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 over 7,000 so far in 2009. 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:

Friday, January 8

A particularly gruesome killing occurred in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The body of 36-year old Hugo Hernandez was found in seven pieces and left with a note threatening members of the Juarez Cartel. Hernandez's face had been skinned off his body and stitched onto a soccer ball and left in a plastic bag near city hall. His torso was found in another location, and his arms, legs, and skull were found in a box at a third location. Hernandez had apparently been kidnapped January 2nd in the neighboring state of Sonora, in an area known for cannabis cultivation.

In the city of Saltillo, Coahuila, the body of a local journalist was found tortured and shot five times from close range. Valentin Valdes, 29, was a reporter for a local newspaper. He was executed outside a motel where 10 reputed Gulf Cartel members had been arrested in the last week. Valdes has been kidnapped Thursday in downtown Saltillo along with another journalist, who was released after being beaten. A note was left with the body that read "This is going to happen to those who don't understand that the message is for everyone." At least 12 journalists were killed in Mexico in 2009, and two others are missing and presumed dead.

Sunday, January 10

In the the biggest single-day death toll in Mexico's drug war so far, 69 people were killed in a 24-hour period. The previous record was 57 killed in a 24-hour period on August 17, 2009. Twenty-six of the killings occurred in Ciudad Juarez, which reported a total of 2,635 murders in 2009. Among the dead in Ciudad Juarez were two bodies found decapitated, one of which had his eyes gouged out. Eight people were killed in other parts of Chihuahua, seven in Sinaloa, one in San Luis Potosi, five in Durango, five in Guerrero, six in the state of Mexico, seven in Mexico City, two in Guanajuato, three in Tijuana, and one in Tierra Caliente.

Sunday, January 10

In Sinaloa, the bodies of four members of a family were found by the side of a highway. The three men and one woman had been kidnapped from their home in Culiacan last Thursday. The bodies were found with their hands and feet bound and suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A note which called the killings "a black gift" was found with the bodies. Two other bodies were found in other parts of Sinaloa.

In Sonora, six people were murdered, four of them in Nogales, just across the US border. In Tijuana, a gun battle between rival criminal bands left one man dead and two wounded. In Mexico City, a young man was shot by his brother as they rode in a Mercedes-Benz.

Tuesday, January 12

In a major coup for the government, Mexican forces arrested one of Mexico's most important drug cartel bosses. Teodoro Garcia Simental, 36, is the leader of a breakaway faction of the Tijuana Cartel which has allied itself with the Sinaloa Cartel. Authorities believe he is linked to some 300 murders, many of which involved beheadings or bodies being hung from bridges or dissolved in acid. He is also thought to be responsible for dozens of assassinations of Tijuana law enforcement personnel. He was arrested in a raid at a luxury beachfront condo in La Paz, Baja California.

The Ciudad Juarez killings of two teenagers has brought the 2010 total of homicides in the city to over 100. Fifteen homicides occurred on Monday.
During the same time period, eight homicides occurred in the city of Chihuahua, the capital of the state of Chihuahua of which Ciudad Juarez is part. Among the dead was a policeman who was killed in a gun battle which occurred after he and several colleagues were ambushed by suspected cartel gunmen. In Sinaloa, the body of a missing policeman was found dead.

Wednesday , January 13

In a change in strategy, the Mexican army will stop patrolling the streets of Ciudad Juarez. The army will continue, however, to participate in what the government calls "preventive" raids in coordination with the police. The new strategy calls for the introduction of 1,600 federal police officers to replace the military presence on the streets of the city. In addition, the government's new strategy calls for an increase in the use of technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) and surveillance balloons.

Overnight, the son of a radio-station owner was gunned down in Chihuahua after being ambushed at an intersection. At least one other person was killed and three wounded in drug-related violence in Chihuahua. At least seven people were killed in Ciudad Juarez. Among the dead was a teenage boy found bound and showing signs of torture.

In Tamaulipas, authorities confiscated 665 packages of marijuana, which totaled more than 7 tons. Three men were taken into custody after the seizure, which took place after police searched a house in the city of Reynosa.

Total Body Count for the Week: 202

Total Body Count for 2010: 339

Total 2009 Body Count: 7,724

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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the killings will not stop

the killings will not stop until marijuana is legalized in the probition the illegality is what causes t he trouble...wake up U.S. CONGRESS....DECRIMILIZE MARIJUANA and let the medical community treat the hard drugs...

National news ignores the war in Mexico

Why do you suppose TV news refuses to carry these stories?
What is in it for them to continue to keep us in the dark about the war in Mexico? Everyone I know has an interest, so what gives?
Many thanks to for informing us about the current situation.

todays brodcasters refuses

todays brodcasters refuses to expose these horrific stories and images because they dont want to know the truth. and the truth is as long as people pay these mexicans, they will stop at nothing to smuggle, make and distribute these drugs that are so easily accessed in mexico. innocent blood is shed by the hour in mexico. it is our job to pray and support all those that are fighting against these drug wars.

There has always been Riff Raff down there.

Mexico has been a lovely country in the past though some riff raff has always been there.

After I moved away from the border, then the stories came up of the feminicidios, the women killed and that floored me but the drug violence has spiraled way out of control over the past 3 years.

Before the troubles began, over 10 years ago, I rode on the Chihuahua al pacifico train (goes to Los Mochis), it was great going, coming back though, believe me, there was a bad hombre on there. I palled up with an Australian on the train, we both being English speaking. My attitude then was just to ignore this which we did: but those guys were really a bit threatening.

Who I feel the most for is that many innocents (like the feminicidios) are the victims, steel manufacturers are moving out, honest employees are putting steel detectors in and other security measures. The whole city must be held hostage as 100s of gangs (figure from an English newspaper, Guardian I think), some small are roaming the streets.

Legal cannabis will not stop the killings

It is naive to believe legalizing cannabis in the U.S. will stop the violence or make much of a dent. And a good argument can be made that the violence may escalate.

Whatever revenue cannabis produces for the drug cartels, and I don't believe the numbers are as high as bandied about, attempts will be made to replace it. Which likely means an increase in efforts to sell more meth, coke and heroin. And as most drug violence occurs in the narcotics trade, mainly at the distribution and territorial levels, it seems logical to expect violence to rise.

Another danger is that, should the violence escalate - especially as one mantra of legal cannabis is a reduction in said violence - the prohibitionists will use that as a premise to re-criminalize cannabis. Drug policy reform needs to take a good hard look at maintaining the incremental approach as the proper strategy going forward.

The Netherlands, Portugal and now Mexico have better drug policies than the U.S. These policies, it must be noted, were not the result of grassroot efforts championing medical marijuana. They were decisions taken after these governments realized the average recreational drug user posed little or no threat to society. Until we take the same decisions, we'll have more drugs, more disease and more deaths.

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