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 35,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. 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 Nuevo Laredo, the newly appointed police chief was killed in an ambush. Manuel Farfan Carriola, a former army officer, had been in office for 33 days. In 2005, Nuevo Laredo's police chief was assassinated after less than a day in office.
Friday, February 4
In Tamaulipas, 13 gunmen were killed during a series of battles with the army. Twelve gunmen were killed in two separate clashes near San Fernando and Valle Hermoso and the 13th was killed after soldiers exchanged fire with a two gunmen in Nuevo Laredo. The other suspect was captured.
In Pharr, Texas, 13,314 pounds of marijuana were seized by ICE agents at a self storage unit. No arrests were made. Pharr is on the American side of the border with Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
Saturday, February 5
In Ciudad Juarez, 16 people were murdered on Saturday. In one incident, two American citizens were among a group of three teenagers who were gunned down at a car dealership. The boys, aged 15 and 16, both were enrolled in El Paso high schools. The motive for the attack is unclear.
In Nuevo Leon, the head of security of a local prison was found dead after having been kidnapped by a group of heavily armed men near his house the night before. Mr. Martinez Ramirez, 60, is the third employee of Monterey's Topo Chico prison to be murdered in recent months. A note with an unreleased message from an unspecified criminal organization was left along with the body.
Tuesday, February 8
In Zacatecas, five people were found murdered execution-style on the side of a road. The victim's hands and feet were bound and each had been shot once through the head.
In Utah, Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal caused a stir by saying that Mexico faced a narco-insurgency. He later backed away from the statement after Mexican officials publicly objected.
In Reynosa, Tamaulipas, soldiers rescued 44 kidnapped Guatemalan migrants who were being held in a house. Three Mexicans were also rescued and according to Mexican news sources, 102 kilos of cocaine were seized. No arrests were made. Drug trafficking organizations like the Zetas are known to kidnap migrants and give them the choice of working or being killed. In August, 72 migrants were shot dead in one of the biggest massacres of Mexico’s drug war.
Total Body Count for the Week: 237
Total Body Count for the Year: 878
Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273
Total Body Count for 2009: 9,600
Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400
Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300
Total Body Count for Calderon’s drug war through 2010: 34,849
Total Body Count for Calderon’s drug war to date: 35,727