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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 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:
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.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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its not 19,000 people killed

its not 19,000 people killed for prohibition-related violence its about 23,000 poeple...
its a big war over here.

Reply to comment |

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Only one answer to this bloodbath and most people know it

Even if some of them aren't supporting change yet, they know current policy is failing and don't expect that to change.

Why won't Calderon try to explain why it's ok to allow alcohol but not cannabis? You'd think he'd want to make it crystal clear why society just cannot accept cannabis, even though it accepts alcohol and its violence. Instead he all the other politicians act like gangsters who don't have to explain nothin' cause they have the guns.
Where's my liberty and justice, dude?

conspiracy theories are idiotic

Even with drugs legal, people will still kill each other for addictive substances. The Mexican drug cartels clearly are not just trading cannabis. Legality won't change anything. In addition, I fail to see how making it easier for people to get addicted to narcotics is a good thing for humanity. Lets try doing things like getting people clean water and food before we allow them to fry their brains on drugs...

borden's picture

here's why

Why would people kill each other for addictive substances if they can just buy them for an affordable price from a pharmacy or other regulated store? Besides, people mostly are not killing each other for the substances, it's selling organizations fighting a war over the money, and in some cases against the government. Take the trade away from the element by putting it in the hands of legitimate businesses that don't do their business using violence, and the violence of the trade will go away. Just like happened when alcohol prohibition is repealed.

As for why "making it easier for people to get addicted to narcotics" makes sense, the answer is that it's extremely easy to do that now. Making it cleaner, less expensive, not something that puts the individual in contact with the criminal underground, not something that makes the individual feel like a hunted criminal, will turn the state of being addicted into something less sinister, less damaging to the addict, less harmful to others. This is what has been found in the heroin maintenance programs in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Canada, The Netherlands and Great Britain, it is what was found when we had similar programs with morphine in this country for awhile in this country, it is what is seen in methadone maintenance programs here and elsewhere.

If one believes that the prohibition laws are stopping addiction, even then the case for legalization is strong, given how vast the harm added on to the state of being addicted by criminalization really is. But there is no evidence for this. The WHO report in 2008 found no difference in use rates between countries with very different policies toward the different drugs. The example of marijuana in The Netherlands is even more instructive (even though we're not talking about a physically addicting drug). While drugs are not technically legal there, and while there are some criminal problems associated with the supply of marijuana to the coffee shops, the experience from the user's end is equivalent to legalization. And yet the marijuana use rate in The Netherlands is half that of nearby France, and is right in line with the European norm. If marijuana use doesn't even go up with legalization, why would use of the scarier drugs that most people are too scared to use anyway?

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

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