Wave of barroom balaceras across Mexico

Seven were killed March 29 when a masked gunman in a bullet-proof vest and black uniform opened fire with an AK-47 in a bar in in the commercial center of Chihuahua City in northern Mexico. Three of the dead were women who worked at the bar, called Mogavi. The city has seen a wave of violence as the Juárez Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel battle for control of the strategic corridor leading to the border town of Ciudad Juárez, immediately up the highway to the north. In a similar incident that night, gunmen opened fire in a bar in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero state, killing four civilians and three off-duty federal agents. The previous night, an armed commando raided a nightclub called La Habana in Oaxaca City, in Mexico’s south, menacing staff and patrons with AK-47s, shooting up the bar’s facade, and abducting one man identified only by his nickname, “El ChiquilĂ­n.”

Murky mayhem in Michoacán
On March 30, seven bodies with bullet wounds were found placed individually in the sitting position in lawn chairs near a traffic circle in the city of Uruapan, Michoacán. The victims were apparently indigent men who worked washing cars at intersections. Notes attached to the bodies warned that this would be the fate of all thieves and criminals.

In a mysterious incident March 16, local drug lord Dionisio Loya Plancarte AKA “El TĂ­o” was killed by army troops near the Michoacán town of Apatzingán. Five soldiers were also killed in the shoot-out with El TĂ­o’s men, according to local reports—but Mexico’s federal government has been unusually silent on the matter. The killing of El TĂ­o is being portrayed in the local press as retaliation for the disappearance days earlier of three members of Mexico’s elite presidential guard, the Estado Mayor Presidencial, while on an unnamed mission in Apatzingán. El TĂ­o had at various times been a leader of both Michoacán’s warring narco-factions, La Familia and the Knights Templar.

Bloody changing of the guard?
In spite of a change of government in December and a new strategy that seeks to avoid direct confrontation with the drug cartels, violence in Mexico has actually stepped up in recent weeks. Nearly 3,200 have been killed in drug-related violence during the first three months of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration, according to the Mexican government’s own count. Under his predecessor Felipe CalderĂłn, nearly 70,000 died in narco-violence and 27,000 disappeared, in one of the most violent periods in Mexico’s history. (Al Jazeera, Univision, Milenio, March 30; e-Oaxaca, Proceso, March 28; Global News Desk, March 25; AP, March 24)