Mexican Drug War

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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 an estimated 23,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 5,000 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:

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Ciudad Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Thursday, June 10

In Guatemala City, Guatemala, four human heads were left to be discovered near the national Congress and three other locations in and around the city. A note threatening the interior minister and head of the national prison system was left with one of the heads. While leaving decapitated heads to be found happens with some frequency in Mexico, such cases are rare in Guatemala. Organized crime in Guatemala is integrally linked to Mexico, as Mexican cartels have an extensive presence in the country, which they use to move shipments of cocaine into Mexico from South America.

In Houston, Texas, federal authorities announced the arrest of 2,200 suspects linked to Mexican drug cartels. The arrests came during a 22-month probe which targeted cells of every major drug cartel. On Wednesday, some 400 people were arrested across 16 states. The probe led to the seizure of $154, 1,200 pounds of meth, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 1,400 pounds of heroin, and 69 tons of marijuana.

Friday , June 11

In the city of Chihuahua, 19 people were killed and four were wounded when gunmen raided a drug-rehabilitation clinic. At least 30 gunmen traveling in six vehicles stormed the Christian Faith and Life Center, using assault rifles to kill 14 people immediately, which was followed by the execution of an additional five. The attackers left a threatening message as they withdrew. The attack was similar to two which took place in Ciudad Juarez in September, which left 28 people dead. Initial reports from police suggest that the center may have housed members of the "Mexicles" gang, which is allied to the Sinaloa Cartel as it battles the Juarez Cartel for control of the Chihuahua drug-trafficking corridors.

In Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, at least 20 people were killed in five incidents across the city. The incidents began late on Thursday night when police clashed with an unclear number of gunmen who were moving in vehicles in the city. Police later discovered bodies on a nearby beach on several other locations in Madero.

Sunday , June 13

In Tepic, Nayarit, eight gunmen and a policeman were killed during a chaotic gun fight in a crowded shopping mall. At least 1,500 shoppers were present during the incident, which began when police entering the shopping mall to investigate a report of suspicious activity were met by gunfire from at least 15 gunmen. At least one civilian, a taxi driver, was killed in the crossfire. Four other killings were reported in Tepic on Sunday, making it the most violent day in the city's recent history.

Monday , June 14

Across Mexico, 43 people were killed in drug-related violence. In Michoacan, 12 police officers were killed after being ambush near the town of Zitacuaro. One gunman was killed in the ensuing firefight. The army and police launched an immediate manhunt for the remaining gunmen, who escaped.

In Mazatlan, Sinaloa, 28 prison inmates were killed in a gunfight inside the confines of the prison. At least some of the inmates were said to be members of the Zetas Organization. The incident comes just a week after Sinaloa Governor Jesus Aguilar warned about the repercussions of overcrowding in the Mazatlan prison, which houses 6,000 inmates, many of the linked to drug-trafficking organizations. Sinaloa has long been at the heart of the Mexican drug trade.

Tuesday , June 15

In Taxco, 15 gunmen were killed during a 40 minute-long firefight with elements of the Mexican Army. No soldiers were wounded or killed in the fight, which began after troops came under fire while investigating a suspicious location. Initial reports indicate that the gunmen were part of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel faction loyal to US-born drug trafficker Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villareal, so nicknamed for his blue eyes and light complexion.

Wednesday , June 16

In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were murdered in a 15-minute span across the city, and 22 were killed by the end of the day. In one incident, six people were killed at a methadone clinic, including a man who was killed next to his two-year old son.

In Monterrey, seven police officers were kidnapped and executed by armed men. The bodies of the officers -- all showing signs of torture -- were later found on an abandoned plot of land along with a message. One of the men was decapitated. Three teenagers were also killed in a separate incident in Monterrey. In Santiago, 19 miles away from Monterrey, two police officers were found shot to death.

Thursday, June 17

In Costa Rica, 14 drug traffickers were arrested by police. Four of the suspects were found to Mexican nationals and representatives of an unspecified cartel. Costa Rica has seen an increased presence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations who seek new routes for cocaine headed north from South America.

