New Drug War Besets Mexico, Worries U.S.

Chris Hawley, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Jan. 30

MEXICO CITY—A new drug war is raging in Mexico, with a wave of prison killings and gang executions that has alarmed U.S. officials and sown fear from the resort town of Cancun to the Tijuana border.

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The violence began months ago when, according to top drug prosecutor Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the main drug-smuggling gangs in Tijuana and around the Gulf of Mexico formed an alliance to challenge the powerful Juarez Cartel.

The reputed head of the Gulf cartel, Osiel Cardenas, is serving time in the same prison as Benjamin Arellano Felix, one of the leaders of the Tijuana smuggling gang. Their nemesis is Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a drug smuggler who escaped from prison in 2001.

The first stirrings of a new drug war came in November, when nine people, including two informers and three federal agents, were killed and their bodies dumped outside the resort town of Cancun.

Since then, drug-related killings have soared along the Mexican border with Texas and California, the main crossing points for drugs. In the first two weeks of 2005, 19 people were killed execution-style in Tijuana. Another 28 were killed in Tamaulipas state, on the Texas border, between Jan. 1 and Jan. 20.

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U.S. officials say that the drug violence is adding to lawlessness on the border and that the crime wave is beginning to sweep up Americans as well. Twenty-one U.S. citizens have been kidnapped since mid-August around Nuevo Laredo, on the Texas border, and two have been killed, the American consul in Nuevo Laredo said this month. Nine were released and 10 still are missing.

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