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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 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:

Thursday, September 15

In Philadelphia, authorities announced the dismantling of a drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. In total, five people were arrested, three of them in Pennsylvania and two in Texas. Ten kilos of cocaine, cash and weapons were also confiscated.

In Matamoros, fire fights and blockades were reported in several parts of the city, effectively shutting the city down. Residents posted pictures of hijacked buses parked across streets and city officials confirmed that incidents occurred on the highway to Reynosa. It is unclear whether any fatalities occurred during the incidents.

Wednesday, September 16

In Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, a car bomb exploded during Mexican Independence Day celebrations. No injuries were reported.

In Querandaro, Michoacan, Independence Day celebrations were canceled after a group of 40 heavily armed gunmen arrived in the town’s main square and ordered the crowd to disperse or be attacked, causing people to flee in panic or hide inside government buildings. No injuries were reported.

Saturday, September 17

In Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero, the body of a missing federal congressman and his driver were found in a river. PRI congressman Moises Villanueva had been missing since September 4th, when the two men disappeared after leaving a party held by a fellow party member. Mexican media reported that both men had been shot and appear to have been dead for some time.

In the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina, authorities announced that 44 police officers have been taken into custody on suspicion of working as lookouts for and protecting the Zetas. At least 69 others are still under investigation.

Sunday, September 18

In Mexico City, a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel leader was arrested. Jose Carlos Moreno Flores is thought to have been the head of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chilapancingo, Guerrero, and is known to have had ties to drug traffickers in Guatemala and Costa Rica. He is also thought to have played a key part in turf wars fought over Chilpancingo between the Sinaloa Cartel and rival groups.

Monday, September 19

In Veracruz, 32 prison inmates escaped from three facilities in simultaneous jail breaks. 14 of the inmates have already been recaptured and the Mexican military has deployed to search for the remaining 18. All 17 prisons in Veracruz are being checked to ascertain whether any other prisoners are missing.

Tuesday, September 20

In Michoacan, the army captured a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar Organization. Saul Solis Solis, 49, is a former police chief and at one time was a congressional candidate for the Green Party, finishing fourth in the 2009 congressional race for his home district. He is also suspected of being heavily involved in narcotics cultivation and meth production, as well as in multiple attacks on federal forces, including a May 2007 attack that killed an officer and four soldiers.

In Veracruz, the bodies of 35 people were dumped on a busy street near a shopping center by a group of heavily armed gunmen who pointed weapons at passing motorists. According to Mexican media sources, most of the gunmen were identified as having criminal records and links to organized crime groups. A banner left with the bodies claimed that the dead were Zetas. Some of the victims had their heads covered with black plastic bags and appeared to have been tortured. One of the bodies has been identified as a police officer who went missing two weeks ago.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least eight people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, three teenagers were walking along a street when they were intercepted by a group of gunmen, who killed two and severely wounded the third. In another incident, a 32-year old mother of 8 was shot dead outside her home.

[Editor's Note: We can no longer accurately enumerate the number of deaths in the Mexican drug wars this year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal had been running a tally on which we relied, but it stopped. Our estimate for this year's death toll is just that -- an estimate.]

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.): 7,200

Mexico

Mexico

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 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:

All those drug busts don't seem to make any difference. (image via Wikimedia)
Wednesday, August 31

In Mexico City,two female journalists were found murdered. Ana Maria Marcela Yarce Viveros and Rocio Gonzalez Trapaga were discovered by joggers in a park in a working class neighborhood. Both were naked. Yarce was a reporter for the investigative journalism magazine Contralinea and Gonzalez was a freelance journalist who used to work for Televisa.

Friday, September 2

Near Reynosa, police discovered the body of a top Gulf Cartel boss. Samuel Flores Borrego, 39, also known as "El Metro 3," appears to have been killed by members of his own organization for reasons that remain unknown. The body of Flores was found alongside that of a police officer. Both men had been shot. Flores, for whom the US Government had been offering a $5 million reward, is widely credited with being responsible for the bloody rift between the Gulf Cartel and their former enforcers, the Zetas, after he killed a high-ranking member of the Zetas in January 2010 in Reynosa. His replacement has already been identified as his former second-in-command, Mario Armando "Pelon" Ramirez Trevino.

