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 around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing 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, a total of 13 people were murdered. This includes four (reported last week) that were killed when gunmen rammed and attacked an ambulance with automatic weapons.
In the Comarca Lagunera area (which encompasses the cities of Torreon, Gomez Palacio and Ciudad Lerdo) at least 10 people were murdered. Seven of the dead were discovered stuffed into a VW Jetta parked in an industrial park. One person -- reportedly a Gomez Palacio police woman -- was found alive in the car and taken to a local hospital.
In Ciudad Juarez, an active-duty US army soldier and two others were arrested after an armed robbery at a gas station. Authorities later said that they later took responsibility for the killings of four Ciudad Juarez police officers this year.
Thursday, December 8
In Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas, President Calderon formally inaugurated a new military barracks. In late 2010, most of the city was abandoned after civilians fled intense fighting between the Zetas and Gulf Cartel. The new barracks can house up to 600 troops. The army has taken over police functions in the area to allow local police to recruit and train new members.
Friday, December 9
In Nogales, the army discovered a 50-yard long tunnel. It is unclear if the tunnel was completed on the American side of the border. One armed man was detained at the scene.
Saturday, December 10
In Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, 11 gunmen were killed in a fire fight with Mexican soldiers. One soldier was wounded in the exchange of gunfire, which began when troops on patrol came under fire from a building. Valle Hermoso is just south of the Texas border town of Brownsville.
Sunday, December 11
In Veracruz, the former mayor of the town of Ixhuacan de los Reyes and three relatives were gunned down during an attack on the family's business. Two weeks previously, a firefight between gunmen and the army left four people dead.
In the city of Veracruz, one person was killed and nine others wounded in a grenade attack on an underground cockfighting ring.
Monday, December 12
In Cordoba, Veracruz, marines captured a high-ranking Zeta member. Raul Lucio Hernandez Lechuga, "El Lucky" is a founding member of the Zetas and is thought to be the area boss for Veracruz, Puebla and Oaxaca. Authorities later said he was found to be in possession of a large arsenal of firearms totaling 169 guns as well as 29 grenades. One suspect was killed and a marine was wounded in the operation.
[Editor's Note: We have been conservatively estimating Mexican drug war deaths this year after El Universal quit publishing a box score. As of mid-November, we had estimated 8,100 deaths so far this year, but in light of new figures have revised that figure upward by about 3,000 deaths. Even that figure is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]
Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300
Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400
Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600
Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273
Total Body Count for 2011 (approx.): 11,600
TOTAL: > 45,000