by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 16,000 people, with a death toll of over 7,000 so far in 2009. 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:
Friday, January 8
A particularly gruesome killing occurred in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The body of 36-year old Hugo Hernandez was found in seven pieces and left with a note threatening members of the Juarez Cartel. Hernandez's face had been skinned off his body and stitched onto a soccer ball and left in a plastic bag near city hall. His torso was found in another location, and his arms, legs, and skull were found in a box at a third location. Hernandez had apparently been kidnapped January 2nd in the neighboring state of Sonora, in an area known for cannabis cultivation.
In the city of Saltillo, Coahuila, the body of a local journalist was found tortured and shot five times from close range. Valentin Valdes, 29, was a reporter for a local newspaper. He was executed outside a motel where 10 reputed Gulf Cartel members had been arrested in the last week. Valdes has been kidnapped Thursday in downtown Saltillo along with another journalist, who was released after being beaten. A note was left with the body that read "This is going to happen to those who don't understand that the message is for everyone." At least 12 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2009, and two others are missing and presumed dead.
Sunday, January 10
In the the biggest single-day death toll in Mexico's drug war so far, 69 people were killed in a 24-hour period. The previous record was 57 killed in a 24-hour period on August 17, 2009. Twenty-six of the killings occurred in Ciudad Juarez, which reported a total of 2,635 murders in 2009. Among the dead in Ciudad Juarez were two bodies found decapitated, one of which had his eyes gouged out. Eight people were killed in other parts of Chihuahua, seven in Sinaloa, one in San Luis Potosi, five in Durango, five in Guerrero, six in the state of Mexico, seven in Mexico City, two in Guanajuato, three in Tijuana, and one in Tierra Caliente.
Sunday, January 10
In Sinaloa, the bodies of four members of a family were found by the side of a highway. The three men and one woman had been kidnapped from their home in Culiacan last Thursday. The bodies were found with their hands and feet bound and suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A note which called the killings "a black gift" was found with the bodies. Two other bodies were found in other parts of Sinaloa.
In Sonora, six people were murdered, four of them in Nogales, just across the US border. In Tijuana, a gun battle between rival criminal bands left one man dead and two wounded. In Mexico City, a young man was shot by his brother as they rode in a Mercedes-Benz.
Tuesday, January 12
In a major coup for the government, Mexican forces arrested one of Mexico's most important drug cartel bosses. Teodoro Garcia Simental, 36, is the leader of a breakaway faction of the Tijuana Cartel which has allied itself with the Sinaloa Cartel. Authorities believe he is linked to some 300 murders, many of which involved beheadings or bodies being hung from bridges or dissolved in acid. He is also thought to be responsible for dozens of assassinations of Tijuana law enforcement personnel. He was arrested in a raid at a luxury beachfront condo in La Paz, Baja California.
The Ciudad Juarez killings of two teenagers has brought the 2010 total of homicides in the city to over 100. Fifteen homicides occurred on Monday.
During the same time period, eight homicides occurred in the city of Chihuahua, the capital of the state of Chihuahua of which Ciudad Juarez is part. Among the dead was a policeman who was killed in a gun battle which occurred after he and several colleagues were ambushed by suspected cartel gunmen. In Sinaloa, the body of a missing policeman was found dead.
Wednesday , January 13
In a change in strategy, the Mexican army will stop patrolling the streets of Ciudad Juarez. The army will continue, however, to participate in what the government calls "preventive" raids in coordination with the police. The new strategy calls for the introduction of 1,600 federal police officers to replace the military presence on the streets of the city. In addition, the government's new strategy calls for an increase in the use of technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) and surveillance balloons.
Overnight, the son of a radio-station owner was gunned down in Chihuahua after being ambushed at an intersection. At least one other person was killed and three wounded in drug-related violence in Chihuahua. At least seven people were killed in Ciudad Juarez. Among the dead was a teenage boy found bound and showing signs of torture.
In Tamaulipas, authorities confiscated 665 packages of marijuana, which totaled more than 7 tons. Three men were taken into custody after the seizure, which took place after police searched a house in the city of Reynosa.
Total Body Count for the Week: 202
Total Body Count for 2010: 339
Total 2009 Body Count: 7,724
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.