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Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

US-Mexico border (wikimedia.org)
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:

Wednesday, November 9

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, soldiers captured a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel figure wanted by the United States. Ovideo Limon Sanchez is alleged to have been in charge of the cartel's cocaine shipments to Los Angeles and other parts of southern California and to have managed the distribution and transportation of the cocaine once in the US. He had been wanted by American authorities since 2007 and had a $5 million reward on his head.

Thursday, November 10

In Nuevo Leon, marines arrested a high-ranking Zeta boss after an anonymous tip-off. Rigoberto Zamarippa Arispe, "Comandante Chaparro," was arrested in the town of Cadereyta, near Monterrey.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, the 21-year old nephew of acting Governor Jorge Torres Lopez was shot and killed as he drove away from the law school which he was attending. He was killed when his truck was intercepted by gunmen wielding assault rifles.

Between Tuesday and Friday, at least six people were killed in a series of heavy clashes in Saltillo and the nearby town of Ramos Arizpe. On Wednesday, a kidnap victim was rescued during a raid on a cartel safehouse in the city.

Friday, November 11

South of Mexico City, Mexico's Interior Minister Jose Francisco Blake Mora was killed in a helicopter crash along with seven others. He was widely considered the public face of Mexico's drug war. The cause of the crash is still unclear, but experts have said it is extremely unlikely to be foul play, although many Mexicans believe it to be.

In 2008, another Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mourino, was killed in a plane crash in Mexico City.

Sunday, November 13

In Michoacan, the army arrested a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar Organization. Juan Gabriel Orozco Favela, "El Gasca," is thought to have controlled his organization's operations in the city of Morelia and is alleged to be behind the torture and murder of 21 people who were killed in the city this June.

In Bocoyna, Chihuahua, six bricklayers were found brutally murdered. One victim had been decapitated and another had his hands cut off. All six had their throats slit, bled to death, and were then shot.

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, a well-known singer of narcocorridos (songs which tell the stories of drug traffickers) was shot and killed. Diego Rivas was killed along with two other men when gunmen in a passing car opened fire on him with an AK-47. Many of Rivas' songs were odes to members of the Sinaloa Cartel, such as bosses "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Several other musicians of this genre have been killed in recent years.

Monday, November 14

In Los Mochis, Sinaloa, army personnel and state police arrested 32 police officers and commanders from the nearby municipality of Ahome after having summoned them to a conference with state security officials. Once at the meeting, the men were disarmed and arrested. The Ahome municipal police force is alleged to have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by the Zetas and Beltran-Leyva Cartel.

Tuesday, November 15

In Torreon, Coahuila, a local newspaper's offices were attacked by armed men. The website of El Siglo de Torreon newspaper said that three armed men set fire to the façade of the office building and shot at the newspaper's sales offices. The motive remains unclear, as the newspaper ceased reporting on cartel activities over a year ago.

In Nuevo Leon, 11 suspected Zetas were captured during a series of army raids in the Cadereyta, Albero, and Rancho Viejo areas. In one of the three raids, a kidnap victim was rescued from a safe house.

Wednesday, November 16

In Torreon, Coahuila, a federal prosecutor was gunned down. Victor Manuel Martinez Cortez was sitting in his car about to leave his home when he was shot dead by an unknown number of gunmen.

In Mexico City, Mexican Attorney General Marisela Morales announced that she has asked the US government to extradite six people held in American custody to Mexico on gun running charges. Three are being held in Texas and three in California. Two others are already being held on similar charges in Mexico. No further details on the six individuals were given in the statement.

[Editor's Note: We have been conservatively estimating Mexican drug war deaths this year after El Universal quit publishing a box score. As of last week, we had estimated 8,100 deaths so far this year, but in light of new figures have revised that figure upward to 11,000. 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.): 11,000

TOTAL: > 45,000

Mexico

Mexico's Symbol of Drug War Resistance Says It's Our Fight, Too [FEATURE]

At the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles last weekend, one of the more heart-wrenching sessions focused on the prohibition-related violence in Mexico, where somewhere north of 40,000 people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon sent in the army to wage war on the cartels in December 2006. A panel of Mexican politicians, activists, and journalists led by poet Javier Sicilia -- and El Paso City Councilwoman Susie Byrd -- examined the roots and consequences of Mexico's war on drugs and called eloquently on Americans to take action to stop the carnage.

