Latin American Herald Tribune
Tijuana, Mexico – Two dozen people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico, including 12 in the northwestern state of Baja California, 10 in the northern state of Chihuahua and two in the southern state of Guerrero.
Four people were killed and three others wounded just after midnight at a seafood restaurant in the Mesa de Otay section of Tijuana, a border city in Baja California.
Police and soldiers engaged a group of gunmen in a shootout a short time later at an industrial park, wounding one of the suspects and arresting about a dozen others.
Investigators have not determined whether the suspects were involved in the attack on the restaurant.
Gunmen killed four people in two separate incidents Tuesday afternoon in Tijuana, officials said.
Four other people were found decapitated in the border city on Tuesday morning, bringing the death toll from drug-related violence to 12 in a span of less than 24 hours.
Tijuana, which is near San Diego, California, has registered 61 murders so far this month.
Ten men, meanwhile, were gunned down in separate attacks in Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, state prosecutors said.
Gunmen killed five unidentified men on a busy street in Juarez, which is in Chihuahua and is considered Mexico’s most violent city.
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen fled in two vehicles.
Two men were gunned down a few hours later outside a store in Juarez’s Cuauhtemoc neighborhood, prosecutors said.
One of the victims, according to unofficial reports, was the store’s owner.
Three men were shot to death in three separate attacks, police said.
More than 2,400 people, according to press tallies, have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez this year.
In 2008, Juarez lived through days when dozens of people were murdered in the span of a few hours, and armed groups committed acts of violence in public areas that terrorized residents.
The border city, home to the Juarez drug cartel, ended 2008 with a total of 1,605 people murdered, including 77 federal, state and municipal police officers, according to press tallies, making it the most violent city in Mexico.
The Juarez drug cartel has been battling the Sinaloa cartel for control of the border region and smuggling routes into the United States, and the majority of those killed have been gunmen or had other links to organized crime groups.
More than 8,000 federal police and soldiers were deployed in Juarez months ago in an effort to reduce the drug-related violence, but the killing continues.
Police in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, found the bodies of two people stuffed into trash bags, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
The human remains were found around 5:00 a.m. on the city’s Lazaro Cardenas avenue.
A message from “El jefe de jefes” (The Boss of Bosses) was left inside one of the trash bags, warning that those who engaged in kidnappings would end up the same way.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.
Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000.
The death toll from drug-related violence, according to a tally published by the El Universal newspaper, stands at 7,277 this year.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix family, and the Gulf, Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.
Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Colima and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
Los Zetas, a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf organization, may now be operating as a cartel, some experts say.
La Familia Michoacana, which operates in the western state of Michoacan, the southern state of Guerrero and the central state of Mexico, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, is considered the largest trafficker of synthetic drugs in Mexico.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers and 20,000 federal police officers across Mexico in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors. EFE