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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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported in August. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest 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.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/praxedis1.jpg
Plaza de Armas, Praxedis G. Guerrero
Wednesday, October 20

In Praxedis Guadalupe Guerrerro, Chihuahua, a 20-year old criminology student was sworn in as police chief. Marisol Valles Garcia, who studies in Ciudad Juarez, plans to use an all-female, unarmed force of 13 people to fight crime in the town of 8,500 residents. The position has been open since the previous police chief was assassinated in July 2009.

In Tijuana, Mexican soldiers seized 134 tons of marijuana in a series of raids. Eleven individuals were also taken into custody. The marijuana was wrapped in an estimated 10,000 packages with various labels, including Homer Simpson saying "Let's get high, dude" in Spanish.

Friday, October 22

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 24 people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, 14 people, mostly teenagers, were killed when gunmen stormed a house where a birthday party was taking place. Among the dead was 13-year old girl. The gunmen arrived in three cars and told the victims that they were looking for "El Raton," who Mexican media sources have reported is a member of the Sinaloa-cartel allied Artist Assassins gang. In other incidents, a municipal police captain was gunned down, and two women were shot point blank and tossed from a vehicle.

Sunday, October 24

In Tijuana, 13 people were killed at a drug rehabilitation center when presumed cartel gun men opened fire. There is speculation the killings could be linked to a massive, 135-ton pot seizure in the city last week.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, a woman and her two children were killed after being caught in the middle of a firefight between a convoy of police and soldiers and unidentified gunmen. Maria Angelica Galindo Sanchez, 47, was a daughter of the former mayor of the city, which is the capitol of Coahuila. The two children were aged 14 and 18.

Monday, October 25

On Youtube, a video was posted in which unidentified gunmen interrogate the kidnapped brother of Patricia Gonzalez, the former head prosecutor for the state of Chihuahua, in which Ciudad Juarez is located. In the video Mario Gonzalez is seen surrounded by five heavily armed men, and claims he took bribes from the Juarez Cartel and ordered several killings.

Tuesday, October 26

In Nuevo Leon, the mayor of a small town near Monterrey announced that his entire police force quit after their headquarters was attacked with automatic weapons and grenades the night before. Nobody was injured in the attack, in which six police officers hid as the building came under heavy fire for approximately 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 27

In Tepic, Nayarit, 15 people were killed at a car wash when three SUVs full of gun men pulled up and began indiscriminately shooting at employees and customers. The unemployed young men who work informally washing cars sometimes work as street level spies for warring drug gang factions.

Total Body Count for the Week: 199

Total Body Count for the Year: 8,707

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported in August. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest 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.

Servando Gomez ("La Tuta")
Thursday, October 14

In Michoacan, a radio statement broadcast a recording described as a conversation between a high-level drug trafficker and a federal lawmaker. W radio said that the recording was between La Familia Cartel figure Servando Gomez (La Tuta) and politician Cesar Godoy. The two express support for one another and discuss offering a bribe to a journalist. Godoy was one of 36 Michoacan people accused of ties to the La Familia organization last year.

In Tamaulipas, Mexican authorities temporarily called off the search for a missing American. David Hartley has been missing since a shooting incident on Falcon Lake, which sits on the US-Mexico border. Mexican authorities will resume the search after a review of search strategies.

Friday, October 15

In the city of Chihuahua, six members of the prison Immediate Reaction Task Force were killed after the vehicle in which they were driving to work was ambushed. At least 10 gunmen fired on the vehicle with assault rifles. The attack occurred just two days after the La Linea -- the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel -- declared war on prison officials for their supposed favorable treatment of Sinaloa Cartel members.

In Jalisco, soldiers confiscated a massive cache of arms and ammunition at a home in the town of Zapopan. The arsenal included 51 rifles, 49 handguns, two rocket launchers, 20 grenades and 38,000 rounds of ammunition. Police also seized 18 kilos of meth, a small amount of cocaine, and a vehicle. No arrests appear to have been made.