Javier Sicilia addressing conference, with translator Ana Paula Hernandez (photo courtesy HCLU, drogriporter.hu/en)
Mexican journalist Diego Osorno, author of a book on the Sinaloa Cartel, explained how Calderon took power amidst mass mobilizations and turmoil after a closely contested election in which his foe refused to accept defeat. "Calderon took power amidst political and social crisis," Osorno explained. "He began the militarization using the pretext of drugs," he said.

The next panelist, former Mexican congressman Victor Quintana of Chihuahua (where Ciudad Juarez is located) looked at what Mexico's drug wars had done to his home state. "In Chihuahua, we had 407 people killed in 2007," he said. "In 2010, that number was 5,200. If the US had the same murder rate, that would be 400,000 dead in one year," he said.

"There has been an authentic genocide committed in our state," Quintana continued. "We have 10,000 drug war orphans and 230,000 people internally displaced. We face not only the violence of organized crime, but the violence of the state."

A report released Wednesday by Human Rights Watch makes clear just what Quintana was talking about when it comes to the violence of the state. The 212-page report, Neither Rights Nor Security: Killings, Torture, and Disappearances in Mexico's "War on Drugs," portrays systematic human rights abuses committed by Mexican government forces, including dozens of documented killings.

Human Rights Watch officials visited Mexico this week to deliver copies of the report to Calderon, members of the Mexican Congress, the Supreme Court, and civil society groups.

"Instead of reducing violence, Mexico's 'war on drugs' has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country, said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for the organization.

Like other panelists at the conference in Los Angeles, Quintana took pains to make clear that Mexico's tragedy was tied to the US and the way we deal with the drugs we love to hate (or hate to love). "This is a bi-national war," he said. "America sends the guns and money, and Mexico gets the deaths."

Prohibition is a godsend to the cartels, said El Paso city councilwoman Byrd, who explained how a pound of marijuana sells for $25 in Mexico's pot-growing areas but $525 in Chicago. "Legalizing marijuana is the best way to take it to the cartels," she said.

Ciudad Juarez is "the epicenter of pain and tragedy, but also the epicenter of resistance," said Zulma Mendez, a bi-national El Paso university professor and Ciudad Juarez activist. The resistance has an agenda calling for demilitarization, justice and truth, and re-founding the city in a more human form, she said.

Zuma, too, called on Americans to act. "The bloodshed here is related to Plan Merida," she said. "US taxpayers are funding this to the tune of $2.5 billion. People in the US should demand an end to Plan Merida. US citizens can demand drug reform and revision of weapons policies and immigration and asylum policies," she challenged.

But it was gruff-voiced, cowboy hat-wearing Javier Sicilia who proved most powerful. A poet and journalist who became the voice of resistance after his son and five others were murdered in Cuernavaca earlier this year, Sicilia has led caravans of protestors across Mexico to demand truth and justice and an end to the violence.

"Who is being held accountable?" he asked, complaining of a culture of impunity, and not just in Mexico. "Where is the money being laundered, and not just the drug money, but the money from other crimes? Money is the blood of the poor. We have 50,000 dead and 10,000 disappeared. The word to describe this would be 'demonic.' We are all responsible for these crimes against humanity because they are done by our governments," he said.

"If we were to put a human face on the suffering, it would be something we could not bear," Sicilia continued. "This is the image of our country: A six-year-old orphaned boy waiting for us on the road, holding a photo of his father, who had been killed and returned in a blanket. The face of that orphan is the face of our country. In a century when we talk of human rights, that is the tragedy."

The Mexico session wasn't the only place Sicilia made his voice heard. He also appeared before the crowd at a boisterous anti-drug war demonstration in MacArthur Park Thursday night and at the final plenary session of the conference. Then it was back to Mexico and the quest for peace and justice.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Tuesday, November 1

In a swamp near Veracruz, an anonymous tip led to the discovery of eight bodies. The area where the bodies were found is near Bocas del Rio, where 35 bodies were dumped in September.