Total Body Count for the Week: 416

Total Body Count for the Year: 5,210

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 an estimated 23,000 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:

Sunday, May 29

In Morelos, the body of a prison warden was found dismembered and scattered across several locations. Suspected cartel gunmen kidnapped Luis Navarro the previous day as he arrived to work. Morelos State has seen a significant increase in violence in 2010 as rival factions battle for leadership positions in the Beltran-Leyva Organization, which was left leaderless after the December killing of boss Arturo Beltan-Leyva.

Tuesday, June 1

In the city of Chihuahua, two men were shot dead in front of dozens of panicked children outside a primary school. The incident began after heavily armed men exited a truck and began shooting at two men who were walking on the sidewalk. Teachers immediately had the students, all between the ages of six and twelve, lay prone on the floor. Several dozen bullets struck the schoolyard, and several struck the walls of a classroom. Classes were immediately canceled and parents were instructed to pick up their children.

In Guerrero, six people were killed during a running gun battle between groups of rival gunmen along an eleven-mile stretch of highway. In other violence, seven people were killed in Baja California, three each in Sinaloa, Sonora, Michoacan, and the State of Mexico, two in Veracruz, and one each in Nuevo Leon and Durango.

Wednesday, June 2

In Vicente Guerrero, Durango, a high-ranking police official was killed as he was in the hospital for physical therapy. The incident occurred after two gunmen snuck past his bodyguards and shot him six times, and wounding two other individuals, one of whom was a minor.

In Ciudad Juarez, a three year old girl was killed alongside her father after their car was sprayed with gunfire. In the notorious drug-trafficking town of Guanecevi, Durango, a 21-year old male who had been missing for 10 days was found dead. In Monterrey, a couple was killed in a bar by men wielding automatic weapons. In Tijuana, four people were killed in various incidents.

Saturday, June 5

In Guerrero, at least 37 bodies have so far been recovered from a mass grave discovered at an abandoned mine shaft on May 30. Due to the large number of bodies recovered so far, some have had to be sent to Acapulco due to a lack of local facilities in which to store the bodies. Although the identities of the bodies have yet to be determined, authorities believe they were all killed in drug-related violence over an unspecified amount of time. The number of bodies was later changed to 55.

In Durango, four police officers were wounded in an attack on Durango State Public Safety Secretary General Valentin Romano. The attack occurred when heavily armed gunmen used automatic weapons and grenades to attack the general's convoy as it made it's way to a country club where was planning to play tennis. The attack was well planned, with gunmen opening fire in at least three other locations across the city to draw security forces away from the area where it took place.

Sunday, June 6

In Guerrero, three people were killed when gunmen raided a girl's 15th birthday party. One of those who died was an attacker who was killed after an exchange of gunfire with armed men who were in attendance at the party.

Monday, June 7

In Ciudad Juarez, 15 people were killed across the city. In one incident, four people were shot dead in an auto shop. In another, two people were gunned down in a shopping center. Two people were found out the Seven and Seven bar in the Cuernavaca neighborhood. The Seven and Seven was the scene of another multiple homicide several months agoi. These killings bring the number of murders in Ciudad Juarez to 50 for the month of June, and 1,130 for 2010.

Tuesday, June 8

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, six prison inmates were killed after having their throats cut. Culiacan has long been a central location in the Mexican drug trade. Additionally, another prison fight in Ciudad Juarez left three inmates dead and a federal police officer severely beaten.

Wednesday, June 9

In Mexico City, 45 pounds of explosive were seized by Mexico's Navy after a raid in the Roma neighborhood of the city. Federal authorities have recently stated that they believe drug cartels are in search of explosive materials for attacks on buildings are for use in roadside bombs. The hostel were the raid took place is just blocks away from a 2008 bomb incident, in which a would-be bomber was killed in an attempt to attack a local police station. The plot was later traced to Sinaloa-based drug traffickers.

