The town hall has taken the decision to remove her from her post," the statement said, adding the municipality would now choose a new police chief.

Valles, a petite woman with black glasses, amazed many Mexicans with her bravery for taking up the post just days after drug hitmen killed the mayor in a nearby town in a region where many police officers have quit or been killed.

With some 8,000 killings in and around Ciudad Juarez over the past three years, the region has become one of the world's deadliest places and is gripped by lawlessness as gangs fight over smuggling routes into the United States, local drug sales, and lucrative extortion and kidnapping rackets.

(Reporting by Julian Cardona; Editing by Eric Beech)