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 16,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and almost 1,000 so far in 2010. 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:
Saturday, January 30
In Ciudad Juárez, police discovered two severed heads near bodies which were wrapped in blankets. In total, 15 people were killed during a 24-hour period. In one incident, gunmen opened fire on a family in a truck, killing one man and one woman and wounding a 5-month old child. In another incident, a man was killed and a pregnant woman was wounded after being attacked by gunmen.
In Michoacán, six headless bodies were found, and a group of at least 12 gunmen ambushed a police convoy, killing five officers.
Sunday, January 31
In one of the most high-profile incidents in Mexico's drug war, at least 16 people, most of them teenagers, were killed when gunmen stormed a house party in Ciudad Juárez. While accounts of the incident vary, it appears that between 15 and 25 gunmen blocked off a street and entered the house, herded the youngsters into a back room and opened fire. Mexican authorities have taken one man into custody in connection with the incident. The suspect, Jose Dolores Arroyo Chavarria, has said that he acted as a lookout for the gunmen, who were apparently enforcers for the Juárez Cartel. They had apparently received information that rival drug traffickers were to be in attendance at the party, and were ordered to kill everyone there. Parents of the victims have denied that anyone attending the party was involved in criminal activity. Chavarria was taken into custody after troops apparently interrupted the planned assassination of a rival. Another suspected drug trafficker, who is said to have overseen the killings, was killed in a shootout with Mexican soldiers.
Monday, February 1
In the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacán, a group of at least 20 armed men attacked several law enforcement facilities with gunfire and grenades. One police officer and two civilians were killed, and two police officers and six civilians were wounded. The gunmen were later chased through the streets of the city, and several exchanges of gunfire were reported. At least four police patrol cars were destroyed in the attacks.
In total, 45 people were killed in prohibition-related violence across the country. Sixteen were killed in Chihuahua, 11 in Coahuila, 5 in Sinaloa, 7 in Michoacán, two each in Sonora and Guerrero, one in Durango, and one in the state of Mexico.
Tuesday, February 2
Eight people were killed during a gun battle in the city of Torreon, Coahuila. Seven of the dead were suspected cartel gunmen and one was a federal police officer. The firefight occurred after federal police went to a shopping mall where a kidnapping attempt was reported. When they arrived they were met with gunfire. The officers then chased the suspects onto a highway, where the bulk of the shooting occurred. One suspect, three police officers, and two kidnapping victims were wounded in the incident. It appears the gunmen were members of the Zetas organization, which is thought to control drug trafficking in Coahuila.
In the state of Michoacán, members of the La Familia organization put up a dozen banners urging citizens to form a "resistance front" against the Zetas. The signs, which were put up in the capital of Morelia and in the town of Apatzingan, were quickly taken down by the authorities.
Wednesday, February 3
In La Paz, Baja California, two police officers were killed and another was wounded after gunmen opened fire on a house. In a 12-hour period, eight people were killed in Sinaloa, a corpse showing signs of torture was found in San Luis Potosi, and a decapitated body was found on a ranch near Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Body Count for the Week: 378
Body Count for the Year: 980
Body Count for 2009: 7,724
Body Count since Calderon took office (December, 2006): 17,185
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.