by Bernd Debussman, 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 over 20,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 4,000 so far in 2010. 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:
Wednesday, May 19
In Chihuahua, police discovered five mummified bodies in the bed of a truck. The five, two women and three women, were left in a pickup truck alongside a desert highway south of Ciudad Juarez, and were mummified by the desert conditions. In Ciudad Juarez itself, a local university student was discovered murdered and wrapped in a blanket at the fairgrounds.
Thursday, May 20
In Tamaulipas, four gunmen were killed and four arrested after a raid by elements of the Mexican Navy. Three of the detainees were Guatemalan nationals. In Torreon, Coahuila, two police officers and three gunmen were killed in a firefight.
Outside Culiacan, Sinaloa, police announced the capture of the Sinaloa Cartel's operations chief for the greater Mexico City area. Jose Manuel Garcia is also being accused of coordinating cartel operations with local officials.
Sunday, May 23
In Tijuana, soldiers discovered $729,000 dollars during a raid in La Libertad neighborhood of northwest Tijuana. No arrests were made during the operation.
In Jalisco and Zacatecas, the army and gunmen fought six gun battles in 12 hours. No casualties were reported in the fighting, which was nonetheless described as "intense." According to the army, the gunmen used large caliber Barrett sniper rifles and fragmentation grenades and the engagement. At least 50 gunmen fled into nearby mountains on vehicle and on foot.
In Sinaloa, a federal police agent and his drug-sniffing dog are missing after being kidnapped alongside four other men and a woman near the town of Los Mochis. Three of them, including the woman, were later found dead. Afterwards, police searched for men traveling in three vehicles in relation to the incident. The area around Los Mochis is a known drug trafficking area.
Nine people were murdered in the city of Chihuahua, and a man was killed in the city of Durango. Three young women who were traveling in his car were wounded after being ambushed by gunmen wielding high-powered weapons. In Tampico, two gunmen were killed after a shootout with the army. In Morelos, gunmen forced a man out of a bar and shot him just outside. One person was killed in Tabasco.
Monday, May 24
In Zapopan, Jalisco, the operations chief of the municipal police was shot and killed. Witnesses told police that Jose Nicolas Araujo Baldenegro ran out of his house after hearing a truck smash into his car, only to be gunned down when he stepped onto the street. The truck used in the attack was later found abandoned.
Tuesday, May 25
In a suburb of Monterrey, an ex-police officer from an elite unit of the municipal police was killed in a shootout between gunmen and soldiers. The incident, which took place in the affluent suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, took place in the early morning after the army received reports of armed men at a party. After a brief firefight, soldiers discovered the body of ex-municipal police officer Pedro Valezquez Amador. It was later reported that he is a high-ranking member of the Beltran-Leyva organization, although the organization has been split in recent months.
Wednesday, May 26
In Cancun, the mayor was arrested on suspicion of protecting the Beltran-Leyva and Zetas organizations. Gregorio Sanchez now faces charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, a year after a Cancun police chief and several deputies were taken into custody. High-level corruption is rampant in many parts of Mexico.
In Chihuahua, a large group of armed men took over a small village near Ciudad Juarez. Reports indicate that a group of at least 60 men traveling in 16 vehicles took over the small town of El Porvenir and executed two people before withdrawing. The local headquarters of a police intelligence unit was also burned. Several police were reported to have fled into nearby forests.
In Culiacan, three people were executed, including a woman who was thrown into a canal after being shot. Two murders occurred in Ciudad Juarez.
Thursday, May 27
In Ciudad Juarez, two policemen were shot dead in the parking lot of a shopping center. Five people were shot in different incidents across the city of Chihuahua, and two people each were killed in Sonora, Sinaloa, and Durango.
In the Durango incident, two suspected drug traffickers were killed after being stopped at a fake checkpoint. A four year old child was left alive in the backseat.
Total Body Count for the Week: 405
Total Body Count for the Year: 4,357
[Editor's note: We have decided to no longer include the overall death toll since Calderon began his drug war. There are too many problems of definition to be confident of any exact tally. We will, however, note when the official tally clicks over another thousand dead. Currently, it's at 23,000.]
Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.