Wednesday, November 2

In La Piedad, Michoacan, town Mayor Ricardo Guzman, 45, was shot and killed. Guzman was handing out campaign flyers outside a restaurant when a gunman in a black SUV shot him once with a pistol. He was a member of President Calderon's PAN party.

In March, La Piedad police chief Jose Luis Guerrero was killed by gunmen with AK-47s. His successor was later attacked by up to 40 gunmen traveling in a ten-car convoy, but survived.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, at least three people were killed during a series of fire fights which took place in several locations around the city. Two of the dead were police officers. The fighting began between two groups of rival traffickers in the afternoon. Later in the day, students at a local university were trapped during a gun battle between Marines and unidentified gunmen.

Thursday, November 3

In Mexico City, SEDENA announced that 14 soldiers were convicted and given prison sentences for the shooting deaths of three children and two women who were killed at a checkpoint in Sinaloa in 2007. The commanding officer was given a 40-year sentence, and another officer given a 38-year sentence while 12 enlisted soldiers were given 16-year sentences.

Near Mexico City, a high-ranking member of the La Borradora Organization was captured by police. Victor Manuel Rivera Galeana, "Victor el Gordo," 35, is thought play a large role in his organization’s battle for control of retail drug sales and criminal activities in the Acapulco area.

In Ciudad Juarez, six gunmen were killed during a massive fire fight between groups of rival criminals. Two of the gunmen were killed in a car with Texas plates. Over 400 bullet casings were recovered after the battle.

Friday, November 4

In Culiacan, 11 people were killed in two separate incidents. In one of the incidents, eight people gathered at a volleyball court were killed when gunmen descended from several vehicles and opened fire on them with automatic weapons.

In another part of the same city, two men and a woman were gunned down. The killings are all thought to be related to the recent killing of Sinaloa Cartel enforcer Francisco "Pancho" Arce, who was said to be responsible for the murder of a nephew of Juarez Cartel boss Vicente Carillo Fuentes in Sinaloa not long ago.

In Hidalgo, Texas, two alleged Gulf Cartel members were arrested and charged in connection with an attempted kidnapping that occurred on Tuesday. The victim was rescued from the trunk of a car as the men attempted to smuggle him into Mexico. According to police, the men were attempting to recover a 1,500 pound narcotics shipment that had gone missing. Several other suspects are still being sought.

Saturday, November 5

In Guamuchil, Sinaloa, three bodies were left hanging from an overpass. At least one of the victims had been tortured before being killed. The other two appear to have been stored in a freezer until being dumped.

Sunday, November 6

In Veracruz, the offices of local newspaper El Bueno Tono were torched after gunmen stormed the building and told employees to flee. Nobody was injured in the incident, which involved at least 10 hooded and heavily armed men.

Monday, November 7

In Tijuana, an Arellano-Felix Cartel boss was captured after he opened fire on a car carrying two rival traffickers. Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha, "El Ruedas," 34, is thought have reported directly to cartel boss Fernando "The Engineer" Sanchez Arellano. Sillas is thought to have played a large part in the AFO's fight with the Sinaloa Cartel between 2007 and 2009 and is alleged to have masterminded the kidnapping of three women tied to Sinaloa Cartel figure Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada in 2010.

In Sinaloa, the mayor of the tourist town of Mazatlan was unhurt when his car was ambushed by gunmen on the highway to Culiacan. Alejandro Higuera Osuna was traveling in a convoy with his bodyguards when they were ambushed by at least ten men who had been hiding in the brush.

In Ciudad Juarez, the dismembered bodies of two men were left on a busy street. Their heads were inside two coolers. A note, whose contents have not been revealed, was left with the bodies.

Wednesday, November 9

In Nuevo Laredo, a blogger was found beheaded. The man, so far only identified by his online moniker "Fiddler", was a moderator on the blog "Nuevo Laredo en Vivo". His body was left with a note which said that he had "failed to understand I must not report on social networks."

Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths 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.): 8,500

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Monday, October 17

In an interview published in the New York Times, President Calderon said he believes that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is in the United States. "He is not in Mexican territory, and I suppose that Chapo is in American territory," he said. Calderon also questioned why Guzman's wife wasn't detained when she gave birth at a Los Angeles area clinic in August.