In Manzanillo, Colima, eight gunmen were killed and five Marines were wounded after a Marine patrol was ambushed just outside the city. At least one of those killed was a woman, and another was found to be a Colombian national. Preliminary reports the attackers were affiliated with the Beltran-Leyva organization.

Total Body Count for the last two weeks: 437

Total Body Count for the Year: 4,794

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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.

The Border: Obama to Send 1,200 National Guard Troops in Bid to Fight Drugs

The Obama administration said Tuesday it would send 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border and spend more law enforcement money there to combat drug smuggling. The troops will not be used on the front-line, but will provide support services to the already beefed-up border law enforcement apparatus.

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Esequiel Hernandez was killed by US Marines near the Texas border, while herding sheep. Are there more such victims to come?
The announcement came as the administration came under increasing pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to "do something" about border security and reflects concerns about the politics of immigration as well as the war on drugs.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) last week called on Obama to send National Guard helicopters from neighboring states to Arizona. She didn't get the choppers, but she did get some attention, and now she will get some National Guardsman.

Although Brewer and other conservatives -- and some liberals -- are screaming to high heaven about the need for more border enforcement, the need for it isn't absolutely clear. In Arizona, the crime rate is down, there are signs that immigrants are leaving, and despite wildly exaggerated claims, Mexican drug cartels are generally very good at keeping their spectacular violence on the other side of the border.

The Obama National Guard deployment is a faint echo of President Bush the Junior's two-year deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to the border beginning in 2006. Those troops were credited with helping in the arrest of more than 160,000 undocumented immigrants, the seizure of $69,000 in cash, and 305,000 pounds of drugs.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, fending off a challenge from a rightist congressman, said that 1,200 troops wasn't enough. In a Senate maneuver, he tried to get funding for 6,000 troops Thursday, but was rebuffed.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 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, May 1

In Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, three people, including a man and woman were found dead in a car on a rural highway outside the city. The incident came just hours after two grenade attacks occurred in Reynosa's red light district. One of the grenades exploded near a police station in Reynosa's "zone of tolerance," where prostitution and retail-level drug trafficking are allowed to flourish. Earlier in the week, police closed a bridge to allow them to clear explosives that had been left there.

Sunday, May 2

In Chihuahua, 24 people were murdered over the weekend in various parts of the state. Eight of the killings occurred in Ciudad Juarez, ten occurred in the city of Chihuahua, five in Cuauhtémoc, one in the town of Parral. The five men killed in Cuauhtémoc were killed after gunmen entered a bar and opened fire. All the dead were young males between the ages of 18 and 25. According to Chihuahua State attorney general spokesman Carlos Gonzalez, most of the killings are believed to be related to the ongoing struggle between the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels for control of the Juarez drug trafficking corridor.

Monday, May 3

In Acapulco, gunmen shot and killed eight men as they played soccer in the early afternoon. The gunmen, who arrived in a convoy of 14 vehicles, were reportedly opening fire throughout the neighborhood for some 40 minutes, terrorizing the local population. In addition to the five men who were left dead on the soccer field, three of the bodies were picked up and taken away by the gunmen. The Acapulco area has seen an upswing in violence over the last few months as rival factions of the Beltran-Leyva cartel fight each other for the leadership of the organization.

In Nuevo Leon, a mother and her daughter were killed and disappeared after being caught in a gun battle between suspected rival drug trafficking groups. The incident was reported by the woman's husband, who claims that the car in which the family was traveling was caught in a firefight on the highway. The car was struck by several bullets, killing the woman and the child. The husband was wounded, but managed to take refuge in a nearby house. When he returned to his vehicle, the bodies of his wife and daughter had vanished.

In Sinaloa, four people were killed in different incidents across the state. In one incident, the bullet riddled bodies of two men were found on the side of the Culiacan-Las Brisas highway. In another incident, an unidentified man was killed after gunmen ambushed him as he drove in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood of Culiacan.

Tuesday, May 4

In Tabasco, three women were killed in a parking lot in the municipality of Cardenas. The three women, none of whom have been identified, were beaten and abused before being killed.