In Hidalgo, 16 police officers were among 31 suspects taken into custody on suspicion of working for the Zetas. Authorities said that the arrests came after a cartel payroll was discovered during an arrest. Hidalgo is the home state of Zeta boss Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, "El Lazca."

In Mexico City, President Calderon delivered a state of the nation speech in which he vowed to clean up corruption in Mexico's police forces by the time he leaves office by the time he leaves office in December 2012. He also announced the creation of a special federal prosecutor who will be in charge of identifying victims of the violence and find people who have disappeared.

Sunday, September 4

In Torreon, six people were killed during a series of incidents near the city's main stadium. Among the dead were three police officers who were killed after being ambushed by heavily armed gunmen. The same stadium was the scene of an August 20 shooting, which caused spectators and players to panic and run for cover. The game was called off.

Monday, September 5

In Nogales, police discovered an underground tunnel dug into a drainage tunnel that leads into the United States.  Police found the tunnel using information they received after the discovery of another tunnel on August 16.  Nogales is across the border from Nogales, Arizona.

In Jalisco, a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel member was recaptured 40 days after escaping from a Mexico City hospital where he was taken after his original arrest on May 12. Guajardo Hernandez, "El Guicho," is known to have operated in Baja California and had an important role in arranging shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.

Tuesday, September 6

In Mexico City, authorities announced that an American citizen was arrested last week for smuggling grenades to the Sinaloa Cartel.  Jean Baptise Kingery was arrested in Mazatlan, Sinaloa. Kingery was also arrested in Arizona in August 2010, but was released, purportedly so that American law enforcement agencies could use him as an informant or in a sting operation.

[Editor's Note: We can no longer accurately enumerate the number of deaths in the Mexican drug wars this year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal had been running a tally on which we relied, but it stopped. Our estimate for this year's death toll is just that -- an estimate.]

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.): 7,000

Mexico

Plan Merida Focus to Shift to Border Region [FEATURE]

US officials said this week in El Paso that the Merida Initiative to help Mexico strengthen its security forces and judicial system in their ongoing battle with criminal drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- will shift its focus to Mexico's border states. Other officials defended the "Fast and Furious" Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) gun-running scheme that resulted in weapons from the US being transferred to cartel members.

The remarks came at the eighth annual Border Security Conference at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), just across the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juarez, one of the most deadly cities in the world in recent years because of prohibition-related violence plaguing Mexico. The conference is a joint undertaking of UTEP and US Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), a former El Paso sector Border Patrol head.

Somewhere around 40,000 people -- there are no official figures -- have been killed in the violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon deployed tens of thousands of troops and federal police in December 2006 to confront the increasingly brazen cartels head on. Despite the killing or arrest of dozens of high-profile cartel leaders, the flow of drugs north and guns and cash south has continued largely unabated.

The Merida Initiative, unveiled in 2008, allocated $1.5 billion in US aid to fight the drug traffic. Some of that money was destined for Central America, where Mexican cartels are increasingly encroaching, but the bulk of it is going to Mexico. Much of the Mexico funding has gone to the military and different law enforcement agencies, but given that both the military and the Mexican police are deeply compromised by cartel corruption, it is questionable whether throwing more money at them will accomplish much.

Now, said US Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs assistant secretary William Brownfield in remarks reported by the El Paso Times, the emphasis will shift to Mexico's border states and their state and local police forces. That would be the best way advancing the goals of the initiative's four pillar strategy of disrupting the ability of the cartels to operate, enhancing Mexico's capacity to sustain the rule of law, creating a modern border infrastructure, and building resilient communities, he said.

The US-Mexico border. Drugs flow north, and cash, guns, and violence flow south. (Image via Wikimedia)
"This is where most of the cartels have focused their activities," Brownfield said Tuesday, adding that Plan Merida will continue no matter who wins next year's Mexican presidential election. "I want to make this clear, it does not matter if it is the PAN, the PRI or another party that wins the elections, the initiative will continue working, even if it undergoes some minor adjustments," he said. "We will proceed and we will succeed. We have no choice," he said.