Sunday, October 17

In Ciudad Juarez, 15 people were murdered in several locations. In one incident, eight people were killed when gunmen stormed a house. In another incident, the mayor of the nearby town of El Porvenir and his son were gunned down. The two had fled El Porvenir three weeks ago after the kidnap and murder of several neighbors.

Tuesday,  October 19

In Tijuana, soldiers and police seized 134 tons of marijuana during early morning raids in several locations. The marijuana was packaged in at least 15,000 different packages, which were marked with coded phrases and pictures, including images of Homer Simpson saying "I'm gonna get high, dude" in Spanish. Initial reports suggest the load belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel. The raids followed a shootout with several suspects, who led authorities to the stash locations.

Total Body Count for the Week:118

Total Body Count for the Year: 8,508

Mexico

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Crookedness in the Wayne County, Michigan, court system; endemic corruption in Camden; a tweaker cop in Iowa; and another pair of jail guards go bad. Let's get to it:

evidence room
In Detroit, a retired Wayne County judge, a retired Wayne County drug prosecutor, and two former Inkster police officers were ordered last week to stand trial on felony charges related to a perjury-tainted 2005 cocaine trial. Retired Judge Mary Waterstone, former Wayne County drug prosecutor Karen Plants, and former Inkster police officers Robert McArthur and Scott Rechtzigel are accused of conspiring to hide the role of a secret paid informant in a 47-kilo cocaine bust. Waterstone faces four felony counts of official misconduct, Plants is charged with conspiracy, McArthur is charged with conspiracy, perjury, and misconduct in office, and Rechtzigel is charged with perjury and conspiracy. Waterstone is accused of privately agreeing with prosecutors to hide the identity of the informant and allowing the informant and the two police officers to lie on the stand about the nature of their relationship.

In Camden, New Jersey, two Camden police officers were charged October 13 with falsifying evidence in drug cases in an ongoing scandal that has caused prosecutors to drop more than 200 criminal cases. Officers Antonio Figueroa, 34, and Robert Bayard, 32, were members of a special operations unit assigned to crack down on open-air drug markets, but five unit members became drug traffickers themselves. They are accused of stealing from some suspects, planting drugs on others, threatening to plant drugs to coerce cooperation, paying informants with drugs, keeping drugs for their own use, conducting illegal searches, giving false testimony and filing false reports between 2007 and last year. Three other officers have already been charged in the year-long investigation. Figueroa and Bayard had been on suspension for the past year. Figueroa faces eight charges and Bayard five. For both, the most serious is conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a citizen, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In Des Moines, Iowa, a former Pleasant Hill police officer was sentenced last Friday to three years' probation for stealing methamphetamine from the department evidence room and crashing his police SUV while tweaking. Former officer Dan Edwards had pleaded guilty to DUI, illegal drug possession, and third-degree burglary. Edwards went down after the April crash, when a state trooper reported finding meth on him. Edwards' attorney said he suffered post traumatic stress disorder after tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq and this his wife and infant son had been killed in a car crash years earlier.

In Pensacola, Florida, a former Escambia County Road Prison corrections officer was found guilty last Thursday of providing Xanax to a prisoner in exchange for oral sex. Lawrence Vieitez was convicted on charges of delivery of a controlled substance, introducing contraband into a county detention facility and solicitation to commit prostitution. He went down after an inmate complained about his advances. The inmate was then wired, and a deputy was able to listen in as Vieitez offered to procure Xanax in exchange for oral sex. Vieitez then left to obtain the Xanax and was arrested when he gave it to the inmate. He's looking at up to 20 years in prison.

In Paterson, New Jersey, a former Passaic County corrections officer was sentenced last Friday to five years in state prison for smuggling heroin and homemade weapons into the Passaic County Jail. Former guard Marvin Thompson, 41, has no chance at early parole. During trial, prosecutors argued that Thompson smuggled the contraband into the jail with the intention of "discovering" it so he would look like a hero. He was then a provisional employee and hoped to win a permanent post. But an inmate working with Thompson snitched him out, and when he reported finding 10 packets of heroin, he was arrested. He was convicted of second degree official misconduct, possession of heroin, and filing false police reports.

