Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

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 16,000 people, with a death toll of nearly 8,000 in 2009 and over 1,000 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:

Sunday, February 14

In Ciudad Juárez, hundreds of people participated in a protest against the government. The demonstration, organized by the National Front Against Repression, was protesting against both the drug-related violence in the city and the presence of the army, which is widely seen by locals as exacerbating the violence. (See related story here.)

Monday, February 15

In Guerrero, a a Mexican paratrooper assigned to the elite Presidential Guard in Mexico City was kidnapped and killed while on vacation. The body of the soldier -- Hermelindo Delgado Soto -- was found floating in the Balsas River. He had been kidnapped the previous Friday. It is unclear whether his death was related to his posting serving with the Presidential Guard.

Tuesday, February 16

In Sinaloa five decapitated heads were found next to a primary school in the town of Palmilla. Last week, three heads were found in the same location. Two of the bodies (to which the heads belonged) were found to have the letter Z carved into their back. This suggests that the killing had some relation to the Zetas organization, but it is unclear whether the men were killed by los Zetas or were members.

Wednesday, February 17

Five municipal police officials were among 30 people who were killed in drug-related violence across Mexico. Three of the police officials were murdered after being kidnapped by a group of heavily armed men in Sinaloa. The two other police officials were killed after gunmen attacked the home of a high-ranking police official where the two men stood guard. Another 25 people were killed in various parts of Mexico, seven of them in Ciudad Juárez. In another notable incident, three teenagers kidnapped in Sinaloa were found burned in a car.

In Chiapas 11 individuals were arrested in possession of weapons and drugs. The men were arrested after federal agents raided several locations across the state. They seized 351 grams of cocaine and 408 grams of marijuana, as well as several rifles and pistols, an SUV, $60,000 US dollars and 27,910 pesos (about $2,149). The rather small sums of money and drugs indicate that those captured were low-level operatives for drug-trafficking organizations.

President Calderon visited Ciudad Juárez for the second time in two weeks. He announced a change in strategy, although he said the army troops would remain. He also promised (without saying when) that specialists in solving kidnapping and extortion cases would be brought to the city, and encouraged citizens to pass information to authorities. Additionally, he announced that all cars in the city must have license plates (although technically this was already the law) and tinted windows would no longer be permitted. Several news agencies reported that there were some protests against his presence in the city.

Total Body Count for the Week: 111

Total Body Count for the Year: 1,264

Total Body Count for 2009: 7,724

Total Body Count since Calderon took office: 17,469

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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