Dallas ATF special agent in charge Robert Champion traced today's horrifying levels of violence not to Calderon's deployment of the troops at the end of 2006, but to conflicts that broke out when the Zetas, former Mexican special forces soldiers turned enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, turned on the Gulf Cartel.

"That's the genesis of where the violence began," said Champion.

Since then, Champion said, gun running has evolved from being a solely a border issue to being an issue as far north of the border as Indianapolis, St. Paul, and Atlanta.

"We now have organized arms trafficking rings," he said, adding that some of them use teenagers to smuggle weapons with the serial numbers erased.

Noting that the number of high powered rifles being smuggled into Mexico has increased dramatically in recent years, Champion felt compelled to defend ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, which has excited tremendous anger in Congress after it was found that guns smuggled in the operation ended up being used to kill a US Border Patrol agent and in at least two other killings in the US, as well as countless murders in Mexico. The operation was designed to track the weapons, which would lead to the cartels, but ATF lost track of many of them, effectively acting as an arms supplier for the cartels.

"We (ATF) were criticized because we only focused our efforts on attacking the suppliers of these weapons and when we wanted to expand our efforts and attack the criminal organizations, it worked out badly," Champion said by way of explanation.

Despite the determined optimism of US officials, others at the conference warned that the situation was deteriorating. Mexico is unable to retain effective control of parts of its national territory, they said.

The situation in Mexico "is starting to look like a civil war," said UTEP political science Professor Charles Boehmer. "Juarez is one of the hottest battlegrounds," he added.

Nearly 9,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence in Ciudad Juarez in the past two and a half years.

Mexicans are dying to supply the insatiable appetite for drugs north of the border, said Mexican officials. The easy availability of firearms isn't helping either, they said.

"That is what has brought about the violence -- the fight for control of US drug distribution," said Alejandro Poire, technical secretary to the Mexican National Security Council. "It's an unprecedented business opportunity for cartels in Mexico." The availability of weapons from the US has created a cartel "arms race," he added.

The conference featured lots of happy talk about how to win the Mexican drug war, but largely ignored the most radical option for doing so: legalizing the drug supply and sucking out the oxygen on which the cartels rely. That would not mortally wound the cartels, which are now morphing into all-around criminal enterprises, but it would cut off their main source of income. Maybe next year.

El Paso, TX
United States

Perry, Romney Burnish Drug Warrior Credentials

Two of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination sought to win votes by talking tough on drugs this week, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry calling for unmanned drones to overfly the US-Mexico border and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney saying the war on drugs must continue.

Rick Perry wants drones to overfly the US-Mexico border to surveil the drug traffic, but they already are. (image via Wikimedia)
Meanwhile Rep. Ron Paul, one of two GOP contenders who have staked out positions critical of the drug war (the other is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson), has seemingly vanished from the mainstream media despite coming in a very close second to Rep. Michele Bachmann in last weekend's Iowa straw poll.

Going on the offensive against President Obama as he announced his candidacy Saturday, Perry accused Obama of being "an abject failure in his constitutional duty to protect our borders in the United States." Perry waved his right hand toward Mexico as he made those remarks.

Later the same day, at a campaign event in New Hampshire, the tough-talking Texan again laid into Obama, this time calling for the use of unmanned drones to track the flow of drugs coming from Mexico. The Predator drones can stay aloft for up to 20 hours and are equipped with video and tracking technologies.

"We know that there are Predator drones being flown for practice every day because we're seeing them; we're preparing these young people to fly missions in these war zones that we have," Perry told the crowd. "But some of those, they have all the equipment, they're obviously unarmed, they've got the downward-looking radar, they've got the ability to do night work and through clouds. Why not be flying those missions and using (that) real-time information to help our law enforcement?" he asked.