Wednesday, October 19

In Arizona, an ICE officer was arrested for marijuana smuggling after a high-speed chase with authorities. Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under investigation for more than a month after a known smuggler who had been arrested identified him as being involved in drug rips and in trafficking. He was arrested after agreeing to pick up 500 pounds of marijuana from a desert location.

Thursday, October 20

In Texas, the nephew of an imprisoned Gulf Cartel leader was arrested during a traffic stop in Port Isabel. Rafael Junior Cardenas Vela was charged with immigration and drug conspiracy charges in the operation, which was conducted by ICE. Rafael Cardenas allegedly admitted to being involved in large cocaine and marijuana shipments to the US. Additionally, a July 8 shootout near Brownsville is attributed to a Zeta attempt to capture or kill Rafael Cardenas.

In Monterrey, a car bomb attack was conducted against a military patrol which had been chasing suspected cartel members. No soldiers were wounded in the incident, which took place after they gave chase to a car with suspicious men on board during a patrol. Several other car bomb incidents have taken place in Mexico over the last year.

In Veracruz, eight bodies were found in the town of Paso de Viejas.

In Tecamac, Mexico State, a well-known local drug trafficker was arrested along with 10 of his bodyguards. Adrian Soria Ramirez, "El Hongo," had been leading a gang currently fighting for control of drug sales in several areas of the greater Mexico City area.

Saturday, October 22

In Durango, cartel activity led much of the population of the towns of Villa Ocampo and Los Nieves to lock themselves inside their homes when a convoy of armed men passed through the area. The local municipal police force fled to their station. Three men were abducted by the convoy and later found executed.

Sunday, October 23

In Sinaloa, the army raided an auto shop used by cartel members to bulletproof vehicles. Ten people were taken into custody and 16 vehicles were seized. Similar bulletproofing shops have been discovered in other parts of Mexico, notably Tamaulipas.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 9 people were murdered. Among the dead was a jeweler who was shot dead in his home by two armed men, and one person who was decapitated.

Monday, October 24

In Tamaulipas, a Mexican army unit was deployed to the Frontera Chica area across the Rio Grande from Starr County, Texas. The soldiers, from Mexico's 105th Battalion, will patrol the Camargo, Miguel Aleman and Ciudad Mier areas in response to recent fighting in the area.

Tuesday, October 25

In Acapulco, authorities announced that they recently arrested a man and a woman and discovered an icebox with a human head and other remains in the car they were driving. The car was pulled over by federal police because it matched the description of a car used in a recent kidnapping. The female suspect, 19 year-old Damaris Gomez, allegedly is the leader of a group of assassins employed by a local criminal organization.

Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths 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.): 8,100

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Tuesday, October 11

In Veracruz, the young son of a Zeta boss who was killed in May was kidnapped by armed men dressed in fatigues. A friend of his was also taken. His father, Rolando Veytia Bravo, "El Manitas," was allegedly the Zeta boss for Veracruz until being killed in a shootout with the military in May.

Wednesday, October 12

In Saltillo, Coahuila, a high-ranking Zeta commander was captured. Carlos Oliva Castillo, "La Rana," is alleged to be the third highest ranking member of the organization and is thought to have ordered the August 25 attack on a casino in Monterrey which left 52 people dead. His arrest sparked a series of gun battles throughout the city as cartel gunmen attempted to rescue him from the Mexican military. His bodyguard and girlfriend were also taken into custody.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 16 people were murdered.  Among the dead were three anti-extortion investigators with the state Attorney General's Office who were gunned down near a high school. Additionally, a municipal police officer was shot and killed while waiting for his family in a supermarket parking lot.

Thursday, October 13

In Sinaloa, five gunmen were shot and killed by municipal police and soldiers. Four were detained, including two who were wounded.

Friday, October 14

In Mexico City, President Calderon acknowledged that the state of Veracruz had previously been left in the hands of drug traffickers. Violence has increased dramatically in Veracruz this year. Former Veracruz Governor Fidel Herrera Beltran, who left office in December 2010, has repeatedly been accused of having allowed the Zetas to operate freely. He has rejected the accusations.

