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 38,000 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 Nayarit, 29 people were killed during ferocious clashes between rival groups. Of the dead, 17 were found stacked in the bed of a pick-up truck. Many of the dead were wearing military-style ballistic vests and dark clothing. In the past, much of the fighting in Nayarit has been between El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.
In Michoacan, over 1,800 people fled the village of Buenavista because of heavy fighting between the Mexican military and gunmen from an unknown cartel.
Saturday, May 25
In Texas, a Bexar County sheriff’s sergeant was killed by a gunman who opened fire on his patrol car with an automatic weapon, possibly an AK-47 similar to those favored by Mexican cartel gunmen. The incident is being investigated as possibly being connected with Mexican criminal organizations.
In Apatzingan, Michoacan, a Mexican Air Force MD530 helicopter crashed during operations against drug traffickers. It was originally reported the helicopter had crashed after being struck by gunfire, but the Mexican military has denied this.
In Acapulco, five gunmen were killed in a fire fight with members of the municipal police.
Sunday, May 26
In Saltillo, Coahuila, the offices of Vanguardia newspaper were attacked with a hand grenade. Nobody was injured in the attack, which appears to have been intended to intimidate the local media. In January 2010, Valentin Valdes, a local reporter, was executed after being kidnapped by two trucks full of gunmen.
In Ciudad Juarez, nine people were murdered. Among the dead was a female who worked for the police department who was shot at a gas station. Four others were wounded, including the victim's mother and sister.
Monday, May 30
In Ciudad Juarez, a girl of six years old was among five people who were murdered. The girl died in the hospital after being shot when a Jeep Cherokee pulled alongside her family's car and opened fire. Some reports indicate that a federal police patrol car was in front of the vehicle, but that they somehow didn’t notice the attack.
Tuesday, May 31
In Pachuca, Hidalgo, Mexican police arrested 25 people for being members of or helping the Zetas. Among those detained are 10 police officers, including a police chief and two senior officers. The arrests were made after suspects detained on Sunday in the nearby mountains told police that they received protection from the police chief and some members of his command.
In Manzanillo, 54 tons of meth precursor chemicals were found in shipping containers which had come from China. Manzanillo is a major port of entry for precursor chemicals from Asia which are then taken to large-scale meth labs for meth production.
Wednesday, June 1
In El Salvador, the country's defense minister said that Mexican cartels are attempting to buy assault rifles, grenades, and other military-grade weaponry from members of the security forces. Last week, Salvadoran NCO’s and four enlisted soldiers were arrested and stand accused of attempting to steal 1,812 grenades from a military facility.
Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last years. As of this month, we believe the total death toll has surpassed 38,000.]
Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273
Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 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: 34,883