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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, June 3, 2011

Debate rises over death toll in Mexico's drug war

By E. EDUARDO CASTILLO - Associated Press
Thursday, Jun. 02, 2011

The increasing numbers of drug war victims uncovered in clandestine grave sites discovered this year in states such as Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, and Guerrero have yet to be formally released by Mexico's Federal Govenment.

MEXICO CITY -- The debate over how many people have died in Mexico's 4 1/2-year-old drug war is intensifying as the government's silence over the figure grows longer.

The last official count, more than 34,600 dead, came almost six months ago, and the number of lives lost is now obviously far higher, with daily reports of slayings and shootouts in drug hot spots and the occasional horror of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies.

Some Mexican news media are reporting that their counts show the death toll has risen past 40,000, a number that includes rival gang members killed in turf battles, as well as innocent bystanders, extortion victims, police and soldiers.

The most recent official count came in January, when the government released a database of drug-related deaths as a gesture of openness about President Felipe Calderon's military assault on drug cartels, which began as he took office in December 2006.

Government officials also had occasionally released updated numbers in past years when pressed by the news media. But they have not given any figures since the database was released, nor have they updated the database since.

The government also has cut back on the public dialogues with activists and nongovernmental organizations it started last year, even as new and shocking crimes come to the fore. Mass graves holding more than 400 corpses were discovered in two northern Mexico states in April and May, and thousands of people have massed in protests against the violence in several Mexican cities.

Anti-crime activist Francisco Torres said Wednesday that the lack of openness on the issue only increases Mexicans' insecurity.

"Transparency, and the chance that it will eventually create accountability, is fundamental for making the public feel we live in a nation of laws," said Torres, who heads the group Mexico United Against Crime.

"But when this doesn't happen, as long as the figures remain hidden and information isn't forthcoming, the public lacks the tools that enable people to make decisions about what to do and what not to do, where to work or study," he said.

But Mexico's federal security spokesman, Alejandro Poire, refused to confirm or deny those figures or to release a new count when asked earlier this week.

"At some point, the appropriate update will be made," Poire said.

Security consultant Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez wrote in the June issue of Nexos magazine that he believes the figure has already surpassed 40,000.

The issue isn't just a mathematical question for poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed along with six friends on March 28 in Cuernavaca, a resort and industrial city south of Mexico City. Prosecutors say drug gang members killed them after a couple of Sicilia's friends had a chance scuffle with the gangsters 10 days before.

Sicilia, who also believes the total death toll is now about 40,000, has mounted a series of protests against the drug-war violence, and has proposed writing the names of the dead on plaques at the spots where they were killed throughout the country so that they won't just be numbers.

Jorge Chabat, en expert in Mexico who studies the drug trade, said releasing the figures has a cost for the government.

"Obviously, if the number is high, it provides a tool to identify the problem, but it also opens the government to criticism," Chabat said. "I think in these cases one has to choose the least costly option, and I think releasing the figures is less costly."

Many critics allege that Calderon's offensive, which ramped up Mexico's existing use of troops against traffickers, was launched without adequate preparation, strategy or understanding of how strong the cartels had become.

The government has launched an ad campaign branding those accusations as false.

Roy Campos, president of the polling firm Mitofsky, said it would be understandable if the government stopped releasing figures, if it had some strategic reason to do so.

"All government actions, including information, should be part of a strategy," Campos said. "If releasing the figures threatens to hurt the strategy, then don't release them."

Campos thinks the strategy might be just simple public relations: better a big storm of criticism every few months when figures are finally released, than a steady drumbeat every day.

Campos suggest administration officials may feel "it's better for them to criticize us every six months, than to criticize us every day for 10 more deaths."

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  1. Benito Juárez...Miguel Hidalgo...and now Felipe Calderon, the modern day patriot. Justice over popularity. History will see him as a true patriot.

  2. Calderon's aggressive, military approach to the drug war is working and the high body count reflects the government taking the fight directly to the cartels,

  3. Anonymous's comment at 11:53 is so laughably stupid that it truly defies any reply. Let's just give it a chuckle instead. It's that stupid!

    It's obvious that there is no turning back for the US and its imposed on Mexico 'drug war' initiated by puppet FeCal. The US will not be happy with only 40,000 dead, or even 50,000 or 60,000. They want levels equal to their previous Central American, Colombian, and Peruvian slaughters. They want numbers equal to Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea! BANG!!!!!!!

    Drones along The Border today, and what next? Perhaps some Republican Party nitwit will soon propose 'tactical nuclear bombs' or depleted uranium weapons to use on Mexican territory, of course. Far fetched? No, not really. This is how escalation always works. Unimaginable horrors today are the selections of tomorrow... certainly by our USA nitwit crowd. And there' a whole damn lot of em....

    'Jorge Chabat, en expert in Mexico who studies the drug trade, said releasing the figures has a cost for the government.'

    Hey, no 'cost' is too big for the Mexican and US governments and their governmental hack politicians. I'll be others paying it, after all.

  4. 40,000 is not even close. Its way higher. In many towns they quit counting simply because the counters were being executed for doing their jobs.