That could be a valid question if one accepts the war on drugs paradigm, which Perry obviously does. The only problem with Perry's query is that the Department of Homeland Security is already deploying drones along the entirety of the US-Mexico border.

Romney, for his part, addressed substance use and the war on drugs in response to questions from the audience, including one from drug war zealot Steven Steiner, who founded Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers (DAMMAD) after his 19-year-old son died of a drug overdose.

"We've got to not only continue our war on drugs from a police standpoint, but also to market again to our young people about the perils of drugs," the front-running candidate said in response to questions in Littleton.

Romney was responding to one local businessman who complained that he and fellow rural business owners had trouble finding educated workers who can pass a drug test. He replied that people have to teach their children to get an education and stay away from drugs.

Later that evening, at a Berlin town hall, Steiner stood up and said he was frustrated with presidential candidates not talking more about drugs. Romney offered his condolences, said parents must do a better job of warning young people, mentioned his advisors on drug policy are worried about the medical marijuana movement, and offered a joke about it.

"There's a lot of marijuana on the beach," Romney said, referring to California and his home there. "It's amazing how many teenagers have medical problems that require marijuana. I'm saying that facetiously."

Drug policy is beginning to emerge as a campaign issue for the Republican contenders. Look for an in-depth Chronicle article on the candidates and their positions after Labor Day.



(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

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 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:

All the drug busts in Mexico don't seem to make a difference. (image via Wikimedia)
Thursday, August 4

In Jalisco, six charred bodies were discovered by police in a flaming SUV. All six had apparently been tortured or mutilated before being set on fire, which is indicative of cartel-related violence. Jalisco is home to several cartels, including the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG).

Friday, August 5

In Ascension, Chihuahua, the entire 26-man police force quit for fear of their lives after two local police officers were killed earlier in the week. Their duties are now being taken over by state and federal police forces and by army patrols.

Saturday, August

In the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de las Garza, five young men between the ages of 17 and 20 were found murdered and dumped on a sidewalk. Police said the victims all had the "look of gang members," but this has not yet been confirmed. Police are investigating to see whether the men were killed elsewhere and then dumped where they were found, as only one bullet casing was discovered at the scene.

In Ciudad Juarez, a high-ranking police commander responsible for the city's downtown area was shot dead near the International Bridge to the US. Victor Nazario Moreno Ramirez, 32, was in his vehicle when it was boxed in by four vehicles full of gunmen who opened fire. Police discovered 420 spent shell casings at the scene, mostly from AK-47's. Another passenger was seriously wounded. Moreno had previously been in command of an elite unit of the municipal police responsible for special operations and responding to high-impact crime.

Sunday, August 7

In Ciudad Juarez, an El Paso woman was murdered in front of her 4-year old daughter. Stephanie Marie Lozano was sitting in a car with her boyfriend outside his home when gunmen arrived in a truck and shot them both dead. Her daughter Hailie was in the backseat and was not shot, but apparently suffered powder burns from gunpowder. Witnesses indicate that police did not chase the assailants car even though it continued to drive around the area. It also appears as if Juarez police told Lozano's family they would not be investigating and should simply consider it a tragic event.

Near Guadalajara, a 13-year old girl was taken into custody after a fire fight and allegedly admitted to working for the Zetas. The girl, identified only by her alias, "Pearl," told police that she was paid $325 dollars every two weeks to act as a "hawk," which is cartel slang for a look-out that reports on the movement of authorities and other enemies. She is the latest in a string of high-profile cases involving extremely young people who have become involved in cartel activities. The most famous, Edgar Jimenez Lugo, 14, is currently serving a three-year sentence for his participation in the torture and murder of four people who were found hanging from a bridge between Mexico City and Acapulco.

In Mexico City, the office of the chief federal security spokesman acknowledged that US agents participate in intelligence analysis and information exchange with Mexican security forces in Mexico. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that CIA agents and former American military personnel are working on some Mexican military bases and that the government has considered using private contractors for security operations inside Mexico.

Monday, August 8

In Mexico City, the government announced that 172 municipalities will not be receiving federal anti-crime assistance money because they have not shown any progress in improving the training or quality of local police forces. Among the places being cut off from federal funding are the cities of Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo, which have all experienced extremely high levels of drug-related crime.

