J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Mexican Attorney General Eduardo
Medina Mora

Beheadings Provide Gruesome End to Brutal Year in Mexico’s Drug War

December 22, 2008 11:27 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The discovery of eight decapitated Mexican soldiers this weekend highlighted the increased ferocity of attacks in response to Caldaron’s offensive against drug cartels.

Tortured Bodies of Soliders Found

The bodies were found north of Acapulco with signs that they had been tortured, while a bag containing their heads was discovered nearby with a note warning of more decapitations.

The murders come at the end of one of Mexico’s most violent years, with attacks spiking against law enforcement officers and soldiers, while kidnappings have grown more frequent and brazen, leading to a general sense of frustration and unease with the state under President Felipe Calderon.

Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said earlier this month that the drug trade has claimed the lives of 5,376 people in 2008 so far, more than twice the number for the first 11 months of last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Mexican newspapers had previously provided much lower numbers.

Mora’s statement presented the first total number of drug-related killings. In addition, “The announcement of the jump in deaths comes days after the US released $197m, the first instalment of a $400m aid package to support Mexican police and soldiers in their fight against drug cartels,” Sky News reports.

Since Felipe Calderon assumed the presidency in December 2006, 8,150 people have died drug-related deaths. November 2008 marked the worst month so far, with 943 such deaths. And Mora added that the numbers could get worse.

“I don’t think we’ve reached the top of the curve,” he said.

Mexico has requested help from the United States to battle its deadly drug gangs. Most of the drugs trafficked by the gangs funnel into the United States for consumption, and the gangs procure most of their weapons from America.

A fissure within the strongest drug ring, known as the Sinaloa cartel, has escalated the violence. Furthermore, gang leaders have also become more ruthless, and the groups are now recruiting paramilitary hit men.

An extensive corruption scandal within Mexican law enforcement has also deteriorated the situation in the country. The scandal involves “dozens of senior officials and agents accused of accepting money to pass secrets to traffickers,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Background: Explosion of drug murders in Mexico

According to the BBC, 443 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico this past July—more than in Iraq or Afghanistan. BBC correspondent James Painter said, “On one notorious day in July, a group of heavily armed men shot dead 12 people in three separate shoot-outs within a period of eight minutes.”

Mexico serves as the halfway point and main channel for drugs in transit from Colombia to the United States. A BBC world service poll reported that 42 percent of the 1,266 Mexicans polled in seven cities “felt less safe than they did a year ago.” Additionally, the BBC found conflicting responses: 68 percent of respondents believe in a military solution to drug trafficking, but 80 percent said the government should consider seeking other alternatives to end the problem. Since his 2006 election, President Felipe Calderon had installed 40,000 soldiers to battle the drug cartels as of late September.

On Sept. 15, a day before the 198th anniversary of Mexican independence, Calderon’s hometown of Morelia, Michoacán, was the site where unknown assailants launched grenades on a crowd of thousands, killing eight people in the first-ever attack aimed at civilians. 

In May, Edgar Millan Gomez, one of Mexico’s top security officials and the national coordinator of the war on crime, was murdered in what appeared to be a revenge killing by one of Mexico’s most notorious drug cartels, the Sinaloa.

Police officer killings in Mexico have prompted many officers to quit or flee to the United States. According to the Los Angeles Times, “Many municipal and state officers also work as hired gunmen for drug traffickers and often are caught up in feuds between rival gangs.”

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