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 around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing 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:
In Ciudad Juarez, at least 18 or 19 people were murdered in the city. Among the dead were four men who were shot dead at a field that had been the scene of a previous homicide, and a 12-year old boy who was working in a tire shop and chased into a restaurant where he was shot dead.
In Nuevo Laredo, at least 11 people were killed in and around Monterrey. In one incident, five men were gunned down in a public park by men armed with assault rifles. In another incident, four men were gunned down as they walked down a street, and armed men dragged a woman from her home in Escobedo and executed her outside.
Thursday, July 14
In Baja California, the Mexican army discovered the largest marijuana plantation on record, four times the size of previous record-holder, which was found in Chihuahua in 1984. The sophisticated plantation, which was discovered in the desert about 150 miles from Tijuana, could potentially have harvest 120 tons of marijuana each harvest.
Friday, July 15
In Sinaloa, 12 members of an elite police unit and a bystander were killed after being ambushed on the highway between Los Mochis and Guasave. Earlier in the day, two police officers were wounded during a shootout in Los Mochis. Signs later strung up in several parts of Sinaloa by members of the Beltran-Leyva Organization accusing the police of backing the Sinaloa Cartel, with whom the BLO split violently in 2008. Sinaloa, especially the area around the towns of Los Mochis and Guasave, has long been considered one the areas of the country under the most influence of drug cartels.
In Nuevo Laredo, 149 prisoners escaped during a large-scale jailbreak. At least 35 of the escapees are federal prisoners, which often means that they are cartel-affiliated. Five guards abandoned their posts during the incident.
Wednesday, July 20
In Queretaro, the Mexican Army seized the largest amount of meth precursor chemicals ever recorded in the country. The Army declined to comment on whether any arrests were made in the raids, which confiscated approximately 840 tons of chemicals which could have been used to process billions of dollars worth of meth.
In Chihuahua, prosecutors announced that a US District Court employee had been kidnapped and murdered in Ciudad Juarez recently. Jorge Dieppa, 57, a court interpreter, had apparently been kidnapped and held for a $10,000 ransom but was executed after allegedly recognizing a former girlfriend of his among the kidnappers. Three suspects, including the woman, are in custody, and another is on the run.
Friday, July 22
In Monterrey, two police officers assigned to the US consulate in the city were shot dead. The two men, who had been assigned to guard US diplomats, were riding on a motorcycle in the violence-plagued suburb of Guadalupe when they were shot by gunmen in a vehicle.
In Zacatecas, six gunmen were killed in a firefight with the army after troops on patrol came under fire after receiving a tip that suspected cartel members were setting up an illegal roadblock.
Monday, July 25
In Ciudad Juarez, 24 people were killed, including 17 killed inside the municipal jail. It is still unclear exactly what happened, but it is known that members of either the Mexicles, allied to the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Aztecas, allied to the Juarez cartel, overpowered guards and took their weapons. While the incident was initially considered an escape attempt, other reports indicate that at the time of the shooting, guards and prisoners were involved in an orgy which included drugs and underage women. Twenty people were also wounded in the incident, which was finally ended after an hour of shooting.
Also in Ciudad Juarez, the mayor announced that federal police would begin withdrawing from the area in early September. Mayor Hector Murguia said that municipal police are now capable of controlling the city themselves. Federal police took charge of law enforcement in Ciudad Juarez in April 2010, after an influx of soldiers were withdrawn after accusations that they were abusing their power.
Tuesday, July 26
In Veracruz, a crime reporter was found decapitated. Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz had been missing since Saturday, when she was kidnapped by heavily armed men. Ordaz, who worked for the local newspaper Notiver, is the fourth Veracruz reporter to be murdered this year so far. A note left with the body seems to suggest that her killing is connected to the July 20 murder of a local columnist and his family in their home.
In Ciudad Juarez, police chief Julian Leyzoala said that a group of 20 federal police officers shot at his armored car on Monday as he was driving to the municipal jail to deal with the riot. Leyzoala said he is preparing criminal charges of attempted murder for the federal officers, who he says are well aware of the type of car he drives. "Fortunately the car is armored, or I wouldn't be here," he said.
Editor's Note: We cannot accurately tally the drug prohibition-related killings in Mexico at this time. El Universal, the only Mexican newspaper that was doing so on a regular basis, has stopped. We will have to rely on official pronouncements on the death toll, and will report them when they happen. Below are the numbers through the end of last year. With more than 1,400 reported dead in April alone, this year's toll could well exceed last year's. As of this month, we believe the total death toll in Calderon's drug war has surpassed 40,000.]
Total Body Count for 2007: (approx): 4,300
Total Body Count for 2008: (approx.): 5,400
Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600
Total Body Count for 2010: (official) 15,273
Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 6,500