Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Saturday, May 1

In Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, three people, including a man and woman were found dead in a car on a rural highway outside the city. The incident came just hours after two grenade attacks occurred in Reynosa's red light district. One of the grenades exploded near a police station in Reynosa's "zone of tolerance," where prostitution and retail-level drug trafficking are allowed to flourish. Earlier in the week, police closed a bridge to allow them to clear explosives that had been left there.

Sunday, May 2

In Chihuahua, 24 people were murdered over the weekend in various parts of the state. Eight of the killings occurred in Ciudad Juarez, ten occurred in the city of Chihuahua, five in Cuauhtémoc, one in the town of Parral. The five men killed in Cuauhtémoc were killed after gunmen entered a bar and opened fire. All the dead were young males between the ages of 18 and 25. According to Chihuahua State attorney general spokesman Carlos Gonzalez, most of the killings are believed to be related to the ongoing struggle between the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels for control of the Juarez drug trafficking corridor.

Monday, May 3

In Acapulco, gunmen shot and killed eight men as they played soccer in the early afternoon. The gunmen, who arrived in a convoy of 14 vehicles, were reportedly opening fire throughout the neighborhood for some 40 minutes, terrorizing the local population. In addition to the five men who were left dead on the soccer field, three of the bodies were picked up and taken away by the gunmen. The Acapulco area has seen an upswing in violence over the last few months as rival factions of the Beltran-Leyva cartel fight each other for the leadership of the organization.

In Nuevo Leon, a mother and her daughter were killed and disappeared after being caught in a gun battle between suspected rival drug trafficking groups. The incident was reported by the woman's husband, who claims that the car in which the family was traveling was caught in a firefight on the highway. The car was struck by several bullets, killing the woman and the child. The husband was wounded, but managed to take refuge in a nearby house. When he returned to his vehicle, the bodies of his wife and daughter had vanished.

In Sinaloa, four people were killed in different incidents across the state. In one incident, the bullet riddled bodies of two men were found on the side of the Culiacan-Las Brisas highway. In another incident, an unidentified man was killed after gunmen ambushed him as he drove in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood of Culiacan.

Tuesday, May 4

In Tabasco, three women were killed in a parking lot in the municipality of Cardenas. The three women, none of whom have been identified, were beaten and abused before being killed.

Wednesday, May 5

In Mexico, El Universal reported that it is now estimated that there are 35 illegal firearms for every one policeman in the country. This figure comes from reports from Oxfam, Amnesty International, and the Collective for Security, Democracy and Human Rights. According to these figures, there are now at least 15 million illegal firearms in Mexico, and 426,800 federal, local, and state law enforcement officers.

In Cuernavaca, a new cartel claimed responsibility for the ambush of a high ranking police official in the city last Monday. The Cartel de Pacifico Sur (CPS) left signs on several bridges and overpasses in the city, claiming that they carried out the attack on Preventive Police Special Operations chief Jose Luis Arragon, which killed a woman who was riding in the car with him. Little is known about the relatively new CPS Cartel, but it is thought to be a faction of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, which was left leaderless in December after Mexican naval commandos killed boss Arturo Beltran-Leyva. Many of the signs left by the group threaten American-born trafficker Edgar Valdez Villareal, aka "El Barbie", who is currently battling Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the organization.

In Durango, a high-ranking police official was ambushed and killed by a group of armed men on highway 66. A bodyguard was also killed in the attack.

[Editor's Note: Due to a glitch last week at El Universal, on whose body count we rely, the running total was misreported. This week's total reflects the accurate number.]

Total Body Count for the Week: 109

Total Body Count for the Year: 3,233

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,560

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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