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How many have died in Mexico's drug war?

Sicilia march morelia

The last figure released by the Mexican government on the number of dead during its 4 1/2-year, military-led crackdown on organized crime came in January, at just over 34,000. It covered the period from the start of the drug war in December 2006 until the end of 2010.

Homicides attributed to the drug war continue across the country on a daily basis, and many more violent incidents probably go unreported. Self-censorship is widespread among news outlets in violent states such as Tamaulipas and Chihuahua.

With 2011 nearing its midway point, how many people have been killed in Mexico?

Until May many major international news outlets covering Mexico used the general figure of 34,000 or 35,000 drug war deaths -- while bodies have kept piling up in shootouts or discovered in mass graves by the hundreds. In the border city of Ciudad Juarez alone, for example, at least 976 people have been violently killed in the metropolitan region since the beginning of 2011, reports the tally at Frontera List.

But several news outlets in Mexico, as well as the peace movement of poet Javier Sicilia, have begun citing a figure of 40,000 dead since last month. A U.S.-based law-enforcement group favoring more liberal drug policies assembled this online data map from news and Internet sources to arrive an estimate topping 40,000, an increase of about 6,000 since the last official figure. (The Times lately has cited an estimate of at least 38,000, based on the official figures plus an approximation for the first months of 2011 derived from mainstream Mexican media tallies.)

Many drug-related deaths are simply not counted, and scores of people remain missing or disappeared. As The Times has reported, the missing constitute a confounding mystery that casts doubt on virtually any figure of deaths related to the drug war.

The death tally also functions as a political tool. As the number of victims creeps upward, the toll is seen as politically useful for Sicilia's peace movement (link in Spanish).

A "peace caravan" led by the poet left Cuernavaca in Morelos state last week and is set to arrive in Ciudad Juarez on Friday. Sicilia is expected to meet with an array of border and peace activists to sign a "national pact" making six demands of President Felipe Calderon. These include a demilitarization of the effort against Mexico's powerful drug cartels, placing more emphasis on education reform and targeting money laundering and entrenched corruption.

In turn, Calderon's conservative government argues that its campaign against the drug cartels is not an enforcement-only effort but incorporates steps to address some of the social and institutional causes of drug-related violence. The administration has repeatedly argued that the vast majority of the deaths stem from battles between rival trafficking groups -- a sign that the crackdown is weakening them.  

Through a spokeswoman, Calderon's office told La Plaza late Monday that government analysts are updating the drug war toll, but do not yet have a specified release date. The government maintains a  searchable database (link in Spanish) of deaths related to organized crime through 2010.

The death toll has always included a presumed majority of suspected cartel members, plus smaller numbers of military personnel, federal and local police officers, politicians, journalists, lawyers, human-rights activists, students, migrants from Central and South America and a handful of U.S. government employees, including a consular official killed in Ciudad Juarez and a customs agent gunned down in San Luis Potosi.

Overall, 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico in 2010, by far the most violent year in the war, according to the last travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department. The advisory does not specify which of those deaths may be tied to the drug war. In addition, numerous innocent bystanders and even infants have fallen victim to the violence.

Whatever the toll in Mexico, tallies have not included victims of violence attributed to Mexican drug cartels that are infiltrating Central America. Last month, 27 people were found decapitated on a remote farm in Guatemala in an attack blamed on a Mexican cartel.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City


Mexico violence casts shadow over Day of the Dead.

Dismembered bodies, warped minds.

Photo: Supporters of poet Javier Sicilia's movement march with the peace caravan as it passes through Morelia, Mexico. Credit: Reuters

Comments () | Archives (11)

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35,000 people in 4 1/2 years. That's nothing.

How about the 418,000 Americans who died fighting in WW2 while Mexicans picked lettuce.

No sympathy for a people who destroys one country by overpopulation, then sneaks into the US to destroy a people who have done nothing to them but give them aid for decades.

God will punish those evil ones!

The figure is higher, what about those who went missing? I believe that the drug cartel members will keep killing even IF they decriminalize or legalize drugs. I know from where I am from that even picking a fight with these guys can and probably will get you killed.
these are organized CRIME they will just move on to something else besides drugs. In mexico they kidnap and commit extortion daily and is thier #2 source of $$$ are we going to have to legalize that to? yes legalizing (and/or) decriminalizing drugs will hurt drug traficking, you arn't getting rid of these guys its not the entire solution.

Wachovia Bank (now apart of the ongoing criminal enterprise, Wells Fargo) laundered billions of dollars in Mexican drug cartel money. I'm sure some people would applaud the proactive moves to reduce illegal immigration.

But I'm not one of them.

Eric D: We did not have any of these problems when cannabis was freely available at every corner drug store, as it once was prior to 1937, even as the smoked version was being outlawed. Booze-dope (alcohol) is available on every corner, yet we don't have people hanging around schools selling booze-dope to children. As a matter of fact, when I was a minor, it was easier to get cannabis than it was to get booze-dope. And any business that has a lot of cash is at risk of getting robbed, be it banks, medical cannabis stores, grocery stores, and booze-dope stores. Look at the history of 1933 on, and you will see that people quit buying their booze-dope from the mafia and bought it from legal outlets after that. Now, go down to 5th and Main in downtown LA, and tell me how many of those poor souls are there because of cannabis. They are all there because of booze-dope.

