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 Matamoros, a series of shootouts caused heavy disruptions on a highway to a nearby tourist beach. The clashes began when a Mexican army patrol encountered a convoy of gunmen traveling in SUVs. Military helicopters reportedly also participated in the fighting, and cartel gunmen hijacked trucks and parked them across the highway at several locations as makeshift blockades.
Friday, July 8
In downtown Monterrey, 20 people were killed and several others wounded when gunmen attacked a bar. Another victim died later in the hospital. Mexican news outlets have said that the bar was rumored to be a Zeta hangout, and that the killings may have been due to a dispute over narcotics sales. Signs hung up in cities across Mexico afterwards blamed the shooting on the Gulf Cartel, which is fighting for control of Monterrey with the Zetas.
In Michoacan, heavy fighting between federal forces and cartel gunmen took place in several cities. The fighting began on Thursday evening when gunmen -- thought to belong to the Knights Templar Organization -- set hijacked cars aflame to block roads across the state. Signs hung up during the fighting claimed that federal police had raped women during operations in the state. The Knights Templar organization is an offshoot of La Familia Michoacana, which splintered after several important leaders were killed or captured.
In Valle de Chalco, near Mexico City, the bodies of ten men and a woman were found. All 11 were handcuffed and executed. Some reports indicate that a female survivor was taken from the scene and is in the hospital.
Saturday, July 9
In Torreon, authorities discovered ten decapitated bodies in the back of an abandoned truck. Threatening messages were left at the scene, but the content has not been released to the public. Three of the dead were females. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas are currently battling for control of the Torreon area, which has been the scene of some of the most high-profile incidents of Mexico's drug war.
In Ciudad Juarez, 14 people were murdered in different parts of the city. In one incident, gunmen fled on foot from the scene of a murder after their car broke down during the getaway. In another incident, two children were taken by authorities after their mother was seriously wounded in a shooting incident in front of them. Among the additional dead was a man who was found beaten to death in a canal.
In Hermosillo, federal police captured a high-ranking American-born member of the Tijuana Cartel. Armando Villareal Heredia, 33, is a San Diego native and is thought to report directly to Tijuana Cartel boss Fernando Sanchez Arellano, "The Engineer." Villareal is also wanted in the US on federal conspiracy and racketeering charges, and is thought to be linked to kidnappings and murders on both sides of the border.
In Monterrey, the Army rescued 20 hostages from a cartel safe house. All were found handcuffed in a small room and it appears all the victims were tortured. They had been held for 11 days.
Sunday, July 10
In Ciudad Juarez, seven people were murdered. In one incident, a family of three was attacked by gunmen wielding AK-47's, who riddled the family's Honda Civic with bullets. A man in the car reportedly returned fire with a pistol. A woman in the car died at the scene, and the man and a 3-year old child were taken to the hospital.
Monday, July 11
In Ciudad Juarez, at least 13 people were murdered, including eight that were murdered during two separate multiple homicides. In one incident, five people were gunned down by gunmen using automatic weapons just outside a hospital. Two other people were seriously wounded in the incident.
Tuesday, July 12
In Mexico City, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that military officers and personnel should be tried in civilian courts when accused of abuses such as torture and extrajudicial killings. The Mexican military has traditionally handled such matters internally and very quietly.
[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 year's. As of this month, we believe the total death toll in Calderon's drug war has surpassed 40,000.]
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.): 6,000