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 4,000 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:
Wednesday, July 29
poster of assassinated human rights advocate Ricardo Murillo
- In Veracruz, gunmen set fire to the home of a police commander, killing him, his wife, and his four children ranging in ages from 6 to 15. Jesus Antonio Romero, 39, was deputy operations coordinator for the Veracruz-Boca del Rio area. Initial reports indicate that the fire began after the gunmen hurled grenades at the house.
- In Acapulco, the body of Juan Daniel Martinez, 48, a newscaster for W radio, was found beaten, gagged and partially buried. Martinez covered a wide range of topics, including crime. Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. At least 10 were killed in 2008. In a separate incident Wednesday, a federal agent who had been investigating the November killing of Armando Rodriguez -- another journalist -- was killed at his home in Ciudad Juarez.
Friday, July 31
- Six people were killed in Ciudad Juarez when six heavily armed gunmen burst into a pool-hall and opened fire. Five men and a woman were killed, while two others were seriously wounded.
- In total, at least 26 people were killed in drug-related violence in a 24-hour period. Among them were a police commander in Aguascalientes, two municipal police officers in Michoacan, and a city official in Mexico City. In Ciudad Juarez, the body of a suspected kidnapper was found with his head, hands, and feet cut off.
Monday, August 3
- In Chihuahua, three members of a Mennonite community were killed after being involved in a car accident with gunmen fleeing police. The four gunmen were killed instantly, and police at the scene recovered automatic weapons and grenades. Elsewhere across Mexico, four drug-related killings were reported in Guanajuato, Sinaloa and Guerrero. In Zacatecas, a firefight ensued after a botched kidnapping of three brothers.
Thursday, August 6
- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has delayed the release of a report needed to free some $100 million in military aid to the Mexican government. Leahy cited human rights and accountability concerns. "The Congress provides 85% of the aid without conditions, but there needs to be evidence that the military is accountable to the rule of law. Those requirements have not been met, so it is premature to send the report to Congress," he said. Leahy went on to say that "as long as the demand for drugs in the United States and the flow of guns to Mexico continue at these levels, it will be difficult to neutralize the cartels."
Friday, August 7
- At least 25 people were killed in drug-related violence across the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Chihuahua, In Hidalgo, at least twelve people were killed in a gun battle between cartel gunmen and police, three of them police. The firefight began when police encountered three trucks with heavily armed men transporting three kilos of cocaine and $99,000. At least 13 people were killed in Chihuahua, with eight of those deaths occurring in Ciudad Juarez.
Saturday, August 8
- In Tijuana, Mexican police arrested a top Tijuana cartel official, nicknamed "El Jimmy." Manuel Ivanovich Zambrano is the third most wanted man on the DEA's Tijuana cartel list, and is thought to be part of a new generation of drug traffickers operating in the area under the command of Fernando Sanchez Arellano, also known as "El Ingeniero" (The Engineer).
Sunday, August 9
- In Monterrey, a Mexican lawyer who represented drug traffickers and had suffered at least four previous attempts on her life, was shot dead. Silvia Raquenel Villanueva, 55,was reportedly shot dead by three gunmen as she shopped on a city street in broad daylight.
Monday, August 10
- Federal police arrested a drug cartel member suspected of plotting to kill President Calderon, according to Ramon Pequeno, the head of Mexico's federal anti-drug unit. Dimas Diaz-the alleged chief financial operator of the Pacific cartel- was arrested on Sunday (August 9) in Culiacan, Sinaloa. The assassination plot is thought to be in retaliation to a 2007 drug bust in which 26 tons of cocaine arriving from Colombia were seized in the port city of Manzanillo.
- According to the AP, US oil refineries have bought millions of dollars worth of oil illegally siphoned from Mexican pipelines and smuggled into the United States, sometimes by drug trafficking organizations. At least one American oil executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in a case that involved some $2 million in smuggled oil. In at least one instance, the Zetas organization is known to have used false import documents to smuggle loads of oil to American refineries. Earlier in the year, 149 bank accounts related to the Zetas side-business in oil were frozen.
- In another exclusive report, an AP investigation concluded that US law enforcement officers who are working along the US-Mexican border are being charged with criminal corruption in record numbers. The investigation found that over 80 US law enforcement personnel have been convicted on corruption-related charges since 2007.
- During his visit to Mexico, President Obama applauded Mexico's anti-drug efforts. "I have great confidence in President Calderon's administration," he said. For his part, President Calderon expressed concerns about the delay in US financial aid to the Mexican government and security forces.
Total reported body count for the last two weeks: 266
Total reported body count for the year: 4,213
Read last issue's Mexico drug war report here.)