Body count rising in the war of the drugs cartels

President Felipe Calderon has “declared war” on the drug cartels causing violence in Mexico

Yesterday, 18 people were killed in a shootout in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The town of Abasolo saw two competing drugs cartels, Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel, come head to head in a gun battle that began in the early morning of Tuesday and lasted for a number of hours. The contention for this particular state is due to key smuggling routes that go through the area, with both gangs vying for control.

Since December 2006, when Felipe Calderon gained the presidency and declared war on drug cartels, there has been an estimated 35,000 people killed, with around 30,000 of these being execution-style killings. Scenarios such as the shootout in Abasolo has accounted for just over 3,000 of the overall deaths; prior to yesterday’s events there had been a similar confrontation the month before which saw another 18 dead in the town of Padilla also in the state of Tamaulipas.

Surprisingly however, neither this state, nor the country as a whole, has the highest murder rates. Mexico itself enjoys a relatively low rate of murder compared to some of its South American neighbours: for every 100,000 of the population, there are 18.4 murders in Mexico in comparison with 61 in El Salvador, for example. And as for Tamaulipas, the violence has only spilled into the area since 2010. The recent uprisings along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico have been caused by the separation of the Gulf cartel and its previous security force, Los Zetas, whose aim is now to claim territory and beneficial smuggling routes for themselves.

It is in fact the northern border of Mexico with the United States, in particular Ciudad Juarez, which has seen the most conflict. The 6th March saw six people killed in two separate incidents in the city and it seems that in the last 24 hours, the cartels have caused another political casualty: 21 year-old female police chief Marisol Valles Garcia has been fired for abandoning her post in the northern city of Praxedis Guadelupe Gerrero, fearing for her life. She has reportedly fled to the United States.

President Calderon has deployed more than 50,000 troops and federal police in order to tackle the seemingly unrelenting issue – and while violence still continues to thrive, if not more now than ever before, the government claims that there have been record drug seizures as well as arrests and killings of significant drugs lords in successful operations.

It would appear that as long as the government wages war on the drugs cartels, the cartels will continue to wage war on each other.

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