Saturday, October 15

In Matamoros, a prison fight left 20 inmates dead and 12 wounded. The fight apparently began between two individuals, but others soon joined in. It took authorities several hours to reassert control of the facility.

In Piedras Negras, Coahuila, 61 hostages were rescued from a safe house where they were being held captive. Three armed men guarding them were taken into custody. Shoot-outs were reported in the area throughout the day as the city was cordoned off and swept by the military.

Sunday, October 16

In Vallecillos, Nuevo Leon, nine suspected Zetas were captured by members of the army. At least 21 gunmen were killed by troops during three days of operations. Authorities suspect that a Zeta training camp was located in the area. Vallecillos is roughly 100 miles from Monterrey.

Tuesday, October 18

In Veracruz, authorities announced that nearly 1,000 police officers have been fired in an effort to root out corrupt elements of the force. The 980 officers were fired after failing lie detector tests and other parts of the vetting process.

In Mexico State, authorities announced the capture of a founder of a criminal network that operates in the Acapulco area. Christian Arturo Hernandez Tarin, "El Cris," was arrested with three associates. His organization, the "Street Sweepers," was formerly an underling of Edgar Valdez Villareal, "la Barbie."

[Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths 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.): 8,000

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Wednesday, October 5

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, a top Sinaloa cartel leader was arrested without incident. Noel Salguiero Navarez, "El Flaco Salguiero," was the head of La Gente Nueva, which is considered the armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel operating in Chihuahua and several other states. He is also thought to have been leading the Sinaloa Cartel's push to take Ciudad Juarez.

Thursday, October 6

In Veracruz, 32 bodies were discovered at three locations. The discovery came after Marines took eight members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel prisoner, who then led them to the locations. The government alleges that these men, who call themselves Zeta-Killers, are also responsible for the 35 bodies found on September 20.

Additionally, 12 members of the Zetas were captured, including Aguiles Amaranto Cruz Hurtano, the Zeta boss for the Veracruz region.

Friday, October 7

In Veracruz, Attorney General Reynaldo Esperez Perez resigned his office in the area. Escobar Perez was in office for only seven months. He is to be replaced by his deputy.

Near Monterrey, authorities announced that several police officers are being detained for allowing kidnap victims to be housed by their kidnappers in a local jail while negotiations were taking place. The hostages were rescued earlier in the week. The officers are thought to have been working for the Zetas.

Saturday, October 8

In Veracruz, 10 more bodies were discovered. Seven of the dead were discovered in the bed of a truck and the other three were found on roadsides in two different locations.

In Linares, Nuevo Leon, the entire police force of over 100 men was taken into custody for possible corruption and ties to drug trafficking groups. They were all driven out of the town on buses while the investigation continues. Mexican soldiers and federal police will take over policing duties in the town.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were killed. Among the dead were three men who were gunned down in the parking lot of a store in front of dozens of horrified witnesses.

Sunday, October 9

In Zacatecas, six police officers were killed in an ambush. The policemen were returning to the city of Valparaiso from a party when they were intercepted by a group of men wielding assault rifles and hand grenades.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were murdered in four separate incidents. In one incident, two boys, aged 16 and 17, were gunned down inside a home in the El Papolote area of the city. Later that afternoon, three men were killed inside a home in the Fray Garcia de San Francisco area.

Tuesday, October 11

In Mexico City, the Navy announced that 11 cartel members were killed and 36 captured during five days of raids in several parts of Tamaulipas. Additionally, four tons of marijuana was seized from two locations and 251 grenades were confiscated.  Among those captured was the Gulf Cartel chief for the city of Miguel Aleman.

In downtown Monterrey, three men were shot and killed in separate incidents. In one incident, a 51-one year old man was shot and killed with an AK-47 after his car was intercepted by unknown gunmen.

Wednesday, October 12

In Reynosa, authorities discovered the body of the Gulf Cartel’s main financial operator. Cesar Davila Garcia, "El Gama" had had apparently been killed by unknown parties with a 9 mm handgun that was found at the scene. At one point, Davila Garcia had been the personal accountant of former Gulf Cartel leader Ezequiel Cardenas-Guillen, "Tony Tormenta," before his death in November 2010. He was briefly given control of the Tampico region before being sent to Reynosa to assume his duties as the cartel's main financial operator

[Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with any degree of accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll.]

