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July 25, 2014

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Final documentary in Mexican drug war trilogy opens in Vegas

Director Charlie Minn has chronicled life in Juarez for three years

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Charlie Minn

The New Juarez Trailer

Charlie Minn has spent the last three years filming documentaries in Juarez, enough time to see the city come full circle from murder capital of the world to a city with above average, but not outlandish, crime figures.

On Friday Minn's "The New Juarez," his third an final documentary on the Mexican border city just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Tex., will open in Las Vegas.

In 2011, Minn released "8 Murders A Day," a stark look at the out-of-control violence that gripped Juarez in 2010.

That year Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people, had 3,111 murders, the most in the world. When former Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug cartels at the start of his term in 2007, Juarez had 316 murders. In El Paso, which can be reached by pedestrian bridge from Juarez, there were five murders in 2010. Much of the violence is attributed to the clash between authorities and the rival Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

In 2012 Minn came out with "Murder Capital of the World" a follow up on the first film that further explored the causes of the violence in Juarez and looked at the roles of the U.S. and Mexican governments, including the ramifications of the 2012 Mexican presidential election.

Now, Minn caps his trilogy with "The New Juarez" which looks at the story behind the stabilizing murder rate in Juarez.

"The Sinaloa cartel won the war, so there are less people to kill," Minn said. "It's a troubling reason for the decline, but that's what I see. It's that in combination with security forces and the Juarez municipal police and their chief who has been there for a couple years now who laid down the law. Another reason is the federal police and army out of the city, which only escalated things when Calderon declared war on the cartels."

In 2012, Mexicans elected Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the PRI, the Mexican party that ruled the country for 71 years before ceding power to the PAN for 12 years.

"A lot of people think Pena Nieto is an air head," Minn said. "I don't have any confidence in him, and a lot of people think the PRI is not reformed and the election was corrupt."

For now, Juarez is returning to some normalcy after many of its denizens feared going out at night and mass shootings were far too common.

"Yes, the city is starting to restore itself," Minn said. "The jobs are coming back and the economy is better. The army and federal police have been minimized to the point that you don't even see them anymore. Nightclubs and other businesses are you coming back and you feel a lot more security now."

Minn said murders in Juarez fell to just below 800 in 2012, but the rate of murders steadily decreased throughout the year. In "The New Juarez" Minn goes on a police ride along in Juarez, interviews Mayor Hector Murguia, police chief Julian Leyzaola, city residents and academic.

He also examines issues of U.S. policies on the drug war and regulating firearms that have contributed to the violence.

Minn said the calm in Juarez might be short lived if another drug cartel chooses to confront the Sinaloa cartel.

"If the Zetas challenge Sinaloa, it could be worse than ever before," Minn said. "There's some word that they are already in town scoping it out."

A portion of the proceeds from "The New Juarez" will go to organizations in Juarez that aid victims of violence.

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