Alleged Chat Between Mexican Congressman and La Familia Leader Leaked

Location: 
Mexico
A radio station broadcast what it described as a telephone conversation in which Mexican congressman Julio Cesar Godoy Toscano and one of Mexico's biggest drug prohibition lords, La Familia leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, express support for each other and discuss bribing a reporter. Godoy represents the western state of Michoacan, La Familia's stronghold. He already faces federal charges for allegedly protecting the drug trafficking organization but has immunity from arrest because he is a congressman.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gd28_wg9v3v0XgAwqacXG8wY8hmg?docId=4f719874d25046f1a3cc00813518b99f

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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported in August. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest 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:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/labarbie.jpg
La Barbie, captured
Friday, August 27

In Monterrey, the State Department told staff to send their children away from the city due to the ongoing drug-related violence. As of September 10th, no minor dependents will be allowed. Other diplomatic postings with a similar rule include Baghdad, Kabul, and Sa’naa, Yemen. The decision comes after a botched kidnapping attempt at a school attended by many of the children of US consulate staff.

In Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, a car bomb exploded outside the local offices of Televisa. Nobody was wounded in the blast.

Sunday, August 29

In Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, the mayor was shot dead after being ambushed. Marco Antonio Leal Garcia was 46 years old. His four-year old daughter was seriously wounded in the attack.

In Reynosa, two car bombs were detonated near a morgue in which the bodies of 72 murdered migrants are being held. Fifteen people were wounded by the blasts.

In Panuco, Veracruz, at least eight people were killed after a 15-hour firefight between soldiers and suspected cartel gunmen.  One soldier and one civilian were killed, as well as six gunmen.

Monday, August 30

Near Mexico City, police captured Edgar Valdez Villareal, a top drug cartel boss and the leader of a faction of the Beltran-Leyva Organization. Valdez, also known as "La Barbie," is thought to be responsible for much of the violence in Central Mexico in recent months as he battled his former ally Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva Organization, which was left leaderless after Marines shot dead Arturo Beltran-Leyva in December.

In Cancun, eight people were killed after a bar was firebombed. Four of the dead were women. The same bar had reported two extortion attempts in the past, apparently by the Zetas Organization.

In Mexico City, police announced that 3,200 federal police officers have been fired after failing drug and lie detector tests, or having assets which could not be accounted for. A separate batch of 465 officers is due to be fired in Juarez. Among them is a police commander who was detained at gunpoint by his own men who were angry at his misconduct.

In Ciudad Juarez, authorities announced that celebrations for Mexico's bicentennial on September 16th were to be canceled due to the ongoing violence. Independence Day is Mexico's most important national day and public gatherings to celebrate are an integral part of the culture of most towns and cities.

Wednesday, September 1

In Ciudad Juarez, at least ten people were murdered across the city. Three of the victims were minors aged 11, 13 and 16. The killings bring Ciudad Juarez's 2010 total to approximately 2,039.

Total Body Count for the Week: 239

Total Body Count for the Year: 7,570

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

71% of Mexico's Local Governments Said Penetrated by Narcos

Location: 
Mexico
Drug traffickers exert influence over 71 percent of Mexico’s 2,439 municipal governments and completely control 195 of them. Criminal groups find it easy to dominate municipalities because local administrations are chronically short of money and suffer from neglect on the part of the state and federal governments.
Publication/Source: 
Latin America Herald Tribune (Venezuela)
URL: 
http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=364788&CategoryId=14091

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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest 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, August 5

In Ciudad Juarez, eleven people were killed in various incidents across the city. In one case, a 20-year old woman was shot dead as she walked with a 4-year old girl, who escaped unscathed. In another incident, an apparent extortionist was shot and killed after a shoot-out with security guards. Drug trafficking organizations across Mexico are also involved in extortion.

