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Female Police Chief Murdered in Mexico

Mexican federal police officers man a roadblock in the town of Meoqui, state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico, Monday Nov. 29, 2010 after the police chief of the town was gunned down. AP Photo

Hermila Garcia, 38, was shot on her way to work Monday by a convoy of gunmen. Garcia, a trained lawyer, took the job as police chief on Oct. 9 in the town of Meoqui, in drug violence-ridden Chihuahua state.

The assailants intercepted her in the town of Los Garcia, some 10 kilometers from Meoqui around 7:20 a.m. Monday. Garcia was in charge of up to 90 police agents in a mostly agricultural region of the Chihuahua state, some 70 kilometers south of Chihuahua City, the capital of the state.

"La Jefa," as she was known to her police agents, didn't carry weapons or have bodyguards.

"If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything," she was fond of saying when asked why she didn't have security.

Mexican media reported that Garcia was single and lived with her parents, whom she supported financially.

Mexico's drug violence has claimed almost 30,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and sent about 45,000 soldiers to fight the powerful drug cartels. In recent months, Meoqui had started to see some of this violence. A once peaceful town, the drug violence-related death tally has shot up to 40 deaths so far this year. Normally that death count would account for homicides over seven years.

Policing has become a job so dangerous that men are now shying away from such posts. Just last month, 20-year old mother and student Marisol Valles was appointed chief of police in Praxedis, in the Juarez valley, a key drug smuggling route just across the border from Texas also in Chihuahua state. Why did a 20-year-old mother accept the position? No one else would. Her predecessor was kidnapped more than a year ago. His head was deposited outside the police station a few days after he disappeared. After that, no one came forward to fill the police chief vacancy for more than a year -- until Valles was appointed top cop by the town's mayor.

Other women who have taken top policing jobs because no men would include two housewives: Verónica Ríos Ontiveros and Olga Herrera Castillo, who took over policing jobs in El Vergel and Villa de Luz, both in Juarez, now known as the "murder capital" of the world due to its high murder rate. The Juarez valley has had more than 2,700 drug violence-related deaths this year.

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