Saturday, January 3, 2009

Civilians Caught Up in Drug War

Tlaxcala is the only state without victims of organized crime

by Esther Sanchez, El Universal

In 2008, the war between the drug trafficking cartels left a record-breaking 5,630 people executed in the country. According to El Universal's count, in the past four years 12,061 people have died from organized crime; 46.5% of these murders occurred within the past year.

The daily average of victims in 2008 was 15, and the most violent day was November 3, when 58 homicides with the narcos' mark were reported. Of the fifteen, 19 were in Sinaloa and 12 in Durango.

In 2005 1,537 murders were recorded, 2,221 the following year, and 2,673 in 2007.

The federal government's operations have not inhibited the criminals, who shot up public security buildings and ambushed police with high-powered firearms and fragmentation grenades. Moreover, on multiple occasions they hung banners with with stories of intimidation and denunciations against government agents with links to drug trafficking.

That said, of 2008's victims, at least 429 were government officials or agents.

In this context, on May 27 in Culiacan, Sinaloa, hitmen from the Sinaloa cartel had a confrontation with federal agents where the hitmen threw grenades that killed seven agents. In September, another seven were ambushed and assasinated in Tancitaro, Michoacan.

Soldiers were also targeted; 20 were kidnapped and decapitated: 11 in Nuevo Leon, 8 in Guerrero, and one in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca.

2,006 cases in Chihuahua

This year, only Tlaxcala avoided the bloodshed, and Chihuahua heads the number of drug murders with 2,006, 1,633 of which occurred in Ciuada Juarez.

In Chihuahua, the drug traffickers are in dispute over the cocaine routes to the United States. According to experts, the battle is between the Juarez and Gulf cartels.

Chihuahua is followed by Sinaloa with 950 executions, Baja California with 689, Durango with 273, and Guerrero with 241.

Mass Executions

2008 was also characterized by mass executions. One of the most significant cases occurred on September 12, when the bodies of 24 executed men were found in the vicinity of La Marquesa, State of Mexico. All of them had been shot in the head with .38 caliber, 9 mm, and .45 caliber weapons.

On August 28, a dozen decapitated bodies with signs of torture were recovered from two Yucatan municipalities.

Moreover, the war between narcos has infringed upon civilians' daily lives.

The most striking episode occurred on September 15 in Morelia, Michoacan, when two fragmentation grenades were detonated amidst a crowd that was celebrating Independence Day in the town square. The attack left eight dead and over 100 wounded.

Translated from Spanish by Kristin Bricker.
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