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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEditorials | Opinions | May 2008 

In Mexico, Body Count Continues to Mount
email this pageprint this pageemail usAllan Wall - PVNN

It's impossible to win the drug war while the demand exists in the United States and Europe.
- George W. Grayson
In Mexico, the ongoing battles between the drug cartels and between drug cartels and the government go on and on, and the body count mounts.

On May 23rd, 2008, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora announced that, in calendar year 2008 thus far, killings linked to organized crime and drug trafficking have increased 47% over those in 2007.

According to Medina Mora's figures, as of May 24th, there had been 1,378 such murders. At this time last year the figure was 940.

Since it's only May, that means that 2008 is well on the way to surpass the 2007 total of 2,500 killings.

The total body count (to date) during President Felipe Calderon's administration is 4,152 killings, 450 of whom were policemen, prosecutors or Mexican military personnel. (As a point of comparison, the U.S. has lost 4,081 military personnel in Iraq since 2003.)

Another way to look at the death toll is as a daily average. On May 22nd (the day before Medina Mora's higher figures were announced), Mexico's Jornada newspaper published its calculation of an average of 7.6 killings per day since Calderon took office, although it added that in the week previous the average was 15 such killings per day.

According to Medina Mora, there has been a "significant increase" of killings in the northern states of Chihuahua, Baja California and Sinaloa. Meanwhile, the killings have decreased in Nuevo Leon, Guerrero and Mexico City.

Ciudad Juarez (across the border from El Paso, Texas) has been the scene of heavy fighting, both between cartels, and between security forces and narco gunmen. In Ciudad Juarez alone, there have been about 400 such killings thus far in 2008.

In a recent grisly example near the city of Durango, 6 severed heads were recently discovered alongside the highway. Each had been placed carefully within a cooler, 4 of them in an abandoned vehicle, accompanied by threatening messages to a rival.

It may be no coincidence that the heads were placed in the vicinity of a gun battle several days earlier, in which 8 gunmen were slain.

Reports also indicate re-alignment and re-organization among the drug cartels, who live in a grim, dog-eat-dog world of shifting dependencies and alliances.

The U.S. government is preparing the aid the Mexican government in its fight against the cartels, but this aid too is controversial.

President Bush wanted to give Mexico $500 million dollars worth of aid, but neither congressional chamber was willing to give that much. The House approved $400 million dollars and the Senate $350 million. The difference is to be worked out in House-Senate conference during the next few weeks.

Both congressional bills include making part of the funding contingent upon human rights certification. This doesn't set well with Mexican politicians who have charged the U.S. with meddling. However, since this is an aid program, in which they're getting the aid for free, Mexico's leaders will have to either take it as is or refuse it.

Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora has long complained about the smuggling of U.S. weapons from the U.S. to Mexico. Cartels arrange for the purchase of weapons in the U.S. and move them into Mexico. This problem is exacerbated by corruption within the Mexican Customs department and the general lawless atmosphere that exists on the US-Mexican border.

Tighter border security would definitely help. However, the Mexican government complains when the U.S. tightens up the border. If you have a porous border, it won't be porous just for border crossers. It's also porous for drugs and weapons! U.S. leaders might point that out to Mexican leaders.

Of course, wherever there's a market, there are suppliers. As long as U.S. drug users continue to purchase lots of narcotics, there will be a people willing to sell to them. That makes U.S. drug addicts themselves the principal financiers of the Mexican drug cartels.

Famed Mexico watcher George W. Grayson, professor at the College of William and Mary, has gone so far as to say that "It's impossible to win the drug war while the demand exists in the United States and Europe."

Combine corruption in Mexico which aids the cartels, and massive American demand for their products, and you've got a big problem. As the body count continues to mount...
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at

Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.

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