International

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Gregory Bull/AP
Armed police officials walk in a
neighborhood in Tijuana,
Mexico, 2008,
during a police operation.

Continued Drug Violence Transforming Mexico into War Zone

September 25, 2008 11:23 AM
by Shannon Firth
New stats show hundreds of drug-related killings in Mexico in July alone—more than Iraq or Afghanistan—raising questions about the effectiveness of President Calderon’s efforts.

Drug Violence Getting Worse

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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.” The violent trend in Mexico is already several months old: so far in 2008, close to 3,000 people have been killed, surpassing the country’s death toll for all of 2007.

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 has installed 40,000 soldiers to battle the drug cartels.

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 an editorial, the Austin American-Statesman wrote, “The hand grenades were hurled not only at the victims but also at national identity.” The newspaper added, “there is a glimmer of hope that the attack could be the catalyst for an elusive national unity necessary to face a grave threat to the republic’s stability.”
If that does happen, it would not be the first time Mexicans have come together in outrage over the ongoing violence. Prior to the grenade attacks, on Aug. 30, a series of grisly decapitations in the Yucatán, an assault on revelers in a dance hall and the death of a 14-year-old who had been kidnapped for ransom brought tens of thousands of peace protesters to Mexico City. While President Calderon argued that the rising violence is proof that his military is damaging gang structures and curbing their cash flows, some Mexicans disagree. Protestors, disillusioned with Calderon’s promises, chanted, “If you can’t [do it], resign!”

Conversely, an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News commended Calderon’s commitment to fighting the drug war, claiming that past governments avoided the problem altogether: “It may provide little solace to a nation weary of the violence, but the pushback by the criminals … was inevitable, and the violence the country is experiencing now reflects the lack of opposition in the past.” The Statesman editorial also claimed that the Mexico City peace protests were spearheaded by Calderon’s disgruntled presidential opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who pledged to run a “shadow government.”

Background: Explosion of drug murders in Mexico

Related Topic: Grenade suspects released; Mexican cartel bust

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