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 Veracruz, the Mexican navy announced that 11 bodies were discovered in several parts of the city. Additionally, police assaulted three journalists outside a morgue and ordered them to delete photos that they had taken.
In Sinaloa, gunmen shot and killed the nephew of former Juarez Cartel boss Amado Carrillo Fuentes, "the Lord of the Skies." Francisco Vicente Castillo Carrillo, 18, was traveling along a highway when he was intercepted by gunmen wielding AK-47's, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which caught on fire.
Saturday, September 24
On several Mexican websites, a group of armed paramilitaries posted a message in which they vow to eliminate the Zetas Organization. The men, all dressed in black, claim to be the "armed wing of the people" and offer apologies to the public and the Mexican government, and condemn corrupt civil servants in various Veracruz municipalities. A similar video was recently issued by a Sinaloa Cartel allied organization called the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion, which is challenging the Zetas for control of the Veracruz region.
Sunday, September 25
In Ciudad Juarez, at least eleven people were murdered in several incidents in the city. Among the dead was the chief of an important municipal police station in Babicora who was gunned down as he walked to his car at the end of his shift.
Monday, September 26
In Mexico City, the Defense Secretariat announced that 22 suspected cartel members were killed and three soldiers wounded during a 15-day sweep in the states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi. Operation Scorpion, which began on September 10, resulted in 13 engagements and the rescue of 14 kidnap victims. The operation also netted 118 handguns, 459 rifles, 84 grenades, 272 vehicles, and significant quantities of cash and narcotics.
In July, a similar operation, "Northern Lynx," led to the arrest of nearly 200 suspects and the death of another 30, most thought to have been members of the Zetas.
In Ciudad Juarez, at least three people were killed, including a woman who was kidnapped and later found with her throat slit. One of the other victims was discovered with his hands and feet bound and executed.
Tuesday, September 27
In Acapulco, five decomposing heads were found outside an elementary school. The heads were placed in a white bag atop a wooden box, in full view of students and faculty.
In Tamaulipas, heavy fighting was reported in several cities. In Matamoros, prolonged firefights took place in several locations, in some instances lasting over half an hour. The initial gun battle broke out between rival cartels, but Mexican authorities arrived shortly after, leading to a three-way fight. Fighting later spread to other areas of the city as gunmen set up road blocks to interfere with the army's movements. The International Bridge to the US was temporarily closed.
In the Rio Bravo area, several incidents were reported, including grenade attacks on a movie theater and a state police building.
In Reynosa, three different grenade attacks were reported which resulted in no casualties. Grenade attacks were also reported on a Federal Electric Commission warehouse in Ciudad Victoria.
On a highway near McAllen, Texas, a 32-year old Mexican national was shot and killed along with a 22-year old passenger. Authorities have said that the driver, Jorge Zavala, has ties to the Gulf Cartel in Reynosa and Matamoros, leading to speculation that he was killed because of an internal power struggle within the cartel.
In Ciudad Juarez, at least four people were murdered. Among the dead were two men who were snatched by heavily armed gunmen from a residence earlier in the day. Both were found shot dead and showing signs of torture.
Editor's Note: We can no longer accurately enumerate the number of deaths in the Mexican drug wars this year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal had been running a tally on which we relied, but it stopped. Our estimate for this year's death toll is just that -- an estimate.]
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.): 7,400