Also in Mexico City, SEDENA announced the results of a 20-day military operation across the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. "Operation Northern Lynx" resulted in the deaths of 30 suspects and the arrest of 196 more, as well as the seizure of over 1,200 weapons and 3.3 tons of marijuana and 260 vehicles. Twelve kidnap victims were also rescued. Soldiers participating in the operation came under fire 21 times, resulting in the death of one soldier and wounding 21 others.

Tuesday, August 9

In Michoacan, the bullet-riddled bodies of four police officers and two civilians were found. The officers, two of whom were women, had all been reported missing Saturday in the neighboring state of Colima. The motive is currently unknown.

In Mexico City, a judge blocked the extradition of a high-ranking female cartel boss, Sandra Beltran Leyva, who is known as the "Queen of the Pacific," to the United States on organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering charges for which she was acquitted. She has been in custody since her arrest in 2007, and it is unclear if this means she will now be released. She still faces a money laundering charge.



Wednesday, August 10

In the city of Chihuahua, a former police chief was assassinated as he ate at an Applebee’s Restaurant. Jose Refugio Ruvulcaba Plascencia was police chief in Chihuahua in the late 1990’s and in Ciudad Juarez in 2003.

In Ciudad Juarez, a transit police officer was run down by gunmen and shot dead.


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.): 6,700

Mexico

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 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:

All the drug busts in Mexico don't seem to make a difference. (image via Wikimedia)
Wednesday, July 27

In Veracruz, a local newspaper published an editorial strongly denying that a recently slain journalist had ties to drug trafficking organizations. Last week the state attorney general said that journalist Yolanda Ordaz De La Cruz -- who was found decapitated and tortured -- may have been killed by one gang because of her ties to another. The newspaper, Notiver, has called on state attorney general Reynaldo Escobar to publicly apologize and resign.

In Ciudad Juarez, Interior Minister Francisco Blake said that federal forces would not be withdrawn from Juarez, despite a statement Tuesday by Mayor Hector Murguia that federal police would be withdrawn in the area in September. The relationship between local security forces and the federal police is notoriously bad. Just last week, federal police shot at the convoy of municipal police chief Julian Leyzaola.

Friday, July 29

In the city of Chihuahua, authorities captured a high-ranking figure in La Linea, the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel. Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, "El Diego," is alleged to have participated in some 1,500 murders in the Ciudad Juarez area. Among the crimes he's accused of masterminding is the murder last year of a US consulate employee and the January 2010 massacre of 15 teenagers at a party.

Saturday, July 30

In Nuevo Laredo, about 80 local leaders including the mayor demanded that the local police force be reinstated. The Nuevo Laredo municipal police was disbanded in June and replaced with military personnel pending the vetting and testing of local police. Crime has since continued to rise. 21 other municipalities in Tamaulipas also had their security duties taken over by the Mexican military.

Sunday, July 31

In Ciudad Juarez, two people were murdered. According to researcher Molly Molloy, this brings July's total to 216, including 13 women and 8 minors.

In Michoacán, police arrested the head of the Knights Templar Organization for the city of Apatzingan. Nery Salgado Harrison, 24, has been in charge of the Apatzingan area since 2009 and is thought to be heavily involved in the production and local distribution of meth. The Knights Templar is an off-shoot of La Familia, which splintered into quarreling factions after the death of boss Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno in December 2010.

Monday, August 1

In Acapulco, federal police captured a high-ranking leader of the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Moises Montero Alvarez, 42, "El Koreano," was captured along with one other suspect. Alvarez is thought to be connected to the September kidnapping and murder of 20 tourists from Michoacán, after apparently being mistaken for members of La Familia.

In Nuevo Leon, a police supervisor and his son were gunned down in front of a school in the town of San Nicolas de las Garza.

