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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of 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 Ciudad Juarez, 12 people were killed in various parts of the city. In one case, a man on a bus was killed after being shot by another passenger, who was apparently following him and waiting for an opportune moment to strike. In another incident, a group of armed men stormed a house, killing one man and leaving a woman and a child wounded.
Friday, August 20
In Monterrey, two private security guards were killed after a shootout in front of the prestigious American School Foundation, known for educating the children of many wealthy locals and those of American expatriates. The gun battle apparently began after the guards had a verbal altercation with a group of armed men who were driving near the school. Four guards who disappeared under unclear circumstances during the gunfight turned up safely on Friday. It is unclear whether the men fled or were kidnapped by the gunmen, as has been reported in the Mexican media.
Saturday, August 21
In El Paso, a bullet fired during a gunfight in Ciudad Juarez struck a building belonging to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). At least eight rounds fired in Ciudad Juarez have struck buildings in El Paso in recent weeks.
Sunday, August 22
In Cuernavaca, four bodies were discovered hanging from a bridge. The bodies had been decapitated and mutilated, and their genitals had been removed. A note left at the scene indicated that the men were affiliated with American-born cartel figure Edgar Valdez Villareal, who is currently in a power struggle with Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva Organization. Cuernavaca has seen a dramatic surge in violence since cartel boss Arturo Beltran-Leyva was killed in December, leaving his organization leaderless.
Monday, August 23
In Hidalgo, seven bodies were discovered inside two mines that were being used as clandestine graves by suspected drug cartels. Authorities were led to the mine by several suspects arrested last week, including three police officers. In May, a similar discovery in Taxco led to the discovery of 55 bodies.
In Ciudad Juarez, five people were killed in several incidents in the city. Among the dead was a federal police officer who had been decapitated, dismembered, and whose body parts were left strewn along a highway. In another incident, a municipal policewoman was shot dead off-duty as she drove in a car with her child, who was left uninjured.
Tuesday, August 24
In Tamaulipas, 72 bodies were discovered at a farm after a gun battle in San Fernando, about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas. The bodies were discovered by Marines acting on a tip from a man who claimed he was an illegal migrant who had been kidnapped. Initial reports suggest that the dead are mainly Central American immigrants who were killed after refusing to pay an extortion fee. Drug cartels, particularly the Zetas Organization which is powerful in Tamaulipas, have increasingly begun kidnapping migrants in addition to narcotics smuggling.
Near Acapulco, two bodies were discovered hanging from an overpass bridge on the highway from Chilpancingo. Their arms had been chopped off and a note was left with the bodies threatening extortionists, kidnappers, and the army.
In Mexico City, investigators from the UN and the OAS said that Mexico was the most dangerous place for journalists in the Americas. Some 60 journalists have been killed in the country since 2,000, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
Wednesday, August 25
In Sinaloa, three young men were found dead inside a car near the town of Las Palmas. All three had been reported missing on Sunday. At least one of the bodies, found in the trunk of the car, had signs of torture. All three had been shot.
Total Body Count for the Week: 301
Total Body Count for the Year: 7,331
Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.