by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal 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 over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several 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:
Last Thursday morning, the body count for the year passed 5,000. Four people were killed in Guerrero, among them a rural law enforcement officer. Additionally, in Chiapas, a group of gunmen threw a fragmentation grenade at a municipal office. Several people were wounded and a vehicle parked outside was damaged.
Friday, September 11
In Tijuana, authorities reported a spike in drug prohibition-related violence. Nineteen people were killed in the first eight days of September. Authorities have reported 405 homicides in Tijuana from January 1st through September 11th. This is less than half of the 843 homicides reported in 2008, but 68 more than the 2007 total. The Baja California attorney general's office believes that much of the recent violence is due to reprisals against suspected informers following the arrest of several high-level traffickers.
Saturday, September 12
In the resort city of Acapulco, five bullet riddled bodies were found dumped in a landfill. According to Mexican authorities, police found a note near the bodies which was signed "the boss of bosses." It is unclear to whom the note refers.
In Sinaloa,a municipal police commander was killed when his car was ambushed by four vehicles carrying an estimated twenty armed men. His 13-year old son and a friend of his were wounded. Two innocent bystanders, aged 14 and 17, were killed by stray bullets as they sat under a tree near the road. Meanwhile, four charred corpses were found in a burning car on the Mexico City-Oaxaca highway. In Ciudad Juarez, 12 drug-related murders were reported.
Sunday, September 13
In Ciudad Juarez, Eight people were killed in just a few hours. The eight people who were killed died in six different incidents. Among the dead was Jose Robles Ortiz, who was riddled with bullets on September 11th. His death is being investigated by the state prosecutor's office for the state of Chihuahua.
Monday, September 14
At the El Paso border checkpoint, over $1 million in cash was seized over the period of a few days. The largest seizure took place on Friday afternoon, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials found $802,720 in an SUV that was headed towards Mexico. Two Mexican nationals, aged 33 and 34, were detained and remain in El Paso County Jail. Two other seizures made during the week totaled $206,000. El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, and is a lucrative drug trafficking corridor for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. It is a federal offense to not declare currency over $10,000 dollars upon leaving or entering the US.
Tuesday, September 15
In Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, 21 people were killed on Tuesday. In Tijuana, firefighters found six bodies inside a burning car. Four of the men were seated in the car, while two were found in the trunk. In Ciudad Juarez, five people-including two brothers-were gunned down at a car wash. Ten people were killed in other acts of violence in the city. Five people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a hardware store, and five men in a pickup truck were killed when they were ambushed.
Wednesday, September 16
In Ciudad Juarez, suspected drug cartel gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation clinic, killing ten. This is the second such attack this month. Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in Ciudad Juarez, claiming that they are protecting members of rival trafficking organizations. A spokesman for the states attorney's office said that the dead included nine men and one woman.
Mexican independence day celebrations took place under extremely heavy security, due to fears of violence. Security was especially tight in Morelia, Michoacán, where a grenade attack by members of La Familia cartel killed eight people and wounded over 100 during last year's celebrations. In many cities, traditional children's parades and outdoor parties were canceled because of security concerns.
Body count for the year: 5,136
Body count for the week: 181
Read last week's Mexico drug war update here.