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Former Mexican Governor Admits Past Presidents Controlled Drug Trade

The Mexican political world was sent reeling after a former PRI politician admitted his party had exercised strong control over Mexico's drug trafficking routes. Former Nuevo Leon governor Socrates Rizzo said that previous PRI presidents had formalized agreements with drug trafficking organization leaders to coordinate and protect Mexico's lucrative drug trade. Rizzo argued that presidential control over smuggling prevented the widespread violence that has been commonplace since 2000.
Business Insider (NY)

28 Killed in Mexico's Drug Prohibition War Over Weekend

Drug prohibition violence left at least 28 people dead across Mexico over the weekend, including 14 killed by gunmen in bars in the country's north.
The Canadian Press (Canada)

An American Dies in Mexico's Drug Prohibition War: Rounding Up the Killers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officer Jaime Zapata Will Not Curtail Americans' Voracious Appetite for Mind-Altering Substances (Opinion)

The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady opines that it is not unreasonable to suggest that if the U.S. was facing rates of bloodshed similar to Mexico, Washington would be forced to reconsider the wisdom of its prohibitionist approach to drug policy. But the suffering is south of the border, out of sight and out of mind for Americans and, therefore, our politicians. Meanwhile, a multi-billion dollar U.S. bureaucracy dedicated to fighting this war has little incentive to see it won or change course.
The Wall Street Journal (NY)

Mexico Drug War Update

[This article updates a version previously published.]

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 more than 35,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. 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:

Cash generated by drug prohibition buys lots of guns in Mexico (Image via Wikimedia)
Thursday, February 10

In Ciudad Juarez, 18 people were killed in several incidents in the city. In one incident, gunmen attacked a bar, firing indiscriminately and killing six waitresses, a man dressed as a woman and another unidentified individual. It has been suggested by some that the incident is an example of "social cleansing" conducted by armed groups in the city. In another incident, a man was killed when being shot over 100 times by men armed with automatic rifles.

Friday, February 11

At the US-Mexico border at Nogales, a smuggling tunnel was discovered by Border Patrol agents. The tunnel was hand dug and appears to still have been under construction.

Saturday, February 12

In Acapulco, a second-grader was executed after being allegedly picked up by a car full of armed men. A note was left with the body suggesting that the boy was killed because his mother was an informant and for "stealing husbands."

In Guadalajara, armed men used automatic weapons and grenades to attack a crowded nightclub. Six people were killed and at least 37 were wounded. It was later reported that three of the dead may have been Venezuelan nationals and one was a Colombian national. The reasons for the attack remain unclear.

Sunday, February 13

In Tamaulipas, 18 cartel gunmen were killed during a series of armed clashes between criminal organizations. The battles, which took place primarily on the Matamoros-Ciudad Victoria highway, were almost certainly between the Gulf Cartel and their former enforcers of the Zetas Organization.

In Ciudad Juarez, ten people were murdered across the city. In one incident, four young men were gunned down leaving a soccer game. Reports indicate that the attacking gunmen in that incident were all young men, no older than 20 years of age.

In Monterrey, the head of Nuevo Leon's security and intelligence agency was killed. Homero Salcido Trevino, 40, was traveling home Sunday night when gunmen kidnapped him and drove him to a central area of Monterrey, where he was shot and his body left in the backseat. The car was then set aflame.

Monday, February 14

Near Ciudad Juarez, the body of the brother of a murdered activist was found in a drainage ditch near a military checkpoint. The body is that of Elias Reyes, whose sister, Josefina Reyes, a social activist who sought to investigate the murder of women in the city, was murdered in January. Elias Reyes had been missing since being abducted by gunmen along with his sister and sister-in-law. A child and the Reyes Salazar siblings' mother were released by the gunmen.

Tuesday, February 15

In San Luis Potosi, two American Immigration and Customs Enforcement (agents) were ambushed by heavily armed gunmen. Jaime Zapata, 32, died while a second agent, Victor Avila, was wounded and remains hospitalized. It is whether the gunmen had actively been seeking out the Americans. SUV's are highly-prized by the cartels, so a possibility exists that this was a carjacking incident gone wrong.

President Obama later called the Zapata family to offer his condolences.

Wednesday, February 16

In Washington, a special task force was formed to investigate the incident in which the ICE agents were shot. US investigators -- whose total number may reach the dozens -- began arriving in Mexico.

Thursday, February 17

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 15 people were killed. Two police officers were killed in two different shooting incidents. The killings came the same day as a large group of government officials were in the city to report on one year of the Todos Somos Juarez plan, which was formed after 16 young people were killed at a party. On Thursday, they reported that overall crime in Juarez was down 45%.

In Arizona, nine people were arrested for allegedly being part of an arms smuggling network which shipped weapons to Mexico. During the operation, which also took place in Texas and inside Mexico, police seized some 300 weapons including assault rifles. Another seven defendants were previously charged and are awaiting trial.

Friday, February 18

In Ciudad Juarez, twenty people were murdered in a series of violent incidents across the city. The dead include at least three pairs of couples and a member of the state police intelligence service. In one instance, a man and woman were shot dead in a home after it was stormed by at least three car loads of heavily armed gunmen, who used a truck to ram through the front gate of the home.

In Nuevo Leon, eight gunmen were killed during a series of firefights with the army.