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.): 7,800

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Chronicle Film Review: Prohibition

Prohibition: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2011, Florentine Films/WETA, 3 discs, 5 ½ hrs., $41.99)

One of America's leading documentarians has done it again. Ken Burns, producer of the widely watched and hailed documentaries, Baseball and The Civil War, has now teamed up with Lynn Novick to examine the rise, fall, and repeal of the 18th Amendment banning alcohol sales and production. It is a worthy effort, and well-executed.

Prohibition "postcards" online at pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/send-postcards/
The multi-hour must-see premiered over three nights this week on PBS, pulling in nearly four million viewers on its opening night -- very big numbers for public TV. It's also available online at the PBS Ken Burns Prohibition web site.

For most us of Prohibition is ancient history, skimmed over bloodlessly in dusty tomes in high school and undergraduate history courses. My 83-year-old mother, for instance, was still a toddler when revelers across the land tippled with delirious joy to mark repeal. For anyone younger than her -- and that's most of us -- Prohibition is no more than a school lesson, not a thing of living memory, except, perhaps, for an old story or two told by grandpa or grandma.

One of the successes of Prohibition is the way it brings that dry history to life. Through the skillful use of contemporary film, photographic stills, oral history, written remembrances narrated by actors, and a lively narration by Peter Coyote, Burns and Novick are able to recreate the living, breathing reality of second half 19th and early 20th Century America. Staring face to face at the glowering glare of a doughty battle-axe like Carrie Nation or the lizard-lidded, full-lipped gaze of Chicago gangster Al Capone, listening to Al Smith rail against the dries or Mabel Willibrand rally preachers against repeal, helps us put a human face on the  passions and frailties behind the march of the social revolution that was Prohibition and the mass rejection of it that was repeal.

Similarly, vivid scenes of saloon debauchery, with passed out drunks and giddy tipplers, of speakeasies filled with good-time guys and giddy flappers, of mass marches for and against, of political conventions and campaigns in which Prohibition was a burning issue of the day, help put living flesh on the dry bones of history.

The early 20th Century experiment in social control and legislating morality contains many lessons for contemporary activists seeking to undo the damage done by drug prohibition. Burns and Novick deserve our thanks for teasing out the varied strands that turned the 19th Century's temperance movement among mostly rural, Protestant, church-going women into a political powerhouse capable of blunting the power of big booze, shuttering the breweries and distilleries, and eliminating the saloons men saw as their last refuge from the demands of wife and children.

For me, the most important achievement of Prohibition is the way in situates the temperance movement within the broader social and political context of a tension-filled, rapidly evolving America. As Burns and Novick make abundantly clear, Prohibition did not happen in a vacuum. Among the forces propelling it were many of the same forces active today propelling reactionary social movements: racism (directed against newly arrived Irish, German, and Jewish immigrants), nativism (ditto), religious bigotry (aimed at those Catholic immigrants), nationalism (against mainly German-American beer brewers, especially during World War I), and rural vs. urban tensions.

But while it may be easy to ridicule the reactionaries of the last century, the roots of Prohibition also come uncomfortably close for present-day progressives. The temperance movement -- in all its intemperance -- was closely tied to "what about the children!" sentiment and women's suffrage, a cry for healthy living,  as well as the sort of "do-gooderism" conducted by "busybodies" that still informs much of the discourse when it comes to drug policy reform today.

As Prohibition shows most excellently, the politics of morality and social control are deep and twisted, and unraveling them reveals some unflattering facets of progressivism, as well as the more easily derided absolutists of what could fairly be called the Christian Right.

Where Prohibition is perhaps most useful to modern day drug reformers is in its depiction of the social ills it generated. Much as the Drug Policy Alliance likes to say "drug abuse is bad, drug prohibition is worse," viewers of Prohibition could fairly draw the conclusion that "mass drunkenness is bad, mass drunkenness under Prohibition is worse." Burns and Novick sketch the rapid expansion of organized crime under Prohibition, the gang wars of Chicago and New York, the corruption of cops and public officials -- all the side-effects of prohibition so familiar to present day reformers.

