Mexico's bloody drug wars have come to this: The new police chief in Pradexis Guadalupe Guerrero, Mexico, in the border state of Chihuahua, is Marisol Valles Garcia, a petite 20-year-old college student who stepped up when no one else would. Here’s what you need to know about this brave chica:
Who She Is: Born and grew up in Ciudad Juarez, which has the highest murder rate in Mexico, so she’s no stranger to violence. She is a fighter: a single mom to a toddler boy and a college student studying criminology.
How She Got the Job: Valles turned in a community-based crime-fighting proposal so good that the mayor asked her to take on the job, which had been vacant for more than a year.
Why She's Not Scared: Well, she is. But that won’t stop her. "The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention,” she said.
What She Hopes to Accomplish: She will focus on prevention programs for schools and neighborhoods, retaking public spaces and fostering better relationships between neighbors. She and her officers will not be armed, leaving actual fighting to the national army, and will focus on building an anti-crime community network. "My people are out there going door to door, looking for criminals, and in homes where there are none, trying to teach values to the families," she said in her first official appearance this week. "The project is simple, based on values, principles and crime prevention in contacts house-by-house." She hopes to hire more women officers, presumably with balls as big as hers.
What She's Up Against: At night, drug dealers take over the city in SUV convoys headed north on the city’s single highway, for whose control rival drug cartels regularly gun each other down. Of the 28,000 people who have died since the government declared war on the drug violence in 2006, most of them have happened in the state of Chihuahua. Eight murders happened in Guadalupe—last week. The last police chief was murdered in July 2009, as was a former mayor, after which eight officers quit. The headquarters’ walls have been occasionally riddled with bullets.
How She'll Stay Safe: She’ll have two bodyguards assigned to her.
What People are Saying About Her: Miguel Sarre, a professor who specializes in Mexican law enforcement at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico: “I hope it’s not a reckless act on her part. A municipal police force cannot protect itself against such powerful forces."
Farmer Arturo Gomez: "It is not likely things will change from one day to the next, but let's see what a woman can do."