Wednesday, May 5

In Mexico, El Universal reported that it is now estimated that there are 35 illegal firearms for every one policeman in the country. This figure comes from reports from Oxfam, Amnesty International, and the Collective for Security, Democracy and Human Rights. According to these figures, there are now at least 15 million illegal firearms in Mexico, and 426,800 federal, local, and state law enforcement officers.

In Cuernavaca, a new cartel claimed responsibility for the ambush of a high ranking police official in the city last Monday. The Cartel de Pacifico Sur (CPS) left signs on several bridges and overpasses in the city, claiming that they carried out the attack on Preventive Police Special Operations chief Jose Luis Arragon, which killed a woman who was riding in the car with him. Little is known about the relatively new CPS Cartel, but it is thought to be a faction of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, which was left leaderless in December after Mexican naval commandos killed boss Arturo Beltran-Leyva. Many of the signs left by the group threaten American-born trafficker Edgar Valdez Villareal, aka "El Barbie", who is currently battling Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the organization.

In Durango, a high-ranking police official was ambushed and killed by a group of armed men on highway 66. A bodyguard was also killed in the attack.

[Editor's Note: Due to a glitch last week at El Universal, on whose body count we rely, the running total was misreported. This week's total reflects the accurate number.]

Total Body Count for the Week: 109

Total Body Count for the Year: 3,233

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,560

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 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:

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Minerva Bautista, wounded in recent Michoacan attack
Wednesday , April 21

In Monterrey, gunmen raided two hotels and kidnapped at least six people. The incident began when dozens of gunmen stormed the Holiday Inn at around 3:00am and went room to room looking for specific individuals -- taking at least four guests while allowing others to leave. The hotel receptionist and possibly a security guard were also abducted. Another receptionist was abducted from a hotel across the street. The gunmen were apparently being led to the fifth floor by a handcuffed man with whom they arrived. Before the attack, the gunmen blocked off access to and from the hotels by parking stolen trucks in the road.

Friday , April 23

In Ciudad Juarez, six federal police officers and a local policewoman were killed in an ambush. The incident took place after two patrol cars were flagged down for assistance by an unidentified man, only to be ambushed by several gunmen. On Monday (April 26), Mexican police arrested five suspects in the incident, all thought to be members of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel. In addition to the killing of the police officers, the gunmen confessed to 39 other homicides since 2009, and at least 21 extortions.

Saturday , April 24

In Michoacan, gunmen attacked the motorcade of a high-ranking public security official. Four people were killed and eleven were wounded, including the Michoacan State Security Secretary, Minerva Bautista. Gunmen wielding AK-47's and using fragmentation grenades attacked the convoy, sparking a firefight in which two bodyguards were killed, as well as two civilians who were caught in the crossfire.

Meanwhile, in Monterrey, a soldier was wounded and six gunmen were killed in a clash between the army and suspected drug traffickers.

Sunday , April 25

In Sinaloa, hooded prisoners killed four men inside a prison. The four men had been at the prison for 15 minutes and were on their way to a medical checkup when they were attacked and stabbed by the assailants. It was later reported the four men who were killed had been under investigation in the murder of several police officials, including two police chiefs. Violence is common in Mexican prisons, and many local jurisdictions have complained of having to house violent federal inmates with ties to drug cartels alongside common delinquents.

Wednesday , April 28

In Ciudad Juarez, gunmen shot dead eight individuals inside a bar in the center of the city. At approximately 4:00am a group of 20 gunmen entered the bar and ordered most clients and staff to leave, before leading the eight victims to a parking lot where they were shot. At least two of the dead were adolescents. The bar where the incident took place is just two blocks from a hotel where a large contingent of federal police officers is housed.

In another part of Ciudad Juarez, three men were shot dead and another left seriously wounded after being attacked in a shopping center parking lot.