Prohibition "postcards" online at pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/send-postcards/
But they also look at its public health consequences, which -- like current drug prohibition -- were also in many ways disastrous. There were mass deaths from bad bathtub gin, deaths from drinking wood alcohol, outbreaks of "Jake Leg," a neurological disorder caused by contaminated whiskey that crippled hundreds, if not thousands, and while alcohol consumption initially declined, that decline was soon reversed, and with even more unhealthy drinking patterns.

In the end, Prohibition died of neglect, ridicule, and changing social attitudes, forged at least in part by the experience of Prohibition itself. And at the end, it revealed itself to be hollow, crumpling with amazing rapidity after the Great Depression hit and the big city, immigrant-friendly Democrats under FDR took power. Before the end of FDR's first year in office, Prohibition was history.

There are many lessons and parallels for contemporary drug reformers in Prohibition, but they are not exact and may not apply across the board. Alcohol prohibition lasted barely a decade, but drug prohibition is now in its second century. Why one was a flash in the pan and the other remains a painful, enduring legacy are questions that need to be answered if we are ever to leave drug prohibition in the dustbin of history along with Prohibition. Prohibition can help us start to ask the questions that will give us the right answers.

Disappointingly, Ken Burns doesn't appear interested in pursuing the parallels, nor even the dissimilarities, between Prohibition then and prohibition now. He does not reference the prohibition of other drugs in Prohibition (although heroin and cocaine were already criminalized federally and marijuana was being banned in a number of states), nor, as he has made clear in interviews, does he see a useful comparison between the two.

But that disagreement or lack of boldness notwithstanding, Prohibition is still a great viewing experience that brings alive a critical episode in US social and political history, an episode who reverberations still linger and whose contours are still echoed in drug prohibition. This is your history, America -- watch, enjoy, learn, and ponder.

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Wednesday, September 28

In Ciudad Juarez, at least four people were murdered. In the Granjas de Chapultepec neighborhood, a family of three was executed in their home after it was attacked by a group of at least eight hooded gunmen.

Thursday, September 29

In Monterrey, three men were shot dead by heavily armed gunmen. Reports indicate that the victims were driven to the scene of the crime by men traveling in SUVs, who lined them up against a wall and executed them.

Friday, September 30

In Veracruz, Mexican marines captured a wanted Zeta hit man. Angel Mora, also known as "Comandante Diablo," was captured alongside one other man. Mora is thought to operate in Veracruz and Boca Del Rio and is suspected of being involved in the killing of three marines in Late July.

In Ciudad Juarez, September ended with 146 murders. This is an increase from the 122 killed in August, but fewer than the 218 killed in July. February was the bloodiest month in the city this year, with at least 231 murders haven taken place.

According to statistics kept by researcher Molly Molloy, the death toll this year in Juarez is approximately 1,600, or about 5.8 a day. The death toll since January 2008 is over 9,000. October 2010 was the city's most violent month, with 350 murders.

Saturday, October 1

In New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said that he is open to sending American troops to Mexico to help the Mexican government combat drug cartels. Perry compared the situation in Mexico today to that of Colombia in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"I think we have to use every aspect of law enforcement that we have including the military. I think we have the same situation as we had in Colombia. Obviously, Mexico has to approve any type of assistance that we can give them," he said.

Sunday, October 2

In Zihuatenejo, Guerrero, seven bullet-riddled bodies were discovered near a downtown bus station. A note left with the bodies claimed to be from the Knights Templar organization, an off-shoot of La Familia Michoacana.

In Mazatlan, three men and two women were gunned down outside a liquor store. Mazatlan is a well-visited tourist resort in the state of Sinaloa, which is widely considered the historical birthplace of drug trafficking in Mexico.

Monday, October 3

In Mexico City, police discovered two severed heads near to the city’s most important military facility. It is the first multiple decapitation reported in Mexico City since January 2008. A note left near the heads mentioned the "Hand with Eyes" organization. Mexico City has been largely spared from drug-related violence.

In Nuevo Leon, 175 local police officers were arrested during a three-day sweep of Apodaca, Pesqueria, Mina, and Santa Catalina. At least 7 of the 82 officers detained in Apodaca are thought to have been involved in the August murder of a man who was detained after being caught spying on the officers.