Friday, August 6

In Matamoros, at least 14 inmates were killed during a clash between rival gangs inside the prison. Troops from the Mexican army were eventually sent into the facility to restore order. It is unclear which groups participated in the fighting, but much of the recent violence in the Matamoros area been the result of fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas Organization.

Saturday, August 7

In Mexico City, thousands of journalists marched to protest the killings and disappearances of journalists due to prohibition-related violence in the country. Similar protests were planned in Sinaloa and Chihuahua. Over 60 Mexican journalists have been killed since 2000. This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists says that 10 journalists have been killed, and many face daily threats to their lives and harassment.

Sunday, August 8

In Ciudad Juarez, over 200 armed federal police officers raided the hotel where their commander, Salomon Alarcon,  was staying. After blocking off the streets to prevent his escape, they detained Alarcon at gunpoint, accusing him of having planted drugs on officers to force them to become involved in extortion plots. The officers found weapons and drugs in his hotel room. The officer was held captive until the Federal Police Commissioner General agreed to suspend him pending a full investigation into the allegations. It was later found that Alarcon was on the payroll of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Also in Ciudad Juarez, two federal police officers were shot dead as they walked in plainclothes through the center of the city at night. A large police operation was immediately launched, but no arrests or confrontations occurred.

In Palomas, Chihuahua, three severed heads were discovered in the main plaza as locals left Sunday mass. A charred SUV with the headless bodies was discovered south of the town. A note left with the bodies indicate that the victims were extortionists who were killed by a rival criminal organization. Last October, the mayor of Palomas was kidnapped and found murdered.

Monday, August 9

At a forum in Puerto Vallarta, Mexican authorities said that drug-trafficking organizations pay an estimated $100 million in bribes monthly to municipal police officials. According to Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, this estimate is based on officer perceptions and on a list of payouts to police officers that was seized during recent operations. He also said that 20% of municipal police officers make less than $79 a month, and 60% make less than $317 a month.

In Morelos, seven people were killed in prohibition-related violence. Among the dead were three men who were decapitated in the town of Ahuatepec. In Ciudad Juarez, police discovered the dismembered body of an officer.

Tuesday, August 10

In Morelos, 10-12 heavily armed men ambushed a police convoy carrying a high-profile prisoner to jail. Two officers and the prisoner were killed in the ambush. Mario Alberto Chavez Traconi, 54, was known as the King of Fraud. The ambush occurred after the police convoy was cut off by SUV's and the gunmen attacked the police officers with assault rifles.

Total Body Count for the Week: 146

Total Body Count for the Year: 6,994

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

Mexican Presidents Talk Drug Legalization

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/fox_0.jpg
Vicente Fox
Last Tuesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon briefly opened the door to drug legalization, saying it was something that needed to be discussed, only to clarify in a press release hours later that he remained opposed to legalization. Now, Calderon's predecessor, former President Vicente Fox, has stepped up to call forthrightly for legalization, and just two days ago Calderon again expressed a willingness to rethink his aggressive anti-drug campaign.

The discussion comes as Mexico staggers through the fourth year of Calderon's war on the so-called drug cartels. Despite deploying nearly 50,000 soldiers and federal police in the fight, violence has only increased, with the death toll rising year after year. And the drug trade goes on, seemingly unimpeded by the campaign.

Fox's call came in a Saturday blog post in which the ex-president cited the "enormous cost" of fighting organized crime, beginning with the more than 28,000 people the government admitted last week had been killed in prohibition-related violence since Calderon came to power in December 2006. He also cited the cost of corruption among law enforcement and public officials, the loss of tourism, and the threat to foreign investment.

Felipe Calderon attending security conference
"We should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs," wrote Fox, like Calderon, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). "Radical prohibition strategies have never worked. Legalizing in this sense does not mean drugs are good and don't harm those who consume them," he wrote. "Rather we should look at it as a strategy to strike at and break the economic structure that allows gangs to generate huge profits in their trade, which feeds corruption and increases their areas of power."

