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 35,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. 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, January 13
wanted poster, US Embassy in Mexico
In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were killed. One of the victims had been shot approximately 70 times with AK-47 rounds. His body was found by reporters after police left after not being able to immediately find the body when they arrived.
Friday, January 14
In Ciudad Juarez, 11 people were murdered
across the city. In one incident, a triple homicide occurred in a junkyard after an attack by heavily armed gunmen. Three other men were wounded.
In Xalapa, Veracruz, 12 gunmen and two soldiers were killed during a six-hour gunfight. The target of the raid remains unclear.
Saturday, January 15
In Veracruz, a police commander was kidnapped by heavily armed men
after being forced off the road by an SUV. A police officer was later wounded in an exchange of gunfire with the suspects.
Monday, January 17
In Chihuahua, fourteen prison inmates escaped through a hole in the wall.
A vehicle charged through a metal fence and picked the men up. Five have been recaptured. Prison escapes are very frequent in Mexican prisons.
Tuesday, January 18
In Oaxaca City, Mexican Federal police captured a founding member of the Zetas Organization.
Flavio Mendez Santiago, 35, was in charge of Zetas operations in Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz and controlled migrant trafficking of migrants from other parts of the Americas and drug trafficking routes through Central America. He joined the Gulf Cartel in 1993 after deserting from the Army, and siding with the Zetas when the organization split with its former employers.
In Guatemala, the government extended a state of siege
in the province of Alta Verapaz. Drug trafficking in the area has been controlled by the Zetas since the 2008 assassination of a local Guatemalan drug boss.
In Mexico City, a well-known trafficker was arrested
in the upscale Bosques de Lomas neighborhood. Jose Jorge Balderas, 34, is also suspected in the shooting of a Paraguayan soccer player in a Mexico city bar.
Thursday, January 20
In Ciudad Juarez, a policeman was killed
during a daytime firefight with armed suspects inside a crowded shopping center which sent civilians running for cover to avoid the crossfire.
Friday, January 21
In Guerrero, Mexican authorities made a record seizure of opium gum.
Approximately 245 kilos of opium paste were discovered from a house in the town of Chilpancingo.
Saturday, January 22
In Tamaulipas, ten gunmen were killed
during a prolonged firefight with the army. The incident occurred near the rural village of Valle Hermoso after soldiers were fired upon as they approached a camp of armed men. Among the weapons discovered at the camp were a rocket launcher and 20 grenades.
In Pachuca, Hidalgo, a policeman was killed
and three others were wounded by a car bomb. The officers had been responding to reports that a body was inside a car when the explosives detonated. Initial reports suggest the bomb was the work of the Zetas, possibly in retaliation for the death of two Zetas at the hands of police in the nearby town of Tula.
Sunday, January 23
In Ciudad Juarez, seven people were gunned down
at a park built as part of a city rehabilitation campaign called "we are all Juarez." During the incident, gunmen arrived in three vehicles and fired over 180 high-caliber rounds at a group of youths playing soccer. Mexican media are reporting that the intended target was someone involved in street-level drug dealing.
Six other people were killed
in other incidents in Juarez, including a woman who was apparently stabbed and stoned to death.
Monday, January 24
In Mexico City, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Tuesday, January 25
In Ciudad Juarez, federal police officers attacked the mayor’s convoy
, killing one of his bodyguards. Mayor Hector Murguia claims two masked federal officers approached a house where he was holding a meeting and opened fire on his bodyguards even though they identified themselves. Federal police are saying they opened fire after the bodyguards refused to identify themselves and did not lower their weapons.
Wednesday, January 26
In Mexico City, soldiers conducted operations against suspected Zetas.
It is the first military operation against drug traffickers conducted in the Mexico City area. So far, only several weapons have been recovered and it appears no arrests have been made. At least 30 heavily armed and masked soldiers participated in the operations.
Total Body Count for the last two weeks: 402
Total Body Count for the year: 538
Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273
Total Body Count for 2009: 9,600
Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400
Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.) 4,300
Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,612
Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war to date: 35,150