Tuesday, August 2

In Ciudad Juarez, authorities announced the arrest of a prison director and four guards in connection with last week's deadly clashes which killed 17 inmates in Ciudad Juarez's municipal jail facility. The director, Lucio Cuevas, is accused of granting favors to inmates. Video of the shooting shows guards letting in gunmen to open fire on inmates.

In Coahuila, authorities captured Valdemar Quintanilla Soriano, allegedly the number two financial operator of the Zetas Organization. Quintanilla is also thought to have connections to the top tier of Zetas leadership, such as Heriberto Lazcano. Another man was also taken into custody.

In Reynosa, five gunmen were killed in a fire fight with the army. The city used Twitter and other social networking sites to warn residents of the fighting, which took place at around noon in the Las Fuentes area of the city. Reynosa is just across the border from McAllen, Texas.

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.): 6,600

Mexico

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 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:

Thursday, July 7

In Matamoros, a series of shootouts caused heavy disruptions on a highway to a nearby tourist beach. The clashes began when a Mexican army patrol encountered a convoy of gunmen traveling in SUVs. Military helicopters reportedly also participated in the fighting, and cartel gunmen hijacked trucks and parked them across the highway at several locations as makeshift blockades.

Friday, July 8

In downtown Monterrey, 20 people were killed and several others wounded when gunmen attacked a bar. Another victim died later in the hospital. Mexican news outlets have said that the bar was rumored to be a Zeta hangout, and that the killings may have been due to a dispute over narcotics sales. Signs hung up in cities across Mexico afterwards blamed the shooting on the Gulf Cartel, which is fighting for control of Monterrey with the Zetas.

In Michoacan, heavy fighting between federal forces and cartel gunmen took place in several cities. The fighting began on Thursday evening when gunmen -- thought to belong to the Knights Templar Organization -- set hijacked cars aflame to block roads across the state. Signs hung up during the fighting claimed that federal police had raped women during operations in the state. The Knights Templar organization is an offshoot of La Familia Michoacana, which splintered after several important leaders were killed or captured.

In Valle de Chalco, near Mexico City, the bodies of ten men and a woman were found. All 11 were handcuffed and executed. Some reports indicate that a female survivor was taken from the scene and is in the hospital.

Saturday, July 9

In Torreon, authorities discovered ten decapitated bodies in the back of an abandoned truck. Threatening messages were left at the scene, but the content has not been released to the public. Three of the dead were females. The Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas are currently battling for control of the Torreon area, which has been the scene of some of the most high-profile incidents of Mexico's drug war.

In Ciudad Juarez, 14 people were murdered in different parts of the city. In one incident, gunmen fled on foot from the scene of a murder after their car broke down during the getaway. In another incident, two children were taken by authorities after their mother was seriously wounded in a shooting incident in front of them. Among the additional dead was a man who was found beaten to death in a canal.

In Hermosillo, federal police captured a high-ranking American-born member of the Tijuana Cartel. Armando Villareal Heredia, 33, is a San Diego native and is thought to report directly to Tijuana Cartel boss Fernando Sanchez Arellano, "The Engineer." Villareal is also wanted in the US on federal conspiracy and racketeering charges, and is thought to be linked to kidnappings and murders on both sides of the border.

In Monterrey, the Army rescued 20 hostages from a cartel safe house. All were found handcuffed in a small room and it appears all the victims were tortured. They had been held for 11 days.

Sunday, July 10

In Ciudad Juarez, seven people were murdered. In one incident, a family of three was attacked by gunmen wielding AK-47's, who riddled the family's Honda Civic with bullets. A man in the car reportedly returned fire with a pistol. A woman in the car died at the scene, and the man and a 3-year old child were taken to the hospital.

Monday, July 11

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 13 people were murdered, including eight that were murdered during two separate multiple homicides. In one incident, five people were gunned down by gunmen using automatic weapons just outside a hospital. Two other people were seriously wounded in the incident.

Tuesday, July 12

In Mexico City, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that military officers and personnel should be tried in civilian courts when accused of abuses such as torture and extrajudicial killings. The Mexican military has traditionally handled such matters internally and very quietly.

