William Booth / Washington Post – 2010-06-19 11:02:57
MEXICO CITY (June 17, 2010) — An explosion of drug violence in Mexico has claimed hundreds of lives in the past five days and prompted the country’s president to issue a 5,000-word manifesto warning that the fight against organized crime must continue “or we will always live in fear.”
As the latest spasm of killing has spread across the country, cartel assassins, local thugs, and federal troops have died in running gun battles, highway ambushes, and prison melees. On Tuesday, shooting broke out in the tourist town of Taxco. Mexican Army troops, acting on a tip, raided a house and a firefight ensued, leaving 14 gunmen dead.
The string of attacks since Thursday has included the execution-style slaying of 19 drug addicts in a rehabilitation clinic and several assaults targeting police, including an ambush that killed 12 federal officers.
In an editorial printed in newspapers Monday, President Felipe Calderon defended his drug war as vital to the country’s national security. More than 23,000 people have died in drug-related violence since December 2006, when Calderon first sent the military into the streets, according to a government report.
The Mexican president directly blamed the United States.
“The origin of our violence problem begins with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world,” Calderon wrote. “It is as if our neighbor were the biggest drug addict in the world.”
The cartels, Calderon said, have grown rich and bold — fed with billions of dollars from the United States. Specialists estimate that $10 billion to $25 billion in drug profits flow to Mexico each year from the north. About 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico. Meanwhile, many of the weapons the cartels use are smuggled into Mexico from the United States.
Calderon said Mexico would be in a worse state if his administration had not taken on criminal gangs. It is a battle that is supported by the Obama administration and Congress, which has dedicated $1.3 billion in aid.
The Mexican newspapers that keep running tallies of drug-related violence reported last week that a record was set when 85 people died in a 24-hour period.
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