by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 so far in 2010. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:
In Monterrey, gunmen raided two hotels and kidnapped at least six people. The incident began when dozens of gunmen stormed the Holiday Inn at around 3:00am and went room to room looking for specific individuals -- taking at least four guests while allowing others to leave. The hotel receptionist and possibly a security guard were also abducted. Another receptionist was abducted from a hotel across the street. The gunmen were apparently being led to the fifth floor by a handcuffed man with whom they arrived. Before the attack, the gunmen blocked off access to and from the hotels by parking stolen trucks in the road.
Friday , April 23
In Ciudad Juarez, six federal police officers and a local policewoman were killed in an ambush. The incident took place after two patrol cars were flagged down for assistance by an unidentified man, only to be ambushed by several gunmen. On Monday (April 26), Mexican police arrested five suspects in the incident, all thought to be members of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel. In addition to the killing of the police officers, the gunmen confessed to 39 other homicides since 2009, and at least 21 extortions.
Saturday , April 24
In Michoacan, gunmen attacked the motorcade of a high-ranking public security official. Four people were killed and eleven were wounded, including the Michoacan State Security Secretary, Minerva Bautista. Gunmen wielding AK-47's and using fragmentation grenades attacked the convoy, sparking a firefight in which two bodyguards were killed, as well as two civilians who were caught in the crossfire.
Meanwhile, in Monterrey, a soldier was wounded and six gunmen were killed in a clash between the army and suspected drug traffickers.
Sunday , April 25
In Sinaloa, hooded prisoners killed four men inside a prison. The four men had been at the prison for 15 minutes and were on their way to a medical checkup when they were attacked and stabbed by the assailants. It was later reported the four men who were killed had been under investigation in the murder of several police officials, including two police chiefs. Violence is common in Mexican prisons, and many local jurisdictions have complained of having to house violent federal inmates with ties to drug cartels alongside common delinquents.
Wednesday , April 28
In Ciudad Juarez, gunmen shot dead eight individuals inside a bar in the center of the city. At approximately 4:00am a group of 20 gunmen entered the bar and ordered most clients and staff to leave, before leading the eight victims to a parking lot where they were shot. At least two of the dead were adolescents. The bar where the incident took place is just two blocks from a hotel where a large contingent of federal police officers is housed.
In another part of Ciudad Juarez, three men were shot dead and another left seriously wounded after being attacked in a shopping center parking lot.
In Nuevo Leon, soldiers raided a ranch in Sabinas Hidalgo and found 16 hostages. After a brief firefight with approximately 10 gunmen, two of whom were killed, soldiers stormed the compound and discovered the 16 hostages, which included a mother and child. The other eight gunmen managed to escape into the nearby mountains. It appears that the ranch and the gunmen belonged to the Zetas Organization. At least three of the hostages had been taken at gunpoint from an improvised checkpoint on the Monterrey-Reynosa highway.
The incident was the second hostage rescue in 24 hours in Nuevo Leon. Earlier, soldiers had raided another location in the town of General Bravo and rescued seven hostages, most of whom were local farmers who were being held as part of an extortion plot.
In Acapulco, 26 local police officers were taken into custody by Mexican Navy personnel. The police were taken into custody on suspicion of being involved in illegal activities in the sectors to which they were assigned, and of being in possession of a large collection of automatic weapons that were not registered with the police department. Additionally, one of the vehicles searched in the operation was found to contain a large bag of marijuana.
Total Body Count for the Year: 3,349
Total Body Count for the Week: 208
Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,660
Total Body Count 2009: 7,724
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.