[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.): 6,000

Mexico

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 more than 38,000 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:

Wednesday, June 28

In Coatzacoalcos, authorities arrested a Zeta member who is thought to be involved in the Tamaulipas murders of 72 migrants last year. Barrios Caporal, "Erasmo," allegedly confessed to being second-in-command to Martin Omar Estrada Luna, "Comandante Kilo", the Zeta chief for the San Fernando, Tamaulipas area at the time of the massacre.

In Ciudad Juarez, twelve people were killed. In one incident, five men were shot dead by two men armed with assault rifles. In another incident, a police investigator's wife was killed along with another man after gunmen tried kill the policeman, who escaped.

Thursday, June 30

In Ciudad Juarez, six people were murdered. Among the victims were 3 members of a family who were shot in El Barreal. According to researcher Molly Molloy, Thursday's killings brought the total number of murders to 153 for the month of June.

Friday, July 1

In the city Chihuahua, authorities found a "narco-banner" which specifically threatened DEA agents operating in the area. The note said that they (it is unclear which organization) had identified agents and would decapitate them.

In Zacatecas, at least 15 people were killed and 17 captured after a protracted fire fight between Mexican Marines and suspected Zetas in the town of Lourdes.

Saturday, July 2

In Matamoros, a well-known Catholic priest was shot and killed during a fire fight between suspected Zetas and the Mexican army. Father Marco Antonio Duran Romero was the host of a local tv show and was frequently on the radio. He was killed on Saturday after night as Mexican soldiers battled Zetas who were trying to enter the city, the stronghold of the rival Gulf Cartel.

In Texas, the State Department of Public Safety advised US citizens to avoid travel to the Nuevo Laredo area across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. According to the Department, the US has received information that the Zetas may have been planning assaults on US citizens in the city.

Sunday, July 3

In Chihuahua, a group of heavily armed gunmen traveling in luxury SUVs attacked a speedway, killing a driver and one of his assistants. Another man -- the deputy director of crime prevention in the city -- was wounded in the attack and was likely the primary target.

Monday, July 4

In Atizapan, near Mexico City, federal police captured the 3rd highest ranking Zeta commander, Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, a.k.a. "El Mamito." Rejon, 35, is one of the founding members of the organization, which he joined in 1999 after deserting from the army. In addition to other crimes, Rejon was wanted in connection with the February incident in which an America ICE agent was killed and another was wounded.

In Aguascalientes, a local drug-trafficker linked to La Familia was shot and killed by police inside a house. Nicolas Mora Ovando, "Papa Nico", was a former police officer and head of a local gang called "La Oficina."

Tuesday, July 5

In San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon, two police officers were gunned down in their squad car by a group of gunmen armed with automatic weapons.

[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 has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

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

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

Mexico

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 more than 38,000 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:

Wednesday, June 22

In Tamaulipas, the Mexican military began the process of taking over 22 local police departments, including the violence plagued areas of Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Aleman, Mier, Camargo, Reynosa, Tampico, and Matamoros. The military is expected to secure the areas while new, vetted police are hired.

Thursday, June 23

In Cuahtemoc, Chihuahua, seven people were kidnapped from a drug rehab center by heavily armed gunmen. At least three of the kidnap victims managed to escape the center but were later discovered by gunmen and forced into a car nearby. Marines investigating the incident discovered 190 packets of cocaine and pot at the center.

In Mexico City, President Calderon had a public debate with activist and poet Javier Sicilia in which he defended his use of the military against drug cartels while at the same time apologizing to the victims of drug-related violence such as Sicilia's son, who was murdered in Morelos in March along with six friends.

Saturday, June 25

In Ciudad Juarez, at least eight people were murdered. In one incident, two transit police officers were shot dead by gunmen who shot them from moving vehicles as the officers were making a traffic stop. It appears the officers were deliberately targeted.

In Monterrey, four men were lined up against a wall and shot after having been dropped off by a group of heavily armed men in an SUV.

In Veracruz, Mexican authorities captured Albert Gonzelaz Pena, also known as "El Tigre," who is thought to a high-ranking Zeta commander in charge of Veracruz and the state of Mexico. He is wanted in connection with at least three kidnappings and is thought to be heavily involved in local extortion schemes.

