by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.
[Editor's note: Bernd went on holiday Sunday; look for the rest of this week's Mexico news in the next issue of Drug War Chronicle.]
Ciuded Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
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 16,000 people, with a death toll of over 7,000 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:
Friday , December 18
An assistant soccer coach of Mexico's first division team Indios was killed in Ciudad Juarez. Pedro Picasso, 34, was found dead in a cell phone store along with another unidentified person.
Saturday , December 19
In Nuevo Leon, a high ranking Gulf Cartel member nicknamed "The Korean" was killed, along with five others, after a gun battle with army personnel. Two of the dead were municipal police under the employ of the drug traffickers. The army also seized 616 kilos of marijuana and several weapons, including two assault rifles, from the men.
Additionally, in Sonora, a federal police official in charge of combating retail drug distribution was gunned down in Nogales, and six bodies were found in Puerto Penasco. In other violence across Mexico, four people were killed in Durango, four in Baja California, two in Puebla, and one in Aguas Calientes.
In Ciudad Juarez, four policemen were killed after a series of attacks on patrol cars across the city. In one of the attacks, two brothers who worked for different police agencies but were patrolling together were killed. Two other policemen were wounded in the shootings.
Tuesday , December 22
The family of naval commando Ensign Melquisedet Angulo Cordova, who was killed in the raid that led to the death of drug lord Arturo Beltran-Leyva, was executed in their hometown of Villahermosa. Just hours after the family had returned from an elaborate state funeral for Ensign Argulo, gunmen burst into their home, killing his mother, sister, aunt and brother. Another sister was wounded in the attack.
The following day, four people were arrested in connection with the murders. Two are accused of paying the hitmen, while the other two are accused of acting as lookouts. All four are accused of being members of the Zetas organization, which is allied to the Beltran-Leyva cartel.
In Coahuila, gunmen opened fire on a restaurant with the mayor of a US town inside. Chad Foster, mayor of Eagle Pass, Texas, was dining with Coahuila Attorney General Jesus Torres when gunmen sprayed the restaurant with gunfire. A woman standing outside was killed. Torres was quickly spirited away by security personnel and Foster returned to the US on his own.
Thursday , December 24
In the state of Guerrero, ten bodies were found in two mass graves. Authorities found the bodies after being tipped by an anonymous phone call. Based on the state of the bodies, it appears that the bodies were killed and buried two months ago. Also in Guerrero, seven members of the Beltran-Leyva organization were arrested, including one man suspected in the killing and decapitation of military personnel.
In the town of Tulum, on Mexico's Caribbean coast, a journalist was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle. Jose Alberto Velazquez Lopez, who owned a magazine and worked for a TV station, was driving to work when he was shot and lost control of his car. Two men were later taken into custody, but released because tests could not determine whether they had discharged firearms or not.
Saturday , December 26
In a 36-hour period, 10 people were killed across Sinaloa. Among the dead were two men who were found bound and executed with shots to the head, and a teenage boy who was killed when a group of gunmen opened fire on a group of people Christmas morning.
Total Body Count since last update: 321
Total Body Count for the Year: 7,598
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.