Even among Calderon's supporters, however, there are complaints that the president underestimated the scope of the problem, dispatched an inadequately prepared army and is not fighting on the political and economic fronts. Consequently, the backlash has been bloodier than anticipated.
With plenty of money, the traffickers continue to protect themselves and buy their way into governments, says Edgardo Buscaglia, an expert on organized crime who advises Mexico's Congress.
In the latest and potentially most explosive scandal, Sinaloan traffickers allegedly bought off senior antidrug officials in far-off Mexico City, acquiring inside information on Calderon's ground war against smugglers.
Buscaglia warns against the "Afghanistan-ization" of Mexico, in which rival kingpins gradually take over different states.
"If one criminal organization takes over one state, and another criminal organization takes another, then you have the ingredients of civil war," Buscaglia said. Mexico is not there yet, Buscaglia said, but that breakdown looms as a real danger.
Buscaglia believes traffickers already control 8% of Mexico's municipalities, or about 200 cities and towns, based on his analysis of data such as arrest warrants issued for police, army detentions of elected officials, and the presence of sanctioned criminal activity such as drug sales and prostitution.
Leading the pack was the state of Sinaloa, with 32.
Jesus Vizcarra Calderon, the mayor of Culiacan, felt compelled late last year to deny rumors that his considerable fortune came from Sinaloan traffickers. Vizcarra has been tapped by the governor of Sinaloa to be the PRI's candidate in next year's gubernatorial elections.
Sinaloa state legislator Oscar Felix Ochoa also denied criminal activity after his three brothers were arrested in June, allegedly holding nearly 40 pounds of cocaine, weapons and cash. At the same time, the army discovered a safe house harboring gunmen implicated in the slaying of federal police, with more than $5 million stashed in a strongbox. The house had belonged to Felix Ochoa, the army said.
Del Rincon, the crusading legislator, used to lead the charge against Felix Ochoa. One day, someone sent a funeral wreath to her home with her name on it.
She is more careful these days about attacking individuals, but she is more determined than ever to challenge a doped-up status quo.
"All society is contaminated," she said. "We are being held hostage. . . . If we remain silent, where will we end up?"
After a lifetime struggling to keep her family safe from traffickers, Del Rincon was dismayed when her son started dressing like the buchones -- the young wannabes who emulate traffickers.
"If we don't dress like this, the girls won't even look at us," she recalled her son saying.
"It is fashionable to be a narco," Del Rincon said, shaking her head. "It's status."
In the cemeteries of Sinaloa, many members of the new generation rest, having met premature death. Families spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to erect mausoleums that adulate the life that put their kin in their graves. The crypts are built with imported Italian marble, mosaics, crystal chandeliers, Corinthian columns and French doors.
In one, "Lupito" rests in peace with his AK-47; "Beta," "Payan" and dozens more take their journey to the afterlife amid statues of the Virgin Mary, and accompanied by bottles of tequila, cans of Tecate beer and packs of Marlboros.
The average age of these men, all buried in the last few months, is less than 25 years.