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 50,000 people, including more than 15,000 in 2010 and another 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrests or killings 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, January 26
In Ciudad Juarez, a man was shot and killed
inside a restaurant in front of dozens of customers. Several people who were with the victim ran from the scene.
Friday, January 27
In Nuevo Laredo, four gunmen and a soldier were killed during a fire fight. The
incident began when gunmen traveling in six vehicles opened fire on an army patrol. Five soldiers were wounded and taken to a local hospital.
In Ciudad Juarez, at least ten people
were murdered in several incidents. Ten more would be killed on Saturday.
Saturday, January 28
In Torreon, five people were gunned down
by a group of men wielding assault rifles. Four other individuals were wounded in the incident.
In Monterrey, three bodies were found dead along with a message from a criminal organization.
Monday, January 30
In Sinaloa, the commander of army forces in the state said
that marijuana and poppy growers have been severely hampered by drought and that his forces are detecting fewer grow sites than in previous years. Another army spokesman said that the drought did not mean a drop-off in overall cartel production.
In Nuevo Leon, police announced the capture of a suspected Zeta
who allegedly confessed to killing 75 people, at least 36 of whom were taken from passenger buses. Enrique Elizondo Flores, "El Arabe," was arrested on January 20 but authorities say they delayed the announcement to give them time to verify his claims. Over 90 people were killed in three bus attacks thought to have been carried out by the Zetas in January and March 2011.
In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were killed.
In one incident, three gunmen were killed in a fire fight after attacking the police. At least eight municipal police officers have been killed in January in attacks that have been blamed on the New Juarez Cartel. In other incidents, a couple was murdered in an industrial park, a man was shot dead on a bus, and a body was found in a car after having been kidnapped on Sunday.
In Guasave, Sinaloa, three soldiers were killed during a fire fight
with armed men. According to reports, an army patrol was chasing several vehicles with armed men who resisted. Several gunmen were also reported killed but the bodies were taken away. A pickup truck and several weapons were left abandoned at the scene. After the shooting, a tense standoff took place between soldiers and municipal police forces, who had ignored distress calls from the soldiers involved in the shooting.
In Monterrey, seven suspected Zetas were arrested
on kidnapping and other charges. Two victims were rescued from their safe house.
Tuesday, January 31
In Mexico City, a top official confirmed
that an army general and 29 of his troops are on trial for crimes they committed while operating in the Ojinaga, Chihuahua border area in 2008 and 2009. General Manuel Moreno and his underlings are accused of committing at least 10 killings and reselling seized narcotics, as well as stealing property during raids. They were originally charged in August 2009.
Off the coast of California, a motorboat laden with over a ton of marijuana
was intercepted by authorities. Three Mexican nationals were arrested.
In Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors announced
that three former Tamaulipas governors are being investigated. Authorities have declined to say why exactly the men are being investigated, however.
[Editor's Note: We are no longer going to keep a running tally of the death toll; the figures are too unreliable. The latest figures below were released by the Mexican government in January.]
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
Partial Body Count for 2011 (official): 12,093*
Total Body Count (official): 47,705*
* Official figures through September 30, 2011. Unofficial estimates put the entire year's death toll at around 16,000, meaning more than 50,000 people had been killed by the end of 2011.