Drug warfare flares up in Mexico; more than 100 killed in five days

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Narcotics-related warfare has flared up in recent days in Mexico. Ten federal police officers were killed in twin ambushes in the state of Michoacan on Monday. An unknown number of gunmen were also killed or injured in the battle, but the surviving assailants carried off their wounded, as Ken Ellingwood reports in The Times. In the resort city of Mazatlan, the death toll rose to 29 on Tuesday in a shoot-out inside a prison on Monday morning (link in Spanish). Violence inside prisons in Mexico often reflects turf battles between cartels on the outside, and in this case the bloodshed is being linked to the Zetas group.

On Tuesday, federal authorities blamed the ambushes in Michoacan on La Familia, the cartel that controls trafficking in the state.

The 24-hour period between Thursday and Friday was the single deadliest day in Mexico’s bloody narco wars in 19 months. Using its own tally, the daily newspaper El Universal reported that 85 people were killed across the country between Thursday and Friday night in a single-day toll that far exceeded the past record -- 58 -- since Mexican President Felipe Calderon initiated his offensive against drug traffickers. Included in the figure are 19 people killed when gunmen stormed a rehabilitation center in the northern city of Chihuahua.

Elsewhere, at least 15 people were reported killed between Sunday and Monday in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit. The daily newspaper Milenio says: ‘With 15 assassinations between Sunday and early Monday, added to the 13 killed on Saturday, the total is 28 dead in the state of Nayarit, a bloody weekend, unprecedented in the police history of the state.’


Calderon is once again defending his government’s enforcement-heavy strategy against Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. On Monday his office published a lengthy letter reaffirming his administration’s commitment to confront drug trafficking head-on with military and federal firepower, saying ‘freedom’ for Mexicans is on the line. You can see that letter at the president’s website. (in Spanish)

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City