In Nicaragua, police arrested three men thought to have been recruiting men to go to Mexico and fight for the Zetas. The three men had apparently been tasked with identifying men with military experience and offering them $2,000 a month to go to Mexico. A fourth suspect has been identified, and is alleged to have been paid $4,000 per recruit.

Tuesday, October 4

Near Veracruz, nine previously escaped inmates were recaptured during a marine raid on a suspected Zeta camp in a rural area outside the city. Five other suspects were taken into custody during the operation.

In Tijuana,
358 kilograms of cocaine were seized near the border with the US. It is unclear to whom the shipment belongs, but a similar operation carried out a week ago netted 232 kilograms which are thought to belong to El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel.

In Acapulco, two men were shot dead inside a shop. At least two vehicles, including a Hummer, were set on fire by the gunmen as they made their escape.

In Michoacan, a federal anti-narcotics unit captured one of the last remaining members of La Familia Michoacana, Martin Rosales Magana. Three other men were taken into custody during the operation. Federal authorities say that Rosales was planning a mass attack on the rival Knights Templar Organization with some 200 gunmen.

[Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with any degree of accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll.]

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.): 7,500

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Thursday, September 22

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

Mexico

Mexico Drug War Update

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:

Thursday, September 15

In Philadelphia, authorities announced the dismantling of a drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. In total, five people were arrested, three of them in Pennsylvania and two in Texas. Ten kilos of cocaine, cash and weapons were also confiscated.

In Matamoros, fire fights and blockades were reported in several parts of the city, effectively shutting the city down. Residents posted pictures of hijacked buses parked across streets and city officials confirmed that incidents occurred on the highway to Reynosa. It is unclear whether any fatalities occurred during the incidents.

Wednesday, September 16

In Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, a car bomb exploded during Mexican Independence Day celebrations. No injuries were reported.

In Querandaro, Michoacan, Independence Day celebrations were canceled after a group of 40 heavily armed gunmen arrived in the town’s main square and ordered the crowd to disperse or be attacked, causing people to flee in panic or hide inside government buildings. No injuries were reported.

Saturday, September 17

In Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero, the body of a missing federal congressman and his driver were found in a river. PRI congressman Moises Villanueva had been missing since September 4th, when the two men disappeared after leaving a party held by a fellow party member. Mexican media reported that both men had been shot and appear to have been dead for some time.

In the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina, authorities announced that 44 police officers have been taken into custody on suspicion of working as lookouts for and protecting the Zetas. At least 69 others are still under investigation.

Sunday, September 18

In Mexico City, a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel leader was arrested. Jose Carlos Moreno Flores is thought to have been the head of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chilapancingo, Guerrero, and is known to have had ties to drug traffickers in Guatemala and Costa Rica. He is also thought to have played a key part in turf wars fought over Chilpancingo between the Sinaloa Cartel and rival groups.

Monday, September 19

In Veracruz, 32 prison inmates escaped from three facilities in simultaneous jail breaks. 14 of the inmates have already been recaptured and the Mexican military has deployed to search for the remaining 18. All 17 prisons in Veracruz are being checked to ascertain whether any other prisoners are missing.

Tuesday, September 20

In Michoacan, the army captured a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar Organization. Saul Solis Solis, 49, is a former police chief and at one time was a congressional candidate for the Green Party, finishing fourth in the 2009 congressional race for his home district. He is also suspected of being heavily involved in narcotics cultivation and meth production, as well as in multiple attacks on federal forces, including a May 2007 attack that killed an officer and four soldiers.

In Veracruz, the bodies of 35 people were dumped on a busy street near a shopping center by a group of heavily armed gunmen who pointed weapons at passing motorists. According to Mexican media sources, most of the gunmen were identified as having criminal records and links to organized crime groups. A banner left with the bodies claimed that the dead were Zetas. Some of the victims had their heads covered with black plastic bags and appeared to have been tortured. One of the bodies has been identified as a police officer who went missing two weeks ago.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least eight people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, three teenagers were walking along a street when they were intercepted by a group of gunmen, who killed two and severely wounded the third. In another incident, a 32-year old mother of 8 was shot dead outside her home.

[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.): 7,200

Mexico

Mexico

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