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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 over 18,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 2,000 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:
Ciudad Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Friday, March 26

Near the town of General Trevino, Nuevo Leon, the decapitated body of a local police chief was found inside a car alongside the body of his brother. Heriberto Cerda was the police chief of the nearby town of Agualeguas. His killers left his head on his lap. The two men had been reported missing on Thursday. The windshield and drivers windows had the letters "C.D.G" written in blood, indicating that the killings were the work of the Gulf Cartel. The incident comes one day after Mexican Marines were involved in a large firefight in another Nuevo Laredo town, Cerralvo. That incident occurred after Marines ordered gunmen in a six-vehicle convoy to stop and were answered by gunfire, leading to the deaths of six suspected drug traffickers.

In Sonora, the police chief of the border city of Nogales was ambushed and killed by gunmen armed with AK-47's. Additionally on Friday, gunmen in Ciudad Juarez attacked a hotel used by federal police officials, killing one and wounding two others. Earlier that day, a police investigator was gunned down in a residential area of the city.

Saturday, March 27

In Morelia, Michoacan, two police officers were shot dead at a gas station. Two other unidentified men were found dead at the scene as well. One of the officers had previously been suspended from duty, and the other was apparently off duty. The two men had apparently gone to a gas station to purchase beer when they were attacked. Additionally, in Acapulco, a man whose hands were bound was found shot to death in a car.

Monday, March 29

In Durango, gunmen killed ten young people at a roadblock in the "golden triangle" region where the states of Durango, Chihuahua and Sinaloa intersect. The ten individuals, ranging in ages from 8 to 21, were killed by gunfire and grenade blasts as they tried to speed through an improvised roadblock. In other news, Mexican authorities arrested a member of Los Aztecas gang in connection with the March killings of three people linked to the US consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

Around the town of Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon several people were reported killed in various incidents. Among the dead were two people gunned down in a motel along the highway to Saltillo, and a police officer found dead in a burning patrol car. In another incident, a group of gunmen attacked an army convoy in an attempt to free a prisoner who had been detained Saturday with 13 kilos of cocaine. The gunmen were traveling in a five-vehicle convoy and were heavily armed with automatic weapons and grenades. In the twenty-minute firefight that ensued, two soldiers and two civilians were wounded. After the incident, the army detained six individuals who were disguised as members of the municipal police.

In Sinaloa, six people, including a police agent, were found dead. In one incident, gunmen barged into a hospital in the town of Los Mochis and shot dead a young man who had been wounded in an earlier incident. In another part of Sinaloa, a decapitated body was found along the road from Pericos to the small town of Badiguarato, which is known as the "cradle of capos" for the large number of high-level drug traffickers which were raised in the area, most notably Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

In other parts of Mexico, three policemen were killed in Chihuahua, two people were killed in Quinta Carolinas, five in the Ciudad Juarez area, two in Tamochi, three in Chilpancingo, one in Acapulco, four in the state of Mexico, and one in Jalisco.

Monday, March 29

In Morelos, four decapitated bodies were discovered alongside a road stretching from Cuernavaca to Acapulco. A note was left at the scene threatening American-born drug trafficker Edgar Valdez Villareal. This indicates that the killings are somehow related to the ongoing power struggle between Villareal and Hector Beltran-Leyva for leadership of the Beltran-Leyva Cartel, which was left without a leader after the December killing of Arturo Beltran-Leyva by Mexican naval commandos. Additionally, two brothers were found shot dead in a house in the town of Ahuatepec, near Cuernavaca.

Tuesday, March 30

In Reynosa, Tamaulipas, soldiers clashed with gunmen in at least five city neighborhoods. At least six people were killed in the fighting, and twelve people were taken into custody. At least two of the dead were civilians caught in the crossfire, and two were soldiers. During clashes in the Loma Linda sector of the city, several grenade detonations were reported. In Tampico, Tamaulipas, three men were reported killed in an exchange of gunfire between two rival groups. Tamaulipas has recently seen a drastic increase in violence as the Zetas Organization battle their former masters, the Gulf Cartel.

Thursday, April 1

In the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, gunmen mounted seven large, coordinated attacks on seven locations, including two army bases. Eighteen people were reported killed in the fighting. In a rare frontal attack, the gunmen attacked in military style unit-formations with armored trucks, automatic weapons, and fragmentation grenades. In several locations, gunmen reportedly parked trucks and SUV's outside military bases and streets in an effort to block the movement of troops to and from garrisons. One soldier was lightly injured in the fighting.

During the fighting, soldiers captured 54 assault rifles, 61 grenades, RPG's, eight homemade IED's, and six bulletproof vehicles.

Total Body Count for the Week: 123

Total Body Count for the Year: 2,446

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 18,757

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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How long is it going to take for the military soldiers to get corrupted like the police are? Who are we going to call for help when this happens ? This is, as anyone knows, a war that can't be won . We can eather fight for a drug free america or give it up and BECOME a free america, we can't have both!

Jean Boyd's picture

I do not Understand

"That incident occurred after Marines ordered gunmen in a six-vehicle convoy to stop and were answered by gunfire, leading to the deaths of six suspected drug traffickers." The Marines are just stopping and killing? I am praying now that the soldiers will see what is happening and realize that the war is all wrong. "Suspected" drug trafficers are being shot. No jury, no trial. Not even a plea.

Mr. Boyd, What I meant to

Mr. Boyd,

What I meant to say when I wrote this part of the article is that the people inside the vehicles shot at the Marines when they tried to pull them over. The six men were killed in the return fire.

I agree with your overall sentiments, however.

Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Jean Boyd's picture


Thank you Bernd.

If you believe the Mexican

If you believe the Mexican Army is competent, you are mistaken. The desertion rate among soldiers in astoundingly high, qualifications to don a uniform and shoulder an M16 are dangerously low. An infamous case of soldiers gone wild occurred in Veracruz, where an elderly woman named Ernestina was brutally raped by soldiers and left to die. The first autopsy revealed the truth, but the pathologists were quickly dismissed. Even quicker was President Calderon to declare the woman died of "gastritis." There are incidents of families being machine-gunned by soldiers, and in one case syringes and other drug paraphernalia was found where the soldiers were waiting. It's an old story. Familiarize yourself with the atrocities committed by Mexican soldiers in Tlatelolco in 1968, where scores - perhaps hundreds - of students were helplessly trapped before being ruthlessly mowed down. There is no justice in Mexico, only official corruption from top to bottom. If anything is going to affect the drug problem it will be the United States curbing sales of firearms, and finally decriminalizing marijuana. If you're waiting for Mexico to solve the problem... well, don't hold your breath.

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