Mexico: narco-killings surpass last year’s total

Drug-related murders in Mexico have already exceeded last year’s total despite the deployment of 30,000 troops to tackle the issue. The Mexican newspaper El Universal said (Aug. 16) 2,682 people across Mexico had been killed since the start of this year, compared to 2,673 in 2007. More than one-third of this year’s drug-related killings occurred in Chihuahua. The state has seen 1,026 deaths since January, including 780 in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where 2,500 soldiers have been deployed to combat narco gangs. (BBC, Aug. 17) At least 10 people were killed, including a four-year-old boy, in a shoot-out Aug. 16 in the Chihuahua mountain town of Creel. The fighting began when men armed with AK-47s opened fire from trucks on a group leaving a dance hall. (El Universal, Aug. 17)

Kidnappings are also on the rise in Mexico. The federal government is establishing five national anti-kidnapping centers following a national outcry over the deadly abduction of a prominent businessman’s son. At least two Federal District police agents are under suspicion of participating in the kidnapping and killing of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, whose body was found Aug. 1. The boy’s father, Alejandro Marti, who founded a chain of sporting-goods stores and health clubs, had reportedly paid a multi-million dollar ransom after his son was seized at what appeared to be a police checkpoint in June.

There are fewer kidnappings in Mexico today than at the height of the abduction wave of the ’90s, but they are rising again—and the biggest increase appears to be in the kidnapping of children, with 15 Mexico City youngsters grabbed last year and 22 so far in 2008. In all, 438 abductions were reported across Mexico in 2007, 35% more than in 2006, federal officials report. Mexico City said that it had reports of 119 kidnappings in 2007 and 86 so far this year. (NYT, Aug. 14; AP, Aug. 12; Noticieros Televisa, Aug. 4)

Mexican politicians again challenged US politicians over the flow of illegal arms south of the border at a bi-national governors’ conference in Los Angeles, CA, Aug. 14, attended by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “For Mexico the greatest worry we have in these times like we have never had before in our history is the organized crime problem,” said José Natividad González Parás, governor of Nuevo León. “But we have to make a binational effort, an international effort because the movement of drugs, the drug market, the finances along the length and breadth of the continent goes from South America to Mexico to the United States.” (NYT, Aug. 15)

See our last post on Mexico’s narco war.