MEXICO CITY — Gunmen have killed so many police and local officials in some areas of Mexico bordering Texas that few are willing to take the posts anymore — leading several women to occupy roles traditionally dominated by men.
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Both towns are near the southern edge of Ciudad Juarez, where drug violence has claimed over 4,000 lives in the last two years, giving the city one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Olga Herrera Castillo, the new head of security for Villa Luz and a 43-year-old mother of five, said Wednesday that "sometimes I am afraid, but people encourage me and I lose my fear."
Her job will largely consist of filing reports after crimes occur, because Samalayuca has only 2,500 inhabitants, one patrol vehicle and a handful of police officers — none of them permanently assigned to the hamlet.
Veronica Rios Ontiveros will be in charge of the police department in Villa Luz.
Last month, 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia was sworn in as police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, east of Ciudad Juarez, despite not having finished her criminology degree.
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Drug violence has killed almost 7,000 people in and around Ciudad Juarez since early 2008, while more than 31,000 people have died across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on drug cartels in December 2006.
Bloodshed has exploded around Ciudad Juarez as local cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes fights off an offensive by Mexico's No. 1 fugitive drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.
Calderon has pledged to reform Mexico's police and provide better salaries that are often as low as $300 a month. He wants Congress to approve a plan to put municipal police control in the hands of the country's 32 state governments.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.