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Drug warfare flares up in Mexico; more than 100 killed in five days

Mexico michoacan convoy ambush

Narcotics-related warfare has flared up in recent days in Mexico. Ten federal police officers were killed in twin ambushes in the state of Michoacan on Monday. An unknown number of gunmen were also killed or injured in the battle, but the surviving assailants carried off their wounded, as Ken Ellingwood reports in The Times. In the resort city of Mazatlan, the death toll rose to 29 on Tuesday in a shoot-out inside a prison on Monday morning (link in Spanish). Violence inside prisons in Mexico often reflects turf battles between cartels on the outside, and in this case the bloodshed is being linked to the Zetas group.

On Tuesday, federal authorities blamed the ambushes in Michoacan on La Familia, the cartel that controls trafficking in the state.

The 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday was the single deadliest day in Mexico's bloody narco wars in 19 months. Using its own tally, the daily newspaper El Universal reported that 85 people were killed across the country between Thursday and Friday night in a single-day toll that far exceeded the past record -- 58 -- since Mexican President Felipe Calderon initiated his offensive against drug traffickers. Included in the figure are 19 people killed when gunmen stormed a rehabilitation center in the northern city of Chihuahua.

Elsewhere, at least 15 people were reported killed between Sunday and Monday in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit. The daily newspaper Milenio says: "With 15 assassinations between Sunday and early Monday, added to the 13 killed on Saturday, the total is 28 dead in the state of Nayarit, a bloody weekend, unprecedented in the police history of the state."

Calderon is once again defending his government's enforcement-heavy strategy against Mexico's powerful drug cartels. On Monday his office published a lengthy letter reaffirming his administration's commitment to confront drug trafficking head-on with military and federal firepower, saying "freedom" for Mexicans is on the line.

You can see that letter at the president's website. (in Spanish)

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Mexican soldiers guard the site of an ambush that left 10 federal police officers dead, in Zitacuaro, Michoacan. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency

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Just to put things in proper perspective, more than 100 people a day die in the U.S. as a direct result of our War on Drugs which has now claimed more lives (and cost more money) than all other wars in U.S. history.

The US drug war disaster delivers death daily.

The US drug war has destabilized our border and threatens to swamp us in immigrants and refugees, and cause the Mexican government to fail. It threatens the welfare of US and Mexican citizens.

Mexico has descended into violence and chaos. Government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and wealthy Mexican drug cartels.

A major US DOD study says: "In terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico"

It says: rapid collapse "usually comes as a surprise, has a rapid onset, and poses acute problems," like Yugoslavia’s disintegration into wars and horrific bloodshed.

Mexico's mention beside Pakistan in a study by an organization as weighty as the Joint Forces Command, which controls almost all US conventional forces, speaks volumes about growing concern over Mexico.

The way to severely shrink drug cartels and criminal gangs is legalize cannabis. It delivers big money to cartels and gangs. They grow it cheap and make huge profits on high prices. Legalizing cannabis will wipe out 60% of their profits.


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About the Reporters
Ken Ellingwood
Daniel Hernandez
Efrain Hernandez Jr.
Chris Kraul
Richard Marosi
Tracy Wilkinson