We hear stores almost daily now about violence among drug cartels in Mexico, but over the weekend some of that violence spilled over the border. Police in rural Arizona found a charred SUV with five bodies inside along a stretch of desert road commonly used as a smuggling route. Authorities haven't charged anyone for the crime, but all signs are pointing to the cartels.
Each year, millions of dollars of Mexican drug money pass through the hands of American Drug Enforcement Administration officials. Undercover American narcotics agents launched the money laundering operation in order to trace the drug cartels. This is not the first instance of a U.S. governmental agency using illegal means to fight the war against drugs in Mexico. While the effectiveness of either program stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S. remains unclear, their impact on Mexican citizens is less ambiguous.
Journalist Ioan Grillo, who has spent a decade in Mexico reporting on the drug wars from the front lines, draws a portrait of Mexico's drug cartels and how they have radically transformed in the last decade. His book El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency includes testimonies from inside the cartels, firsthand dispatches, and analysis.
Since 2006, when President Felipe Calderón declared war on Mexico's drug cartels, 45,000 Mexicans across the republic have been disappeared, murdered, or mass-executed. Victims of this violence include journalists, over two thousand public officials, and bystanders. While drug-related activity was previously relegated to only a few Mexican states, the dramatic spread of violence — and its severity — is attributable to governmental policy north and south of the border.
A middle-class ex-high school football star named Edgar Valdez Villarreal has long been in the sights of authorities, who allege Villarreal is one of the most successful drug traffickers in Mexico. On Monday, federal police caught Villarreal, a.k.a. "La Barbie," after an intense manhunt that lasted a year and saw the cooperation of Mexican and U.S. authorities.
More tragic news from the drug-war torn nation south of our border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. On Saturday, three people with ties to the American consulate were shot and two killed in a drive-by shooting.
Mexico City lawmakers Monday voted to legalize same-sex marriage in the capitol – a move that would also give same-sex couples the ability to adopt children. It was a stunning move in a conservative Catholic nation. Ioan Grillo is Mexico Correspondent for Time Magazine; he reports on the reaction in Mexico City and throughout the nation.
A drug gang stormed a Mexican rehab clinic this week, killing 18 people. The execution was one of the most violent recent incidents in that country's brutal drug war. Time Magazine journalist Ioan Grillo has covered Mexican drug cartels for a long time, and he talks with us about why clinics are being hit and the future of Mexico’s grueling fight against the cartels.
“The general message the cartels send out to the public all the time with this kind of brutal murder...is don’t dare mess with us, don’t dare stand up against us: we will take you down.” — Ioan Grillo, Time Magazine journalist who has covered Mexican drug cartels for a long time
Watch Mexico's President Felipe Calderón welcoming President Obama to Mexico (in Spanish and English)
The violence in Mexico has taken a serious uptick. In the last four days, six federal agents have been killed along with a mayor of a small town in Northern Mexico. A series of eight coordinated attacks in Western Mexico has left many more dead and wounded. The violence has increased in response to President Calderón's efforts to crackdown on drug-related crime. He sent 45,000 troops across the country to lessen the grip of organized crime, which reaches into police forces, government institutions, and mountain villas across the country. Some 11,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006. For more of the story The Takeaway turns to Ioan Grillo, Time Magazine's reporter in Mexico City.
Here's a report on the impact of drug violence on the small town of Ascension, Mexico: