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Prohibition Related Violence Ramps Up in Mexico

In a July 13, 2009 article ("Mexican Drug Gang Unleashed Against Government"), The Examiner reported that Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacan launched "a coordinated attack against the Mexican government" on Sunday, following the arrest of "Arnoldo Rueda Medina - the second in command for the drug cartel known as La Familia Michoachana" by Mexican authorities the preceding morning. As The Examiner explains, " the police station in which [Medina] was being held came under heavy rifle and grenade attack" soon after the kingpin's arrest took place. Though and perhaps in part because "the onslaught failed to free Medina, the Familia Michacana launched a series of coordinated attacks in the cities of Acapulco, Morelia, Zitacuaro, Zamora, Lazaro Cardenas, Apatzingan, La Piedad and Huetamo. Combined, these attacks left [at press time] three police officers and two soldiers dead." As CNN reports ("Mexican Police, Soldiers Killed in Multicity Attacks by Drug Gang"), "Saturday's attacks came just days after a drug gang in Tijuana declared they were at war with the police, threatening to kill five officers every week until Police Chief Julian Leyzaola resigns." La Familia itself also "declar[ed] war" against the government and its drug offensive, unleashing, as Singapore news outlet Straits Times reported on July 15 ("'La Familia' Declares War"), "one of the most spectacular murder offensives in recent years against Mexican authorities, boldly targeting President Felipe Calderon's home state."

The attacks were still ongoing as of July 15, 2009. AP reports in a same-day release ("30 Dead in Mexico Violence") that the "vicious 48-hour period has seen 30 people killed," including 12 tortured federal law enforcement agents "whose bodies were found dumped alongside a mountain road in the western state of Michoacan late Monday," July 13. The Washington Post ("La Familia Accused of Torturing and Killing 12 Mexican Federal Agents") contends that, although extreme and highly visible drug war violence has slowly become normalized in Mexico since Calderon expanded his counter-narcotic efforts in 2006, the agents' "abduction, torture, and execution [...] marks a steep escalation in [the Mexican President's] war with the drug cartels." The Post continues, reporting that "Though drug mafias often clash with local police officials they fail to intimidate or corrupt, a direct counterattack against federal forces is almost unheard of."

Furthermore, the recent up-tick in violence has not been exclusive to Michoacan. In addition to the murdered agents, on July 13 "suspected drug gang members [...] shot dead [Chihuahua mayor] Hector Meixueriro in his SUV as he drove to work in Namiquipa, Chihuahua state, in the latest brazen killing to challenge President Felipe Calderon's army-led clampdown on drug cartel violence" Reuters states ("Mexican Drug Hitmen Kill Mayor in Revenge Attack"). Police have joined cartels' in ramping up their efforts. On July 12, as Voice of America News reports ("Mexican Police Kill One Gunman in Michoacan Violence"), "federal authorities [...] killed one gunman [...] as they continued to fight off a series of attacks on federal forces in western Michoacan state." Press TV added on July 13 ("Mexico Nabs 2 Over Attacks on Police") that "Mexican federal agents [...] arrested two suspect[ed]" perpetuators of the ongoing attacks during the "shootout with federal police" that left dead the unnamed gunman described in Voice of America's report.

The Christian Science Monitor alleges in a July 14 article ("Drug Cartels Launch Mexico's 'Tet Offensive'") that "The attacks [...] do little to bolster Calderon's national action party, which already fared poorly well in legislative elections last week." According to Bruce Bagley, "a Latin America drugs expert at the University of Miami," the cartels "'are demonstrating to the government that [its] security strategy has only limited impact.'" He adds, "'They demonstrated that they have ongoing capacity to intimidate, coerce, and carry out violence against police despite militarization," supporting drug war opponents who claim that escalating militarization - not to mention drug prohibition itself, both inside Mexico and by its U.S. neighbors to the North - only increases drug-related harm to society.

Update (July 17): According to the UK's Guardian, on July 16 ("Mexican Gang Leader Offers Drug War Truce"), "The alleged leader of [La Familia] offered a truce in the country's brutal drug wars during a telephone call to a television show." The man, "who identified himself as Servando 'La Tuta' Gomez," claimed that "his gang was only responding to attacks by police" when they carried out the above-mentioned acts of violence over the last week. "What we want is peace and tranquility. We want to achieve a national pact," Gomez said, adding that "We want the president [...] to know that we are not his enemies, that we value him, that we are conscientious people."

The Mexican government declined Gomez's offer. Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont replied, according to the article, that "The federal government does not ever dialogue, does not negotiate, does not reach deals with any criminal organisation. There is no other alternative for their members but to submit to the law."

For further discussion of these developments, read both the above-linked Guardian piece and BBC's Mexico Rejects Any Drug Gang Deal.

Update (July 20): As the UK's Telegraph reported on July 19 ("Mexican Police Officers Arrested Over Murder of Federal Agents"), members of Mexico's police force "had been detained to 'determine their responsibility' for the murders [of 12 federal agents] and for allegedly carried out 'criminal acts' on behalf of [...] La Familia Michoacana." The Telegraph states that "Corruption is rife among Mexico's local police forces and officers have not only protected cartels [in the past], but also murdered their rivals." However, "the killing of the 12 agents, whose bodies were found piled beside a road [a]long with warning notes, showed the cartels were becoming more willing to attack the federal government."

Though the article misses the connections linking drug trafficking, violence, and official corruption to prohibitionist drug policies, making these connections should pose little difficulty to drug reform advocates, who have long recognized the ways in which drug prohibiton (and, thus, illicit drugs' deregulation) allows for and produces such outcomes.

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