Saturday, February 19

In Acapulco, at least twelve taxi drivers or passengers were gunned down in a series of incidents across the city. The motives remain unclear. Taxi drivers in the area are sometimes recruited by cartels to traffic and move narcotics.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 19 people were killed on Saturday, bringing the number of murders to almost 40 in a 48-hour period.

In Reynosa, President Calderon announced that at least four additional battalions will be deployed to Mexico's northern border. Calderon's comments came during an Army Day speech at a nearby military base.

In Torreon, Coahuila, five people were killed when gunmen opened fire inside two bars. A sixth person died the next day. At least eight others were wounded, including a two-year old girl whose mother was killed. Witnesses said that at least one individual returned fire and was then taken into police custody.

Tuesday, February 22

In an interview published Tuesday in Mexico City, President Calderon said that the United States is not doing enough to help Mexico, especially in stemming the number of American-bought weapons headed south into Mexico. He also criticized the way the Mexican government was characterized in documents made public by WikiLeaks, saying that US-Mexico relations were strained by the contents of the leaks.

In Guerrero, Mexican marines seized 72 sticks of commercial explosives at an armed camp in a rural area of the state near the border with Michoacan. The marines also found assault rifles, grenades and a small of marijuana.

In nearby Acapulco, the bodies of seven men were discovered. Three of the bodies were mutilated and dumped on a main highway leading to a tourist area. One of the other bodies found was half-buried and decapitated. Mexican media report that notes threatening a local army officer were left with some of the bodies.

In Mazatlan, two people were shot dead within earshot of foreign tourists at a hotel.

Wednesday, February 23

In Acapulco, three bodies were discovered inside a taxi. One male victim had been decapitated. The taxi had been stolen earlier in the day.

In Mexico City, the Mexican Defense Department announced that one individual suspected of participating in last week's attack on two US ICE agents has been detained by Mexican forces. They did not name the individual or say where he was captured. Jose "El Mamito" Rejon, a high-ranking Zeta and former Mexican army corporal, has been named by various sources as likely having participated or ordered the attack, but it is unclear if Rejon is the man in custody.

Total Body Count for the last two weeks: 297

Total Body Count for the Year: 1,175

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon’s drug war through 2010: 34,849

Total Body Count for Calderon’s drug war to date: 36,024


Obama to Meet Mexico's Calderon Amid Drug Prohibition Violence

The drug prohibition war in Mexico has failed despite Mexico deploying soldiers and federal police in a widespread crackdown on drug trafficking organizations that has left more than 34,600 people dead since December of 2006. Now, President Barack Obama plans to meet Mexico's President Felipe Calderon amid a spike in drug prohibition violence which led to the shooting of two US federal agents.
Agence France-Presse (France)

U.S. Agent's Killing Hints at Drug Prohibition War Tensions

Jaime Zapata's killing marks the first murder of an American agent in the line of duty in Mexico's drug prohibition war, which has raged relentlessly since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006. As such, it adds extra pressure to the already strained U.S.-Mexico drug prohibition alliance. Publicly, the Calderón and Obama administrations have continued to paint a rosy picture of the U.S. and Mexico marching side by side to defeat the common adversary of drug trafficking organizations. But as revealed in WikiLeaks cables and offhand comments by officials on both sides of the border, tensions are growing. U.S. officials complain that they cannot rely on Mexico's institutions — and this concern is exacerbated when their lives are on the line.

Entire Villages Flee As Colombia Drug Trafficking Organizations Move In

Drug prohibition violence is growing across Colombia, and has reached particularly alarming levels in Cordoba. This latest incarnation of drug trafficking organizations has emerged following the demobilization of paramilitary soldiers. Between 2003 and 2006, after striking a peace deal with the government, more than 32,000 fighters belonging to the paramilitary group called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) put down arms. But many mid-ranking paramilitary commanders slipped back into drug trafficking, starting up new organizations and recruiting ex-AUC fighters.
GlobalPost (MA)

Drug Trafficking Organizations Also Involved in Sex Trade, Expert Says

The head of a company that provides security for American citizens traveling in Mexico says powerful drug trafficking organizations are branching out into the $40-billion-a-year sex trafficking industry. They kidnap children and young people, demand ransom, but in many cases never return the victims, according to Brad Barker with Halo Security. He said a family might pay $100,000 ransom, but the kidnap victim can be worth much more in the sex market. "This person can be held in captivity, they can be filmed doing sex acts, they can be sold on the Internet throughout the world and make 10 times that amount of money. So why would they return the person to their family?"

Mexico's Refugees: A Hidden Cost of the Prohibitionist War on Drugs

President Felipe Calderon's four-year-old army-led campaign against drug trafficking organizations created by prohibition has shaken up the balance of power in Mexico's criminal underworld and sparked a wave of turf wars, sometimes trapping civilians in their midst. With more than 34,000 drug prohibition killings in the past four years, Calderon is coming under increasing pressure to help states burdened by drug war refugees.

Mexico Risks Losing Large Areas to Prohibition's Drug Trafficking Organizations

Mexico is struggling to avert a collapse of law and order along its northern border in a region that generates a quarter of its economic output, with two states already facing the threat of criminal anarchy. Even after four years of dramatic military sweeps, drug trafficking organizations in Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are extending their control over large areas and the state governments seem powerless to stop them. Mass jail breaks, abandoned police stations, relentless killings and gangs openly running criminal rackets such as gasoline stolen from pipelines are the new reality in regions once at the forefront of Mexico's efforts to modernize and prosper under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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