In Nuevo Leon, soldiers raided a ranch in Sabinas Hidalgo and found 16 hostages. After a brief firefight with approximately 10 gunmen, two of whom were killed, soldiers stormed the compound and discovered the 16 hostages, which included a mother and child. The other eight gunmen managed to escape into the nearby mountains. It appears that the ranch and the gunmen belonged to the Zetas Organization. At least three of the hostages had been taken at gunpoint from an improvised checkpoint on the Monterrey-Reynosa highway.

The incident was the second hostage rescue in 24 hours in Nuevo Leon. Earlier, soldiers had raided another location in the town of General Bravo and rescued seven hostages, most of whom were local farmers who were being held as part of an extortion plot.

In Acapulco, 26 local police officers were taken into custody by Mexican Navy personnel. The police were taken into custody on suspicion of being involved in illegal activities in the sectors to which they were assigned, and of being in possession of a large collection of automatic weapons that were not registered with the police department. Additionally, one of the vehicles searched in the operation was found to contain a large bag of marijuana.

Total Body Count for the Year: 3,349

Total Body Count for the Week: 208

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,660

Total Body Count 2009: 7,724

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 over 19,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 3,000 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:

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DEA Mexican drug cartel map
Thursday, April 15

In Acapulco, six people were killed during a shootout between federal police and drug traffickers suspected to be tied to Edgar Valdez Villareal. At least three of the dead were bystanders caught in the crossfire, among them a mother and her 8-year old child. One 26-year old individual was taken into custody.

Sunday, April 18

In Tepic, Nayarit, three men were killed at a funeral home. The men were paying respects to a suspected retail-level drug dealer that had been executed on Friday. In the previous few days, three other people thought to be involved in the Tepic drug trade had been gunned down. The killings are thought to be a power-struggle following the capture of several local bosses.

Monday, April 19

In Tamaulipas, a shootout occurred between the army and suspected drug traffickers. At least three gunmen were killed and at least four soldiers were wounded. Seventeen individuals were taken into custody. The battles began when gunmen attacked soldiers on a recon patrol in the city of Ciudad Aleman. The three gunmen were killed in the return fire. Thirty-two rifles were seized, as well as 7,000 rounds of ammunition and six vehicles.

In the city of Chihuahua, a former TV anchor was gunned down as she bought food from a street vendor. An unidentified young man that accompanied her was also killed. Isabella Cordova had previously been the main anchor on the Cada Dia television program, and more recently worked as the PR director for the Mexico City Chamber of Commerce. The two were attacked by gunmen wielding automatic weapons.

In Culiacan, Sinaloa, an inmate in prison for federal crimes was shot dead in his cell by at least two gunmen. In Guamuchil, Sinaloa, two people were murdered, including a female school teacher. Two people were killed in Mazatlan, and a police commander was killed in Michoacán. In Tijuana, one man was shot dead by customs officers, and in Jalisco, a police official was killed when assailants raked his home with gunfire.

Wednesday, April 21

In Cuernavaca, two men were found dead outside a bar. A note left at the scene claimed that 25 members of a group allied to Hector Beltran-Leyva are currently being held and interrogated in the city of Acapulco, after which they are to be executed. Cuernavaca has seen a rise in drug-related violence as US-born drug trafficker Edgar Valdez Villareal battles Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva organization, which was left without a leader following the December killing of Arturo Beltran-Leyva by Mexican naval commandos.

In Nuevo Leon, four police officers were wounded after the checkpoint they were manning was attacked by gunmen. In Leon, Guanajuato, two families were attacked by gunmen, leaving four dead and another wounded. In Michoacán, at least three people were killed, including a gunman who died during a clash with the army. At least four people were killed in Jalisco, three in Sinaloa, two in Tijuana. A union leader was gunned down in Guerrero, and two people were killed and another wounded after an incident in Acapulco.

In Monterrey, gunmen kidnapped six people from two hotels. Initial reports indicate that between 20 and 30 gunmen were led by a handcuffed captive to the fifth floor of the Holiday Inn, where they went room-to-room looking for specific individuals. Three male guests and a receptionist were taken, and another receptionist was taken from the Hotel Mision across the street. A private security guard who was posted outside the Holiday Inn is also reported missing, but it is unclear if he was kidnapped as well.