Sunday, June 26

In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were killed. Among the dead were four men who were found dead at a baseball field where they regularly played, and a federal police officer who was shot dead after being chased on foot by gunmen.

Monday, June 27

In the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina, the police chief was gunned down in his office. Chief German Perez was in his office when at least two cars and three trucks full of gunmen arrived at the location and went directly to his office, where he was shot at least eight times.

On Tuesday, it was announced that seven police officers were being investigated in the incident, as they did nothing. Among the seven were the chief's personal bodyguards.

In Oaxaca, a priest said that at least 80 Central American migrants had been kidnapped from a train which was carrying them north towards the US border.

Tuesday, June 28

In Mexico City, President Calderon said he felt "misunderstood" in the government's war on drug cartels, which he launched after taking office in December 2006. He said that many people -- "perhaps silently" -- support the military campaign. As success, he cited that 21 of the country's 37 top drug lords have been killed or captured.

[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 has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 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: 34,883

Mexico

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 more than 38,000 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:

The profits of prohibition fuel the violence in Mexico. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Wednesday, June 15

In Nuevo Leon, a record 33 people were murdered in one day.  Among the dead were two bodyguards of State Governor Rodrigo Medina who were kidnapped, murdered, and mutilated. The previous daily high in the state was 18, which included 14 inmates killed in a jailhouse fire that had been deliberately set.

Friday, June 17

In Nuevo Leon, 26 police officers were detained for their involvement in the murder of the two bodyguards of Gov. Medina on Wednesday.

In Matamoros, the leader of Los Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano "Z-3" was reported killed after a series of ferocious gun battles in the city with the rival Gulf Cartel. Mexican and American authorities have both denied that Lazcano is dead, and question why he would personally be leading attacks on the Gulf Cartel stronghold of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

Sunday, June 19

In Michoacan, at least 23 people were executed over the weekend by the Knights Templar drug trafficking organization. President Calderon was in the state capital of Morelia at the time attending a U-17 soccer game between Mexico and North Korea. The Knights Templar had announced the coming murders via banner on Friday. On Saturday, nine people were found dead in three different locations, each containing three bodies.

The Knights Templar is an off-shoot of La Familia Michoacana, and has vowed to wage war on the opposing faction of LFM led by El Chango Mendez (captured Tuesday -- see below) and his allies in Los Zetas.

Monday, June 20

In Veracruz, a journalist was gunned down along with his wife and 21-year old son. Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, 55, was an editor, crime reporter and columnist for the local Notiver newspaper. At around 5:30am on Monday, heavily armed gunmen kicked down the door to his home and gunned down everyone inside.

Also in Veracruz, seven municipal police officers were arrested in connection with the death of a Mexican Marine who was found dead on June 11 near the Tuxpan River. He was one of three Marines who were recently kidnapped and murdered in Mexico. The Marines have been on the forefront of Mexico's war on drug cartels and have conducted missions against high-profile targets such as Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was killed in December 2009.

Tuesday, June 21

In Cosio, Aguascalientes, the leader of La Familia Michoacana was captured by police at a highway checkpoint. Jose de Jesus Mendez Varga, 50, also known as "El Chango" -- the Monkey -- had been in command of the LFM organization since it broke up into rival factions after its previous leader, Nazario Moreno, was killed in fierce clashes with federal forces in December 2010. On Wednesday Mexican authorities said that US law enforcement played a key role in his capture.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were murdered. In one incident, a bag containing the head and dismembered body parts of a man was left outside a church. In a different part of the city, three men were gunned down inside a home in the southeast part of the city.

In the town of Cuahtemoc in the nearly lawless Chihuahuan sierra, authorities announced that eight people were found murdered there on June 18.

In Mexico City, Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes said after a meeting with President Calderon that the Zetas have been sending scouting missions to El Salvador to see whether they can purchase weapons from corrupt police and military officials.

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 has surpassed 38,000.]

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 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: 34,883

Mexico

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