Fox also called for the "rapid return of the national army to its bases," saying it was "neither conceived for nor is prepared for police work." The military's role in Calderon's campaign has tarnished its image and led to "more and more" human rights violations, he added. The military's role should be taken over by a new national police force and there should be direct election of police chiefs and high commanders, Fox wrote.

On Tuesday, Calderon underwent his second session of talks on the drug war that he began last week, this time mostly with opposition legislators. Calderon wasn't ready to jump on Fox's legalization bandwagon, claiming that it would lead to increased drug use and wouldn't reduce drug traffickers' income. But he did signal an increasing awareness of the disastrous impact of his policies. "I know that the strategy has been questioned, and my administration is more than willing to revise, strengthen or change it if needed," Calderon said at the meeting. "What I ask, simply, is for clear ideas and precise proposals on how to improve this strategy."

Under the 70-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexican drug trafficking organizations were not so much suppressed as managed, but with the election of Fox, the modus vivendi between traffickers and the state was shattered. Midway through his term, Fox declared war on the cartels and went after their leaders. That led to intramural fighting within and among the cartels and to increased confrontations between traffickers and police, a situation that has only continued to escalate under Calderon.

Mexico

Afghan border police chief on trial over drug smuggling

Location: 
Afghanistan
With hundreds of billions of dollars involved, drug prohibition seems to corrupt at all levels. Now, a 60-year-old former Afghan police general who was in charge of border police in the three western provinces of Herat, Farah and Badghis is on trial for corruption charges -- accepting tens of thousands of dollars -- involved in the smuggling of 1,450 pounds of opium across the country's western border to Iran.
Publication/Source: 
Agence France-Presse (France)
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jXtulW2JS7lZKmL6OJy8LKRCSv0w

"Murder City," by Border Cognoscenti Charles Bowden (BOOK REVIEW)

"Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields," by Charles Bowden (2010, Nation Books, 320 pp., $27.50 HB)

by Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/murdercity.jpg
Last Saturday, Ciudad Juarez, across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, marked a grim milestone: its 6,000th murder victim since the beginning of 2008. The discovery of 10 bodies that day pushed the beleaguered city past that marker, but the week -- still only half-done as I write these words -- held more gore. On Wednesday, two headless bodies appeared propped up against the wall of building. The heads sat atop upended ice chests in front of them. Writing on the ice chests claimed that one of the men was a carjacker and the other a kidnapper and extortionist, and that both were members of the Aztecas, a street gang that peddles dope and acts as neighborhood enforcers for the Juarez Cartel.

Gruesome photographs of the death scene ran in the Mexican press -- there is a longstanding tabloid press there that positively revels in full-color photos of murder victims, car accident fatalities, burned bodies -- but, according to Charles Bowden, it is almost a certainty that we will never hear another word about them, that we will never know why they had to die so horribly, that no one will ever be arrested for their deaths, that we will never even learn their names.

And Charles Bowden should know. He's probably forgotten more about Ciudad Juarez than most journalists writing about the city ever knew. The poet laureate of the American Southwest, Bowden has been living and writing about the border for decades, and with "Murder City" he is at the peak of his powers.

"Murder City" is beautiful and horrifying, not just for the exemplary violence it chronicles, but even more so for the portrait it paints of Juarez as a community stunned and staggering, hit hard by the vicissitudes of the global economy, the corruption of the Mexican state, and the wealth and violence generated by the trade in prohibited drugs.  It is non-fiction, but reads like a surrealist fever dream.

We learn of Miss Sinaloa, an achingly gorgeous, white-skinned beauty queen, who turns up raving mad at "the crazy place," a desert shelter for the mentally ill, the homeless, the glue- or paint-destroyed kids. Turns out she had come to the city and been invited to a weeklong, whiskey- and cocaine-fueled party at a motel where she was gang-raped for days by eight Juarez policemen. Miss Sinaloa weighs on Bowden, a witness to the city's violence and depredations, its ugly degradation. She's gone now, taken back home by her Sinaloa family, but there's always another one, he writes.