In the suburbs of Mexico City, gunmen clashed with soldiers, leaving two gunmen dead and another wounded. The incident came after soldiers launched a raid to capture Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez, a presumed member of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel. Vasquez, who was captured, is thought to be partly responsible for the wave of violence which has struck the states of Guerrero and Morelos recently.

Total Body Count for the last two weeks: 420

Total Body Count for 2010: 3,141

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 19,452

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Congress: House Border Caucus Wants Half a Billion Dollars to Fight Mexican Narcos

Congressmen from districts along the US-Mexican border are asking for $500 million in emergency federal funds to fight the drug trade along the border. The request came last Friday in a letter from the House Border Caucus to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to include immediate funding in an emergency supplemental spending package.

The letter requested:

  • $202.2 million to hire hundreds of additional US Border Patrol agents and inspection agents at ports of entry to alleviate understaffing.
  • $200 million to go toward replacing communications infrastructure used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) along remote stretches of the border.
  • $50 million to go toward Operation Stonegarden, a federal program that assists local law enforcement in fighting violence and drug and weapon trafficking.
  • $39.6 million to screen all CBP agents to prevent infiltration and corruption efforts by cartels.
  • $10 million to compensate border region health care providers as they treat individuals wounded in Mexico who cross the border to seek treatment at US hospitals.

"The will of governments in communities in the US and Mexico to combat criminal elements is strong," said the letter written by Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso). "The United States Congress must continue to honor that resolve with needed funding to aid those serving on the front lines at this critical juncture."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/merida-initiative.jpg
Merida Initiative photo (from state.gov)
The funding request comes as prohibition-related violence in Mexico continues unabated -- the official death toll now stands at more than 22,000 since 2006 -- and has attracted new concern in the US with attacks on US consulates in Mexico and the killing of three consular employees in Ciudad Juarez.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose decision in December 2006 to go to war against the so-called cartels unleashed the current wave of violence, is coming to Washington next month to meet with President Obama and address both houses of Congress.

"We are hoping to get this funding to the border soon, and we are urging our leaders and colleagues to make it happen," said Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). "We want to make sure our federal agents on the border have everything they need to protect themselves, to protect us and to protect the border."

"We want to make sure that the border law enforcement get as much support as they need," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). "They understand we're doing as much as we can from Congress to help them supplement the work they do."

Congress has already allocated at least $1.2 billion for anti-drug assistance to Mexico via the 2008 Plan Merida. This additional funding would come on top of that. And there's no guarantee that would be the end of it.

"Our first shot at doing this of course is with the appropriation's emergency funding... if we (get) part of it (at that time) we can always go to the second part which is the regular appropriations," Cuellar said in a telephone Tuesday with the Valley Morning Star. "I feel one way or another we will get a good share of what we are asking for."

Mexico Violence Fueling Calls for Legalization

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With nearly two million annual visitors to our web site, StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for news, information and activism promoting sensible drug reform and an end to prohibition worldwide.

The more we do at StoptheDrugWar.org, the faster the reform movement will grow and the sooner minds, laws and lives will change.

If you follow our weekly Mexico Drug War Update -- a resource cited widely by sites across the Internet -- then you're aware not only how the Mexico President Calderon's escalation of the drug war has plunged his country into appalling drug war violence, but also of the increasing chorus of voices calling for alternatives. Yes, even for legalization:
  • In December, the conservative Wall Street Journal discussed the case for legalization in an article titled "Saving Mexico."
  • In February, Colombia's former President Cesar Gaviria Diaz, a former drug war supporter, told a conference in Mexico City that "With the passing of time, prohibitionism, in which I believed, has demonstrated itself a failure."
  • Also in February, Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, in a speech in Santa Barbara said that legalizing drugs in Mexico could have the same effect that ending alcohol prohibition had here in the United Stated in 1993, removing the incentives for criminals.

