A town near drug cartel capital Juarez, Mexico, had just one applicant for police chief after a spate of killings of public officials in drug-related violence.
So now the new chief in Guadalupe, a town of 10,000 residents near the Texas border, is 20-year-old college criminology major Marisol Valles García.
Public officials have increasingly become the targets of assassination as Mexican cartels try to tighten their grasp on the country. Just this year, 11 Mexican mayors have been slain, including the former mayor of Guadalupe, who was killed in June. In the small town, "police officers and security agents have been killed, some of them beheaded," according to the AFP.
Valles tells a local paper that she took the job to help the town's people become less fearful. "Afraid? Everyone is afraid and it's very natural. What motivates me here is that the project [to make the community safer] is very good and can do a lot for my town. I know that we are going to change and remove this," she said.
One Mexican criminology professor told the Arizona Republic that getting elected to public office in Mexico "is like winning a tiger in a raffle."
"Before, it used to be an attractive job, living on the public payroll," said Dante Haro of the University of Guadalajara. "Now being a town mayor is very difficult, not just because of the economic problems but also this issue of obedience to organized crime."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recently that Mexico is "looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago," when drug lords had a chokehold on many public officials.
A young Guadalupe citizen complained to Valles, "We are spending a great part of our lives locked up inside our homes," according to a Spanish-language paper. Valles responded that she wants to encourage more events for young people in the town.
[Photos: Mexico's brutal drug war]
"The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention," Valles told CNN en Español. "Our work will be pure prevention. We are not going to be doing anything else other than prevention."
More than 28,000 people have died in the country's drug violence since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels in 2006.
(Photo of Valles courtesy of NorteDigital.mx)
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