Eric D, are you are troll?

I would never ever go to the "dealer on the street corner" to buy my weed if there was a legit place I could buy whatever strain, whatever amount of sativa/indica and THC in it.

I don't buy moonshine that tastes like catpiss when I can go to the liqor store and buy whatever taste and quality I want.
I don't buy tobacco from a street dealer when I can get exactly what I want from a legit store.

The same is true for every other drug (yes alcohol and tobacco are drugs).

By keeping things illegal you make people more likely to "try out" new things simply because whatever drug you feel comfterable with isn't available.


A group of teenagers/early twenties are at a party, everybody is drinking.
Some wants to get hold of some cocain, because they have tried cocaine and feel comfterable with it, knowing the risks.
They call up their shady dealer who says he got no cocaine, but he got something else, amphetamine "which works basically the same way", these kids know they got no alternative, so they start trying out new wack drugs because its the only available kind!

Same thing happened during prohibition, you could sell ANY sort of alcoholic beverage, because people didn't have a choice to choose something they wanted that were safe.


Please stop calling it "drug-related deaths", a more accurate term is "drug-prohibition related deaths". Yes, drugs themselves can kill, but in Mexico it is not the drugs that are killing on this scale, it is the crime and violence associated with the market BECAUSE it is prohibited, just as happened when Alcohol was prohibited between 1920-1933. Legal regulation won't solve all the problems, but it will take the power away from the cartels and let people who have problems with drugs be treated as patients aka Human Beings, instead of 'sub-human-scum', vastly reducing the harm that drugs can cause.

As a long time resident of Mexico, I have come to believe that nobody really cares very much here about who is involved with drugs or who gets rich from it. "El Presidente" is entering his last year of his six year term. His party has almost no chance winning the next Presidency, mostly because of the Drug War that really does not affect most Mexicans at all. A return to the PRI is the likely result of trying to focus on another countries needs, while neglecting the needs most Mexicans.

A war on unemployment sounds good to me. It might be able to pay for itself too.

Ending the war on marijuana users would be a useful part of a war on unemployment

eric d seems to be another prohibitionist who isn't interested in having a dialogue on the subject, per usual. But what can you expect from someone who claims medical marijuana is nothing but a scam? Medical marijuana is an absolute miracle for some people, and the fact that some people who are getting it don't need it doesn't change that miracle in the slightest. Maybe you'll need some yourself someday, eric d.

eric d: Please explain why the situation under relegalization would be any different from when alcohol was relegalized in 1933 and the mob couldn't make money off of alcohol anymore. And the "dope" stores are getting ripped off because marijuana is still black market priced. If milk was black market priced, they'd be hitting the milk stores.

If you call cannabis dope how about being fair and calling alcohol superdope? How many people does alcohol kill? What about cannabis? How come you prohibs are too scared to answer that question? Or do you think it's irrelevant when we consider the best way to treat cannabis, alcohol's competition?

If only "legalizing it!" were such a simple solution to the problem! But the problem won't go away so easily. Ya see, it's a simple matter of demand-side economics. As long as the demand for high-grade drugs continues to skyrocket, the drug cartels will supply that demand. And as long as there's mucho dinero to be made supplying that demand, the drug cartels will stay in business. Whether it's legal or not. Maybe "legalizing it!" will cause a brief drop in prices. But unless the US & Mexican governments are willing to set up another ATF-type, FBI operation to regulate the black market, with dope-stores (like liquor stores) to sell it to consumers, the black market will continue to be controlled by drug gangs. And marijuana will still be "to die for." Only, instead of just yuppies puffing at pot-tail parties, there'll be dope-dealers on every street corner & elementary school kids puffing up in the bathrooms. With the resultant increase in elementary school dropouts. .. And don't expect that "legalizing it!" will make everybody "mellow," either. Check out Colorado & Montana, which legalized "medical marijuana." And next thing, the dope supply stores were getting ripped off at gunpoint & the "legit" pot-puffers, too. Not to mention 40,000 Mexican dead, 5,000 this year in Juarez alone... If only it wasn't so obvious that "medical marijuana" & the whole "legalize it!" movement are just cheap ploys by pot smokers to make buying & selling easier, maybe somebody would buy this "legalize it!" thing. Either way, though, the drug cartels will still be pushing it. And stupid clueless kids will still be buying. And do we really need more Beavis-'n'-Butthead-style "stoner dude" movies & more elementary school drop-outs?...

"...the number of dead during its 4 1/2-year, military-led crackdown on organized crime came in January, at just over 34,000. "

Legalize and tax marijuana, decriminalize all other drugs. The War on Drugs is just another failured effort and monstrous waste of human life and precious tax money, just like our Wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

How about a war on unemployment?


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