In the Mexican cities and rural areas ravaged by gang violence and ruthless drug cartels, only the most daring of applicants desire positions of political power or police badges – and many of them, surprisingly, are women.
Tragically, as the death toll at the hands of the bloodthirsty narcotics dealers continues to rise, so does the number of female fatalities who go from local heroines to bullet-riddled corpses or official missing persons.
Erika Gandara was a radio dispatcher for the police department in the town of Guadalupe (population 9,000) just across the U.S. border, one mile from Fabens, Texas, but when the previous police chief was decapitated, the 28-year-old single woman applied for the dangerous job, which paid just $580 per month.
According to FoxNews.com, one policeman was murdered during Gandara's first week on the job and by the time she became chief the entire force of eight patrolmen had either been killed or fled in fear and she was the sole law enforcement representative in the crime-riddled Juarez valley town.
Instead of keeping a low profile as advised, Erika posed with her AR-15 semi-automatic rifle for newspaper interviews, and on December 23, 2010, she was dragged from her house by 10 gunmen who then torched her home. Her body was found several months later dumped in the desert.
"She stood up; she was a young lady who was very brave and strong," Steve Brewer, the pastor of Tapestries of Life Ministries, said at her memorial. "She was standing up as a testimony to our town."
Hermila Garcia's role as the top law enforcement officer in the town of Meoqui lasted only two months before she was gunned down by the very drug cartels that she had vowed to fight. The 38-year-old former lawyer was driving to work at 7:20 a.m. on November 29, 2010, when her killers showered her with bullets in what some saw as a warning from the cartels to other women.
Despite the growing drug-related violence in the region, "La Jefa," as Garcia Quinones was known, refused to have bodyguards or carry a weapon. "If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything," she was fond of saying when asked why she didn't have security, reported ABCNews.com.
Marisol Valles Garcia
Dubbed "the bravest woman in Mexico," Marisol Valles Garcia was sworn in in October as the head of a new program of crime prevention in a farming town located in one of the bloodiest regions in Mexico after her predecessor's head was found outside the police station a year earlier and no one had stepped up to fill his shoes.
"We're all afraid in Mexico now. We can't let fear beat us," she vowed. "This is not for me. I'm tired of all the drug violence."
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Within two weeks of becoming police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero (in the northwestern state of Chihuahua near to the cities of Ciudad Juárez and Guadalupe) Valles Garcia began getting threatening phone calls from drug cartels offering her work, and by the following March received a threat of kidnapping from a man who had harassed her for nearly four months.
Rather than becoming another name on the list of thousands of meaningless victims of the cartels, Valles Garcia and her husband and child ran for their lives and have since been awarded work visas in the U.S.
Maria Santos Gorrostieta
The rash of gruesome killings south of the border has not eased up, with Maria Santos Gorrostieta being the latest high profile victim to suffer a bloody fate.
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, the former mayor of of Tiquicheo in the western Michoacan state had waged a bitter war against the drug gangs who were hell-bent on terrorizing the region, during which she had been shot at twice, lost her husband to a murderous cartel attack, and suffered scars from beatings that would last her lifetime.
Despite previously surviving two attempts on her life (the first of which killed her husband), the 36-year-old peacekeeper fell victim to a kidnapping on November 12, 2012, when she was pulled from her van while taking her daughter to school, only to be found stabbed, burned and beaten by the side of a road in the San Juan Tararameo, Cuitzeo Township weeks later.
Maria is survived by two sons and a daughter. Her second husband Nereo Delgado Patinoran, believed to have vanished at the same time she did, is still missing.
Gorrostieta's tragedy is sadly all too common in a country that has many elected officials and police turning a blind eye to the drug cartels' reign of terror that include beheadings, hangings, mass graves and streets filled with tortured bodies.
It is estimated that more than two dozen mayors and 50,000 civilians have been murdered since President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug traffickers six years ago. Chihuahua has become Mexico's most violent state since then, with thousands of jobless young men fighting over local kidnapping, narcotics and extortion rackets in the country's hugely profitable drug market.