300 Killed Along Border As Drug Crime Thrives In Mexico

Tracey Eaton, KRT, June 5

The dead include university students, assembly-plant workers, farm hands, businessmen, journalists, money couriers, drug gang henchmen and dozens of police officers.

At least 550 people have lost their lives in drug-related executions in Mexico so far this year—with 300 of those killings in the six Mexican states bordering the United States. All are thought to be linked to organized crime, according to a review of press accounts by The Dallas Morning News.

Among the latest: A police commander assassinated in Nuevo Laredo early Thursday. Enrique Cardenas Saldana was gunned down in front of his 9-year-old daughter. He was the sixth police officer—and the fourth commander—killed in the border city this year.

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Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca told reporters last week the execution total had reached 550 this year. But accounts indicate the number could be higher. El Universal newspaper says it has documented 545 such murders just since February. And the Mexican Editorial Organization, which owns 62 newspapers, last week put the number at 800—about 37 per week.

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Beyond that, he said, there’s a simpler explanation: Crime pays.

“More than 95 percent of the crimes committed in Mexico go unpunished,” said Nahle Garcia, a member of Commission on Public Security in the Chamber of Deputies.

Nuevo Laredo Mayor Daniel Pena Trevino said last month that the job of policing has become so hazardous that no one wants to be police chief.

Federal officers have also come under attack. Sixty-two agents have died in the line of duty in Mexico since President Vicente Fox took office in 2000.

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Some hit men in northern Mexico dispatch their victims in broad daylight. Others leave the scene in Humvees, not exactly an inconspicuous getaway vehicle.

They are brazen, human rights workers say, because they aren’t worried about getting caught.

Outmanned and heavily outgunned, police officers who aren’t working in cahoots with the criminal organizations often would rather not get involved, said Raymundo Ramos, a journalist and head of a Nuevo Laredo human rights committee.

“There are only 15 federal officers in Nuevo Laredo,” he said. “They each have one rifle, one gun magazine and no bullet-proof vests. And they’re supposed to be in charge of investigating all federal crimes—drug trafficking, tax evasion, money laundering, weapons violations and people smuggling. It’s impossible.”

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