  5. I bet the number is closer to 50,000 than it is to the official of under 35,000

  6. I personally believe that the death toll is far higher than 40,000. I would go so far to say that it exceeds 100,000 when nonMexican undocumented immigrants are factored in. Whatever the numbers are, there is a genocide going on in Mexico of epic proportions.
    I wonder if the killing can be considered "ethnic cleansing?" Frankly, I get disgusted every time I hear about the uproar over the white Javier Sicilia and his dead son. While I sympathize with Sicilia, I think the enormous attention afforded to him as a white Mexican elite is symptomatic of the kind of racism that has led to this ciolence in the firat place. No one would care about Sicilia if he were an ethnic Indian from the countryside.
    The Mexican countryside populated largely by poor ethnic nonwhites has become a killing zone rivalling that of Rwanda or Darfur. I would call the death toll "genocide". I don't think that will change anything, though.

  7. I'm pretty sure that the government doesn't want to release an official death count because they're probably trying to hide exactly how many people died. After all, if they revealed the death count, more and more people would protest against this mistaken war.

    I wouldn't be surprised myself if more than 40,000 people died.

  8. You want the real body count, take the official count and multiply by 4. Mex government reports about 25% of actual deaths.

  9. @Anon 3:34,
    this isn't an ethic cleansing per say, as you refer to Rwanda (and I may also use Bosnia for that purpose), where clearly separated ethnic populations fought for land and domination. This is more a war within a society's lowest social class that happens to be Indios or Metzticos because of the absence of social ladder in MX for non ethnic Spaniards. I don't believe the country's ruling elite will give serious thoughts about this civil war (aside of promoting this meat-grinding opera) until it hits them as a collateral damage. There is no hope unless social re-engineering.

  10. Yep there's ardent again. The self appointed expert on Mexico, not that he ever goes: he just send his wife and kids into a warzone, that makes him in his opinion an expert. To silence his conscience he now has to tell himself and all others that it is OK: no pasa nada!! It is safe and all those stories are just imagination.

    Dream on ardent, and can you please keep your dreams to yourself?

  11. Sadly, Ardent has been smoking a little of the product. This is the only explanation for the "blame-everything-on-the-US" rant.

    Tactical nuclear weapons? Have you totally lost your mind? You need a little reality check Ardent, and should stop getting your "news" from Fox.

    Your agenda is peculiar, your opinions uninformed and your conspiracy theories undermine any shred of fact that you might contribute.

    No, the US really isn't looking for a massacre. No, Elvis is not alive at a mall in Idaho. And yes, the US did land on the moon.....sorry to burst your bubble.

  12. @ardent

    "Perhaps some Republican Party nitwit will soon propose 'tactical nuclear bombs' or depleted uranium weapons to use on Mexican territory, of course."

    dumb comment

  13. So you last three Anony.mouses think it just paranoid delusions that I might see the possibility of the US sending troops into yet another country to really mess thinks totally up? Escalate, escalate, escalate... just paranoia and seeing Elvis here? I need to see the shrink? lol...

    'No, the US really isn't looking for a massacre. No, Elvis is not alive at a mall in Idaho. And yes, the US did land on the moon.....sorry to burst your bubble, (Ardent).'

  14. Calling Mexicos failed system of LAW and ORDER a DRUG WAR is a ploy a RED HERRING. In almost every country around the world MONEY drives the political systems,Mexico has allowed making money Mostley off Gringos to get completley out of control. The criminal element Drugs,Extortion,Theft,KIDNAPPING begain to eat Mexico and its citizens THIS was a horse of a different color,Calderon Declared war on this HUGE CRIMINAL ELEMENT, WHY WASN't it done 30 years ago before it became an INSTITUTION itsself? Blaming Mexicos CLENSING on Calderon is great politics for the next election,BUT what if Mexico decides to STOP REFORM then What?? For those of us who have irretractable vested interests in Mexico THERE IS NO CHOICE, Nexico MUST join the civalized human race,result Mexico would be a reasonably safe,place for people and commerce. HOW DO YOU propose to accomplish that Goal,without challanging Criminal Institutions??

  15. And what 'irretractable vested interests in Mexico' do you supposedly have, Oh Great Anonymous One?

    'For those of us who have irretractable vested interests in Mexico THERE IS NO CHOICE, Nexico MUST join the civalized human race,result Mexico would be a reasonably safe,place for people and commerce. HOW DO YOU propose to accomplish that Goal,without challanging Criminal Institutions??'

    BTW, Calderon is part of the 'HUGE CRIMINAL ELEMENT' you talk of. You think not?

  16. Call me an Independent nitwit, but the death rate due to cartel fighting is not averaged over time -- it is steadily increasing, more than 150% last year for over 11,000 in 2010. I would absolutely authorize the unrestricted use of Raptor fighters and stealth bombers from the Air Force to assist in trouble zones as well as tank battalions and artillery batteries to support the Mexican troops. And yes, I would sign off on tactical nuclear strikes on cartel stronghold towns and fortifications while convincing the Mexican government to permit these; and I wouldn't refuse to consider a possible single strategic ICBM launch if determined to be advantageous.

    Problems can be ignored, complained about, prolonged, or solved.

  17. This is sad sick what the govermemt of mexico has come to lets face it theres something fishi i think theres higher power involved in here like why is the president not doing much. Like "" nothing"" come on how can there be that many killings just sunday the 13, 2012 49 bodies wow really it keeps adding and adding and it will only get worse theres no way things will get better or any one os gonna do anythyng..

    I think the goverment is 'Durty,


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