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 Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila, police discovered the body of Froylan Collazo Badillo, a local police commander. Badillo had been shot and killed as his car waited at a stoplight.
Saturday, May 8
Near Acapulco, police discovered three headless bodies showing signs of torture. Additionally, police found five bodies in a car left on a dirt road 50 miles to the north, near the small settlement of Tecpan de Galeana. The men had also been tortured and shot repeatedly.
Sunday, May 9
In San Fernando, Tamaulipas, five men were killed after a shootout between two armed groups. Reports indicate that at least 15 bullet riddled vehicles were found at the scene of the incident, which took place on the San Fernando-Mendez highway. This brings to at least 14 people killed since the beginning of April in and around the town of San Fernando, which has a populace of 60,000. Tamaulipas has seen a dramatic increase in violence over the last few months as the Zetas Organization battles their former employers, the Gulf Cartel.
Monday, May 10
In Sonora, the body of an American citizen was discovered partially buried in a creek 60 miles from the city of Nogales. Ronald Ryan, 67, was from Phoenix, AZ and had been reported missing May 3rd. Three men who had left Ryan's truck at a carwash in the town of Santa Ana were arrested on Tuesday. The men, all between the ages of 18 and 21, were found to be in possession of assault rifles and marijuana. Local media reported that two of the men are the son and nephew of Jose Vasquez Villagrana, a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel who was arrested by Mexican authorities in
In Guanajuato, three men were killed at an auto mechanic's shop. The three men were all members of a local motorcycle club. Just hours earlier, two other men were shot dead in a market in another part of the city. It is unclear if the killings were related. This brings to 58 the number of murders in the city of Guanajuato this year.
Tuesday, May 11
Captured cartel documents leaked to La Reforma newspaper indicate widespread payoffs of Mexican police and soldiers. The documents, which demonstrate a sophisticated counterintelligence operation on the part of the Sinaloa Cartel, also indicate the Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been in possession of the personal cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses of officials who have been involved in the search for him. Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel is currently considered to be the strongest in Mexico by the US and Mexican governments.
Wednesday, May 12
Near Monterrey, the army raided a large training camp thought to be used by drug traffickers. The raid, which was carried out by heli-borne commandos and police, took place approximately 45 kilometers northeast of Monterrey. One suspect, who was described by authorities as "being too obese to escape" was shot and killed after opening fire on the soldiers. An unknown number of suspects escaped after being alerted to the sound of the helicopters. Some 200 assault rifles were seized at the site, along with a RPG'S, 60 fragmentation grenades, three anti-tank rockets, 12 stolen trucks, and several thousand rounds of rifle and pistol ammunition.
Also in Monterrey, the army detained 12 local policemen suspected of having ties to drug trafficking organizations. During the raid, the army and federal police took control of a municipal police station, where they arrested the 12 officers. Local police in Mexico are often known to be extremely corrupt and thoroughly infiltrated by cartels.
In Ciudad Juarez, authorities discovered the body of a groom and two members of his wedding party who had been kidnapped leaving a church four days prior. It has been reported that all three of the men were possibly American citizens. The bodies were found in the bed of a truck alongside a fourth man who may have not been at the wedding. The motive for the kidnapping and killings is unclear.
[Editor's Note: We rely on the Mexico City newspaper El Universal for our weekly body counts, but we are very skeptical of its count of 637 killed in the last week, significantly higher than the usual 200 or so. Look for a note next week on how we resolve this.]
Total Body Count for the Year: 3,870
Total Body Count for the Week: 637 (?)
Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 20,197
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.