The Juárez pool party scandal

Frontera NorteSur

A scandal over a Ciudad Juarez party packed with beer-guzzling teenagers goes far beyond the matter of underage drinking. The “pool party” affair is stacked with  critical  legal, social, economic and political issues that contain important ramifications for a troubled society.

Alerted about a loud gathering at a big house in the Real de San Jose neighborhood known as “The Mansion,” local cops broke up a party last June 29 and detained 115 people, including  77 minors. Of the detained youth, an estimated 75 percent were 14 or 15 years of age.  Police reportedly discovered an intoxicated 12-year-old girl at the scene. The officers also confiscated three kegs of beer and 72 large bottles of brew.

Three adults accused of organizing the party and acting as hosts and/or alcohol servers were booked into city jail on charges of corrupting minors. They were identified as Beatriz Adriana Lazalde Ojeda, Irasema Chacon Tellez and Jaime Olvera Puente. Chacon and Olvera were further identified as inspectors of the municipal commerce department.

“We aren’t going to tolerate anyone who tries to modify the conduct of young people in this way,” said Ciudad Juarez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola., “much less if they are government employees.”

Leyzaola added that an investigation of more commerce department employees would move forward.

Both Chacon and Olvera were quickly dismissed from jobs connected to a department that is in charge of regulating permits and business activity in the city.

While all the defendants could get from six months to three years in prison for corrupting minors, Chacon and Olvera face up to an additional seven years in the slammer for illegal exercise of public service, since they allegedly identified themselves as municipal employees when police showed up at the party..

According to local press accounts, the Real de San Jose party was advertised on Facebook and at a stationery store owned by Lazalde. The sales outlet is strategically  located across the street from Secondary School #33 in the Pradera Dorado neighborhood. The promotions advertised an open bar in return for an entrance fee of about ten bucks.

According to El Diario de Juarez, Lazalde was accused in the 2001 murder of Jorge Robles. Three years later, in a separate case, she was accused of robbery and threatening  alleged victim Lorena Lechuga Posada.

In early 2008 Irasema Chacon made the news, when together with Congresswoman Lilia Merodio, she allegedly assaulted a woman, 23-year-old Claudia Michelle Escobar Diaz, outside the Plasma nightclub in the then-trendy Lincoln Avenue district. In a complaint filed with state legal authorities, Escobar accused Merodio of calling her a “damn traitor” for unknown reasons and then hitting her.

In a subsequent press interview, Merodio countered that Escobar was lying. The federal legislator said she was exploring defamation charges against Ciudad Juarez’s  Lapolaka Internet news site over the Plasma incident.

Once called “Princess Huarache” by the press, the 32-year-old Merodio is a rising national star in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

After a stint as a young Ciudad Juarez council member, she served as the director of human resources during the first municipal administration of current Mayor Hector Teto Murguia.  Merodio was then elected to the 2006-2009 federal Congress, where she served on a women’s rights commission.

Last fall, new Governor Cesar Duarte designated Merodio as the official representative of the State of Chihuahua in Mexico City. In March of this year, Merodio was named by the PRI leadership to oversee the party’s national properties in the crucial lead-up to the 2012 elections. Merodio holds a degree in business administration from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez.

Back in the border city, meanwhile, pool party defendant Adriana Lazalde was reported to be the owner of the Fashion modeling agency, a business that provides both young female models and male escorts for quinceanera celebrations and expositions.

A version of the pool party claimed that young people helped Lazalde sell tickets prior to the event, and that some youth were told they could gain entrance to the party in exchange for cocaine and meth instead of cash.

Several young people have formally declared that Lazalde had organized parties in the past.

Although hard evidence connecting the June 29 bash or previous parties to other illicit endeavors has not been publicly disclosed, the Chihuahua state justice official in charge of criminal investigations in Ciudad Juarez alluded to the possibility that adult-organized social gatherings of adolescents could serve as covers for other forms of law-breaking.

“It is evident that these people organize in such an audacious manner that it is difficult to prove their participation in other illegalities such as the sale of drugs or the trafficking of minors,” said Jorge Gonzalez Nicolas.

Local and state law enforcement officials called on the public to report any of the so-called pool parties or raves that they encounter.

The pool party scandal recast public attention on reported differences between Chief Leyzaola and the municipal commerce department, which is headed by former police Captain Jesus “El Coma” Retana, as well as the broader issue of local government corruption.

The tension purportedly stems from an earlier police operation ordered by Leyzaola and aimed at clearing Ciudad Juarez’s downtown district of unauthorized vendors and so-called “tragamonedas,” the illegal slot-like machines that pop up from time to time in some business establishments.

Shot to death on June 14, police commander Jose Alfredo Portillo Hernandez was reportedly hesitant to crack down on illegal business activities prior to his murder.

In the aftermath of the pool party and policing polemics, the local press has reported that an associate of Mayor Murguia’s private secretary, Hector Isai Serna Garcia, has been in US custody since April for falsely declaring that he was a US citizen while attempting to cross into El Paso.

In regards to the pool party, Javier Gonzalez Mocken, deputy state secretary for education, culture and sports, said his office will assist in any broader investigation.

“All the schools are vulnerable to activities of an illicit character,” Gonzalez insisted. He also urged parents to monitor their children’s messages on Facebook.

Victor Manuel Salas, head of the Ciudad Juarez Parents Association, praised the pool party bust. “It’s good (authorities) acted this way,” Salas said. “Now, the next step is to not let up in order to increase the public’s confidence in denouncing these sorts of situations that damage our children. What they’ve done is an example, and we’re in agreement with the way it was done.”

This week,  Juarez city council members rejected a motion by the  National Action Party that the mayor’s office investigate a possible criminal network in the commerce department.  Opposed by the PRI and two other parties (PRD and PANAL), the measure went down to defeat with 7 votes in favor and 12 against it.

It is expected that the corruption issue arising from the pool party scandal will be turned over to city council commissions for possible future actions. Meantime, the three defendants in the case could be released from jail pending their trials.

Sources:, July 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 2011. Articles by Carlos Huerta, Francisco Lujan,  Felix A. Gonzalez, Beatriz Corral Iglesias, and editorial staff., July 5, 2011. El Diario de Juarez, July 1, 2 and 4, 2011. Proceso/Apro, July 1, 2011., March 29, 2011. El Mexicano, February 6, 2008.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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