Thursday, August 14, 2008

270 police assassinations in Mexico this year

Yesterday I read in El Publico, a local daily, that so far this year 270 police and drug enforcement officials have been assassinated by organized crime figures. Many are tortured before they are killed.

The head of the bank police in Oaxaca was assassinated by a group of gunmen one morning in January while he was walking in a park. (Notimex photo)

The death toll is more than one a day, and it is highest in the state of Chihuahua, which borders Texas. Particularly dangerous is the city of Ciudad Juarez, right across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Second-most dangerous state is Sinaloa, which is on the Pacific Coast, about halfway between Mexico City and the U.S. border.

Being a drug enforcement officer in Mexico must be like being a police officer in Iraq. You sign up because...why? You believe in the mission? There are no other jobs? The money is pretty good?

Druggies in the U.S. provide the money to finance organized crime here. The money flows are staggering in their size and impact on Mexican life. The money is used to bribe local officials, start popular community programs and buy heavy weaponry to take out the police and army. By comparison, the police and the army are poorly paid and poorly armed.

(Update: On Aug. 16, El Universal published a story saying that murders by organized crime in Mexico totaled 2,682 so far in 2008, more than all of 2007.)

The kidnapping industry
There has also been a great outcry lately after some high-profile kidnapping cases in which the criminals were led by police from the kidnapping units.

The tendency here has been to pay the ransom, which of course has encouraged more kidnappings. President Felipe Calderón recently proposed life sentences for kidnappers, and the issue is being hotly debated.

The kidnappers have targeted business owners and their families, as well as conspicuous consumers. Memo: Sell that Hummer.

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