With the public's attention here as well as in Mexico focused on the violence just across our border, now is the time to influence public opinion about prohibition and the need for legalization. With your support StoptheDrugWar.org will continue to publish important weekly features like the Mexico Drug War Update that effectively make the case, simply by reporting the facts consistently and making clear what the role of prohibition is. We believe that time will show our strategy of educating the media, policymakers and opinion leaders through online publishing is working and helping to change minds, laws and lives sooner rather than later.

Join our 2010 "Changing Minds, Laws & Lives" campaign today!

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"Consequences of Prohibition" is our StoptheDrugWar.org t-shirt that lists a host of social ills fueled by the drug prohibition laws -- prison, drug trade violence, overuse of SWAT raids, many more. Our stop sign motif with this list of problems embedded in it makes for a striking graphic.

Latin America: Mexico's Cartels Declare War on the Zetas

[Editor's Note: There is no Mexico Drug War Update this week. It will be back next week.]

With the prohibition-related bloodshed in Mexico continuing apace, Mexican drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- are engaged not only in brutal conflict but also in shifting alliances. According to reports from Mother Jones and Al Jazeera, three rival cartels have joined forces in a battle to the death with the Zetas, the former soldiers turned Gulf cartel hit-men who eventually turned on their own employers.

Citing sources from the Mexican police and the DEA, Al Jazeera reported that the Gulf, La Familia, and Sinaloa cartels had formed an alliance to fight the Zetas in the border state of Tamaulipas, across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. Mother Jones reported that the alliance is known as the New Federation and has put out YouTube videos threatening the Zetas.

In one video directed to the Mexican public, the New Federation said: "Without the 'Z' you will live without fear... If you are a Zeta, run because the MONSTER is coming... the new alliance has raised its weapons to fuck the Zetas because they have undermined the drug trafficking business with their kidnappings, extortions, etc. To sum it up, they don't give a shit about the freedom and tranquility of the Mexican people."

"It's an issue of a common enemy," Will Glaspy, the head of the DEA's office in McAllen, told Al Jazeera. "The Zetas have been trying to wage war on everybody for a while," he said. "It's been well-documented that the Gulf cartel has formed alliances with the Sinaloa cartel and La Familia to wage war against the Zetas."

The Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has also been busy in Ciudad Juarez, where the Associated Press reported last Friday that the cartel had defeated the Juarez cartel in a bloody battle to control the lucrative "franchise" for smuggling drugs across the river into El Paso and beyond. The AP cited US intelligence sources and the FBI.

That sounded about right to Mexican Federal Police Chief Facundo Rosas, who said that while Mexican authorities are still working to confirm the US assessment, "These are valid theories. If you control the city, you control the drugs. And it appears to be Chapo."

"The onslaught against the Juarez cartel has been very brutal, not only by the Chapo Guzman cartel but also the military," said Tony Payan, an expert on the Juarez drug war at the University of Texas-El Paso. "I don't think by any means the Juarez cartel is done, but it's a shadow of its former self."

If true, a Sinaloa cartel victory in Ciudad Juarez could augur a decline in violence there. Some 5,000 people have been killed in the city since Guzman's gang moved in on Ciudad Juarez in 2008. Now, with the Sinaloa cartel in control of smuggling into and out of the city, the violence may be limited to local gang turf wars over retail drug sales in the city.

According to Payan, much of the recent violence in Juarez has been Guzman's men finishing off Juarez cartel "stragglers" who continued to deal drugs on city streets. The retail level violence has pitted Juarez cartel-aligned street gangs the Aztecas and La Linea against gangs affiliated with Guzman, including the Mexicles and the Killer Clowns.

"The killings, they are mostly small retail people," Payan said. "I think they are Aztecas, falling like flies all over the city."

And so it goes with Mexico's prohibition-related violence. Since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006, deploying up to 50,000 military troops, several key cartel figures have been killed or arrested, but the cartels themselves always reconstitute, and the drug trade continues. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb, past 19,000 by the Chronicle's count, but now past 22,000 according to a Mexican government report released this week.

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