Drug-Related Killings Skyrocket In Mexico

Mexico is at war, and the drug violence this month alone has flared all across the country.

More people were killed in Mexico's drug war in 2008 than all the U.S. service members killed in the entire Iraq war. This year, the death rate has more than doubled, and experts say there's no end in sight.

In Cancun, a former army general was abducted, tortured and killed less than a day after becoming the region's top anti-drug officer. And last weekend on the Pacific coast, men hurled grenades at a police station near Acapulco.

Firefights lasting hours at a time broke out in the central city of Zacatecas, in the border city of Reynosa and in the desert of Chihuahua. Another shootout this week in Durango killed 10.

In Mexico's most violent city, Juarez, gunmen strafed a military pickup with more than a hundred rounds, killing the city's No. 2 cop and three of his bodyguards. After the attack, signs appeared around Juarez threatening to kill an officer every 48 hours unless police Chief Roberto Orduna Cruz stepped down — which he promptly did.

"I can't put my professional pride above the security of my men," Orduna said as he gave into the cartels' demands and quit.

Last year, according to a tally by the newspaper El Universal, 5,630 people were killed in Mexico in drug-related violence. Among the dead were 450 police officers and soldiers. The bulk of the killings were in the northern state of Chihuahua bordering Texas and New Mexico.

Governor Attacked By Gunmen

Late Sunday night, gunmen attacked the convoy of the governor of Chihuahua, leaving one of his bodyguards dead. The governor, Jose Reyes Baeza, tried to downplay the incident, saying it may have just been a traffic altercation.

"Simply, there was an altercation with a group of police who were the police guards of the governor," Baeza said. "I didn't receive any direct aggression, nor was I threatened, nor did they block my vehicle."

Baeza sped from the scene in his bulletproof Chevy Suburban.

Despite the governor's portrayal, others say it has all the trappings of an assassination attempt. The gunmen were heavily armed. One suspect who was captured is a former soldier. The two cars used in the attack had been reported stolen months earlier and were found torched shortly after the incident.

Congressman Juan Guerra says the convoy attack was clearly the work of organized crime. He is calling for increased federal funds to fight the cartels and protect elected officials.

"This is a serious incident. Unfortunately, it shows that the criminal organizations respect absolutely nothing," Guerra says. "They'll go after anyone. And what we are lacking in this fight against organized crime is intelligence."

The government of President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police across Mexico to confront the powerful drug trafficking gangs. Calderon's administration points out that they've arrested key leaders of the cartels and disrupted the flow of narcotics into the United States. Yet the violence continues to escalate.

Security experts here say this drug war is nowhere near finished and could last through 2009 or even longer.

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