A few years back a friend of mine, who works for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told me a full blown war was breaking out in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez, opposite El Paso, where he works. At the time I thought he was just being hyperbolic, as drug gangs routinely assassinate market rivals, and my attention was focused on America’s two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, he wasn’t exaggerating.
Nearly 10,000 Mexican troops, with U.S. agency support, occupied Ciudad Juarez nearly two years ago, a move that has had little effect on levels of violence there; some 10 murders occur every day in that city. Mexico’s vicious drug cartels have now expanded the war with Saturday’s targeted killings of two American officials from the U.S. consulate in Juarez.
I don’t know enough about the drug war in Mexico, although I’m working on redressing that deficiency, and I’ll be posting more about the war there, because I truly believe it is a war. I saw the handiwork of vicious drug cartels when I lived in Peru for a couple of years, at the height of that country’s war against the Shining Path insurgency, which I guess was more a mix of traffickers and anti-government guerrillas.
For some reason, perhaps because of the enormous sums of money involved, cartel enforcers constantly try to outdo each other with the depravity of their acts. The violence in the Mexican border towns reads like something out of a Cormac McCarthy novel (You know the one, Blood Meridian. If you haven’t read it, do so. I consider it quite possibly the best novel I’ve ever read).
Here, for example, is just a single AP news report from a single day in Ciudad Juarez, from early January:
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Police found two severed heads and the bullet-ridden bodies of two women and a handicapped man in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, the latest chapter in Mexico's increasingly gory drug war.
The killing of women or handicapped people has been rare in a conflict that has cost more than 15,000 lives in the past three years. But drug gangs appear to using such killings — and progressively more gruesome mutilations — to intimidate rivals and the public.
Prosecutors in northern Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located, said the first man's body was found on a street late Friday with its hands and head cut off. Between the hands was a message with characteristics similar to those usually left by organized crime gangs.
Another man's body, with its head cut off and eyes gouged out, was found elsewhere. Mexican news media reported that a handwritten message was found nearby but Mexican police rarely disclose the contents of such notes, which the cartels use to insult and intimidate their rivals.
The two women's bodies were found in a vacant lot in Ciudad Juarez late Friday.
The body of a man whose legs had been surgically amputated some time ago was also found Friday on a dirt road on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso.
Also Friday, a man riding a bicycle was shot to death in the city, five people were killed in drive-by shootings and a group of three men were shot to death at a fast-food restaurant near a school.
On Thursday, police in the northern city of Los Mochis, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, found the dismembered body of a man whose face had been skinned and stitched onto a soccer ball.