The announced release of a video game that glorifies murder and mayhem in the violence-wracked city of Juarez, Mexico, is sparking an outcry. The game — Call of Juarez: The Cartel — will be released by the French video-gamer Ubisoft this summer, but critics on the border are already condemning its bad taste.
A screen shot of the game pictures an outlaw in a flak jacket and cowboy hat, gripping a shotgun, next to the words: "Welcome to the new Wild West. Take justice in your own hands, on a bloody road trip from Los Angeles to Juarez."
The industrial border city across from El Paso has become Mexico's murder capital and, by some estimates, the homicide capital of the world. Last year, there was an average of eight murders a day. The majority were victims of a savage turf war between two rival drug cartels.
In a particularly violent 72-hour period, from last Thursday to Saturday, 53 more people were gunned down. They included two police officers and a state investigator.
"In Juarez, there's been a real tremendous outcry against this video because people see it as really the ultimate dehumanization of people of Juarez," says Howard Campbell, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. Campbell closely follows the drug war across the river in Mexico.
"Their problems are so severe, and then for people to mock them and make light of them is very, very insulting," Campbell says. "I mean, more than 8,000 people have been killed in the last four years; and it's not something to joke about."
In protest, the Chihuahua state legislature has asked the federal government to forbid sales of the video in Mexico.
A spokesperson for Ubisoft says the game is purely fictional and for entertainment purposes only, created more as an action-movie fantasy than a portrayal of life in Juarez.
Last year, a New York-based cosmetics company abandoned Mexican sales of a makeup collection that caused similar objections because its ashen hues were said to be inspired by the murders of women in that city.