WASHINGTON – A murderous slaughter of almost unimaginable proportions is taking place below America’s southern border – and it goes almost unnoticed by U.S. government officials here.
On Friday, a seventh victim gunned down in a private law office in central Mexico died at a hospital as police investigate links between the firm and the country’s organized crime syndicates whose revenues are made from selling drugs, smuggling people into the U.S. and arms trafficking.
Five men and a woman died Thursday in the attack in the city of Guadalajara, according to the Jalisco state attorney general’s office. Three were lawyers and the others were employees, and some of the victims were found with their hands tied. Authorities had not made any arrests.
Several leading Mexican newspapers reported, citing anonymous state judicial sources, that one of the lawyers may have been defending Archivaldo Ivan Guzman, the son of alleged Sinaloa drug cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The elder Guzman escaped from federal prison in 2001 in a laundry cart after bribing guards.
The son, also known as “El Chapito” or “Little Chapo” was sentenced in February to five years for money laundering.
In recent years, Mexico has suffered a wave of organized crime and drug-related violence that killed more than 2,500 people last year alone. According to a report in the Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua, 3,008 executions related to organized crime have taken place in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office Dec. 1, 2006 – just 15 months ago.
That horrific murder toll includes 334 police officer and 39 Mexican military personnel, who have been ordered by Calderon to support his crackdown on the drug lords.
Critics of the war on the crime gangs say the source of the problem is not being attacked.
Ernesto Mendieta, a security expert, said those ordering the killings are getting away scot-free.
“There is no intelligence which may lead me to detain the groups that are doing the killing,” he explained. “When you want to kill someone, you just kill him.”
In addition, Mexican police – even its military – find themselves outmanned and outgunned. Just last week, Mario Dominguez, commander of the state of Chihuahua’s state attorney’s “Ministerial Police” office in Ciudad Juarez, was executed while on vacation in Chihuahua City. The agency now has no command level officers left in that part of the state.
Mexico has developed into a principal route in the international drugs trade. U.S. authorities believe about 80 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. comes through. Yet, few American officials are expressing concern about the murderous mayhem escalating in Mexico. Only a few even recognize the way it is spilling over the border.
Last week, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., wrote a letter to Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan expressing his alarm over the recent rise of violence in northwest Chihuahua, requesting officials to assign additional law enforcement resources to the area.
“It is my understanding that since Feb. 12, 2008, there have been approximately 10 murders and 15-20 kidnappings in the cities of Palomas, Janos, and Ascensin,” Bingman wrote. “This violence, which appears to be related to drug trafficking activities, is highly coordinated and began with simultaneous killings and abductions in these towns. New Mexico law enforcement agencies have expressed serious concerns that this violence may spill over across the border, particularly in cases where targets flee into the United States. Renewing a sustained effort to quell drug-related violence along the border is critical at this point, and I urge you to do everything you can towards this end.”
In a separate letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, Bingaman said it is essential that the United States also provide additional law enforcement resources to southern New Mexico to combat drug trafficking activities.
“In Chihuahua, violence, corruption and threats against Ciudad Juarez municipal police continue, given that an ex-agent was riddled by gunfire inside his home, another officer was detained when he attempted to cross into the United States transporting 50 kilos of marijuana,” reported Mexico City’s Excelsior last Thursday. “Further, yesterday afternoon the city police (radio) frequency was interfered with by members of organized crime who besides making threats against some agents also broadcast three “narco-corridos” in which the narco-traffic’s supremacy over the police is extolled.”
“Narco-corridos” are Mexican country and western-style tunes with lyrics praising drug traffickers.