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 36,000 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, nine men and a woman were killed during an attack on a bar near the international bridge to the US. At least three car loads and as many as 16 gunmen arrived at the bar before entering and firing indiscriminately.
Some witnesses and internet posters later accused federal police of complicity in the attack on the bar. By some accounts, federal police established a cordon around the area while the attack was still in progress, and some say that a federal police officers were in the bar as little as three minutes before the attack, allegedly threatening the owner to close. Some accounts also say federal police impeded municipal police who were arriving at the crime scene.
Between 621 and 632 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez during the first three months of 2011, according to statistics kept by researcher Molly Molloy.
Friday, April 1
In Ciudad Juarez, four people were killed when gunmen attacked an outdoor food stand. Among the dead was the 10-year old son of the stand's owner. The shooting occurred in extremely close proximity to a school where children were playing in the yard, leading many nearby parents to grab their children and run for cover.
In total, 24 people were killed in a 24 hour period in Ciudad Juarez between Thursday and Friday.
In El Paso, two people were convicted for kidnapping an American dealer in El Paso. The two men, Cesar Obregon-Reyes and Rafael Vega stand accused of kidnapping Sergio Saucedo because he lied to his suppliers about the date on which a 670-pound marijuana load was confiscated. Saucedo was later found in Juarez with his hands chopped off.
Sunday, April 3
In Veracruz, six police officers were killed by a group of gunmen armed with AK-47’s. A message was left in a nearby patrol car calling the officers "traitors," although it is unclear what the perpetrators meant by this. The Mexican government has said that the criminal organization responsible is likely from the state of San Luis Potosi, although declined to say which organization they believe responsible.
Monday, April 4
In Tijuana, two men were killed as they waited in line to cross the San Ysidro border crossing into the United States. Kevin Romero, 28, and Sergio Salcido, 25, were in their vehicle when a gunman approached their car and shot them both dead with a 9 mm handgun. The motive is unclear.
In Mexico City, the government announced a plan to give rewards for information on suspected money laundering activities. Tipsters will be rewarded with up to 25% of funds or property that authorities seize. The Mexican government has in the past struggled to deal with money laundering and illicit cash flows.
In Acapulco, two gunmen and a soldier were killed during an intense fire fight in the city’s Emiliano Zapata neighborhood. Additionally, a soldier and a police officer were wounded in the clash. Sometime during the 30-minute gun battle, gunmen set fire to a local market and auto repair shop, which were both completely destroyed. Nobody was injured in the blaze.
Tuesday, April 5
In Veracruz, police discovered five bodies in an empty lot in the town of Carlos A. Carillo. All five had been badly beaten, tortured, and then shot once in the head.
[Editor's Note: We typically rely on El Universal to supply a weekly body count. They didn't provide one this week, so this week's figure is based only on our own research and may be revised upward.]
Total Body Count for the Week: 97
Total Body Count for the Year: 1,864
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: 34,849
Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war to date: 36,713