Filmmaker Charlie Minn returns to the East Valley today to premier his documentary movie about Mexican drug cartel-related violence. His latest venture examines the the deep-rooted culture of murder in the city of Juarez, Mexico.
But Minn notes that as rampant as the problem may be in Juarez, it’s a 2010 beheading case in Chandler connected to similar violence that proves that although these events mostly happen in Mexico — amid corruption along areas like the border town of Juarez — such crimes remain difficult to solve in the United States when they do spill onto United States soil.
That, Minn believes, means it’s only a matter of time before such acts become commonplace here.
“Out of all 50 states, I believe that Arizona has been hit the hardest with crimes and drugs spilling across the border,” Minn said. “There’s a crisis going on at our border, and I’m surprised to see that there’s not more attention being paid to it. The demand for drugs in the U.S. is only fueling the problem.”
Minn’s New York-based Charlie Minn Films will release “Murder Capital of the World” at 2 p.m. today at the Harkins Valley Art Theater, 509 S. Mill Ave. in Tempe.
The movie is a victim-driven, 85-minute documentary about the multitude of murders in Juarez — located just across the U.S.-Mexico border from El Paso, Texas. The film chronicles the affect those events have had on a city where heroes to the youth are druglords. It discusses how many of the guns seized in Mexico are from the U.S. and even touches on Mexico’s upcoming presidential election on July 1.
“Murder Capital of the World” will be shown four times a day throughout next week at the Valley Art Theater. Next month, the movie will be played at the AMC Theater in New York’s Times Square.
The movie marks the second drug cartel-related movie Minn has released within a year after releasing “Eight Murders a Day,” also about Juarez, last year. Minn was working on “Nightmare in Las Cruces” in New Mexico about three years ago when he took notice of the magnitude of the issue — notably since Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderon, launched the war on drugs in 2006 against various groups, like the Sinaloa, Zetas and Gulf cartels.
While the murder rate in Juarez has dropped from eight a day in 2010 — roughly 3,000 a year — to four a day in 2011, according to various news reports and Minn’s research, he estimates that about 90 percent are not investigated.
In the Valley, Minn is no stranger when it comes to commenting about Mexico’s war on drugs on local television news stations. He emerged as a voice on the issue soon after the beheading of Martin Alejandro Cota-Monroy inside a Chandler apartment and said that it was surprising that a beheading connected to a Mexican drug cartel would happen in Chandler.
Police say Cota-Monroy, 38, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, stole 400 pounds of marijuana from the PEI-Estatales/El Chapo cartel and then lied about it in an attempt to save his life. But three “sicarios” (hitmen) from Mexico, with ties to Perris, Calif., caught up with him, shared a few beers at the El Coyote Bar, and during the early morning hours of Oct. 10, 2010 sent a message by killing him for stealing the drugs he told the cartel were confiscated by Border Patrol.
Cota-Monroy’s body was found that morning inside a small apartment at the Chandler Oasis complex in the 300 block of West Fairview Street, a few feet from where his severed head lay on blood-drenched carpet in what is believed to be the first beheading in the U.S. related to a cartel, according to a graphically detailed 170-page Chandler police report.
“It definitely was surprising because you rarely see that type of crime here,” Minn said. “After the cartel members came here from Mexico, a beheading was a very daring thing to do. It is unusual, but cartel-related crimes are happening in a lot of cities across the U.S.”
Of the four men who police believe were inside the apartment the prior evening and early morning prior to the murder, one was arrested — Crisantos Moroyoqui, 38. Moroyoqui, who has been charged with second-degree murder in connection to Cota-Monroy’s death, was discovered by police with blood on his clothing and boots. He did not cooperate with investigators and remains held in a Maricopa County jail without bond. His trial is scheduled to begin in July. Authorities have said that others involved Cota-Monroy’s death likely never will be brought to justice, as they believe they are in Mexico and could be targets of a rival cartel.
Minn believes it will take decades of a shared solution between the United States and Mexico to help quash the problem.
“There’s an extreme range of corruption in Mexico,” Minn said. “We don’t know who’s who, and who is on our side. Here, we have law and order and real investigators who will look into such crimes. But, until we say no to drugs, the problem will continue.”
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