Record death toll in Mexico’s drug war

January 12, 2010

CIUDAD JUAREZ – As the government struggles to convince the people that its military-focused strategy will eventually bring cartels to heel, record death toll has been reported in the fight against drug smuggling gangs.

El Universal newspaper reported Monday that 69 people had died violently in the previous 24-hour period, the biggest daily death toll yet. The paper said that 283 people had died in 2010 so far, against 46 from the same period last year.
According to El Universal, more than a third of the 69 Mexicans killed between Friday and Saturday died in Ciudad Juarez just over the border from the Texas city of El Paso. Four people were beheaded, and a victim discovered early Friday whose face had been stitched on to a football. Five people were kidnapped, including two security guards and a prominent businessman.
Last year drug violence claimed more than 2,500 victims in this city.
Among those at risk are journalists covering the police beat for local papers. The body of the latest reporter to fall victim was found on Friday alongside a note warning: “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand that the message is for everyone.”
Narco-violence has flared regularly since early 2008, when war broke out between rival factions of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. That year, the city’s homicide toll peaked at 844.
More than 15,000 people have been killed in the drug war, many of them in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. At least 17 journalists have been killed since 1992 after reporting on the local drug community, which has spurred some of the country’s newspapers to stop covering violence to avoid more deaths.
President Felipe Calderon, desperate to eradicate a serious embarrassment to Meico’s image abroad, ordered 8,000 heavily armed troops and federal police in Ciudad Juarez last year. But violence has flared up again since December.
Attackers have firebombed police cars and funeral home with Molotov cocktails. They’ve shot up a hospital. Women are increasingly targeted. At least two of the recent beheading victims were women, one of whom was left naked outside the cemetery, a narco-message left between her legs.
In late December, the government seemed to score a majority victory. Gilbert Sanchez Guerrero, a former police officer and top lieutenant for crime boss Garcia, was arrested in an early morning raid at his upscale condominium in Ensenada.
His apprehension led to the arrests of at least seven more Tijuana police officers suspected of corruption.
Photo: A corpse lies in a road in Navolato, Sinaloa state, northern Mexico. The body of Hugo Hernandez was discovered in Sinaloa cut up into seven pieces, his face stitched to a soccer ball. (Photo by Millan/Getty)