We learn of reporters killed by the military. We learn about other reporters' poor salaries and about how their real pay comes in envelopes from shadowy men, and they know it means they will not write about certain things. We learn of one reporter who inadvertently crossed the military in 2005 and had to flee to the US border for his life when the military came looking for him three years later. He sought political asylum. What he got was imprisoned for seven months until a Tucson civil rights lawyer managed to spring him.

As Bowden notes:

"It is possible to see his imprisonment as simply the normal by-product of bureaucratic blindness and indifference. But I don't think that is true. No Mexican reporter has ever been given political asylum, because if the US government honestly faced facts, it would have to admit that Mexico is not a society that respects human rights. Just as the United States would be hard-pressed, if it faced facts, to explain to its own citizens how it can justify giving the Mexican army $1.4 billion under Plan Merida, a piece of black humor that is supposed to fight the war on drugs. But then the American press is the chorus in this comedy since it continues to report that the Mexican army is in a war to the death with the drug cartels. There are two errors in these accounts. One is simple: The war in Mexico is for drugs and the enormous money to be made by supplying American habits, a torrent of cash that the army, the police, the government, and the cartels all lust for. Second, the Mexican army is a government-financed criminal organization, a fact most Mexicans learn as children."

Bowden writes about a Ciudad Juarez policewoman taken away by the military and raped for three days. Bowden writes about the military patrol sitting yards away from a drug treatment center where armed assailants shoot the place up for 15 minutes, leaving eight dead. Bowden writes about how the press describes convoys of killers as "armed commandos" dressed in uniforms and says that's code for military death squads.

Remember those two headless gentlemen in the first paragraph? This is why we will never learn anything more about them. The reporters are scared for their lives. Bowden writes about the "narco-tombs," safe houses where victims are tortured and killed, then buried on the grounds. The exhumation of the bodies takes place with great fanfare, but the forensic scientist doesn't want her name used or her face shown, and then the bodies just vanish. Poof! They are never identified, no one knows where they went, no one knows why they died, no one knows who killed them.

Bowden writes about El Sicario, the former state policeman/cartel assassin, who talks with professional pride about kidnapping, torturing, and killing hundreds of people. Now, El Sicario is afraid. The killers are after him, and he has fled his former hunting grounds. And what is even more disturbing for the reader is El Sicario's statement that he doesn't even know which cartel he was working for. In the cell-like structure in which he operated, he knew only his boss, not the boss's boss, or even who the boss's boss was. El Sicario killed for phantoms.

But what is really terrifying is that El Sicario is being chased by "a death machine with no apparent driver," a web of hidden complicities where the cartels are the military are the police are the government, nobody knows who anybody really is, and the dead become evil by virtue of having been killed.

We can blame the cartels (or, obversely, drug prohibition), we can blame street gangs, mass poverty, uprooted families migrating to the city for jobs that have now vanished, corrupt cops, corrupt governments, but the violence may now have escaped any good explanation, Bowden writes. As the Mexican state fails to suppress the violence (at least in part because it is committing a great part of it, the killings are establishing "not a new structure but rather a pattern, and this pattern functionally has no top or bottom, no center or edge, no boss or obedient servant. Think of something like the ocean, a fluid thing without king and court, boss and cartel... Violence courses through Juarez like a ceaseless wind, and we insist it is a battle between cartels, or between the state and the drug world, or between the army and the forces of darkness. But consider this possibility: Violence is now woven into the very fabric of the community, and has no single cause and no single motive and no on-off button."

Absolutely chilling stuff, and absolutely brilliant. Bowden turns prose into poetry, and he provides an understanding of Juarez and its woes that hits you at the visceral level. "Murder City" will give you nightmares, but it's worth it.

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