At Least 40 Killed in Mexico in 24 Hours
MEXICO CITY – Mexican officials Saturday blamed turf wars between some of the country's most brutal drug cartels for a wave of violence across the nation that killed more than 40 people in three attacks, including 21 people massacred in a nightclub in the northern business capital of Monterrey.
The bloodiest attack took place Friday night at the gritty Sabino Gordo bar, when gunmen with assault rifles shot down patrons and workers in Monterrey, a business center that has become a battleground between the Zetas drug gang and the Gulf Cartel from the next-door state of Tamaulipas.
That same day, eleven people were found shot to death in Chalco, just outside of Mexico City. One person survived the attack. On Saturday, the decapitated bodies of 10 people, including three women, turned up in the northern city of Torreon in the trunk of a vehicle.
The carnage was the latest evidence that despite the capture of many top cartel leaders, Mexico's government is making little headway in its battle against escalating drug violence.
During the last four years, drug-related violence has claimed at least 42,000 lives, according to tallies by Mexican newspapers. Most of the dead have been killed by warring drug cartels fighting over routes to the U.S. and increasingly lucrative domestic drug markets.
In a message on his Twitter account, President Felipe Calderón said he "energetically condemned" the attacks in Chalco and Monterrey.
Since taking office in December of 2006, Mr. Calderón has sent out thousands of army troops and federal police to reclaim large areas of Mexico effectively controlled by drug gangs. Although Mr. Calderón has been able to capture or kill many leading drug capos, his government's inability to dampen the violence has led many Mexicans to question his policy and created a growing protest movement.
"The violence is the result of the competition by different criminal groups for control of plazas," said Alejandro Poiré, the Federal government's security spokesman in a news conference Saturday. Mr. Poiré said Mexico would continue its strategy of "weakening" criminal organizations by going after cartel leaders, as well as the organizations' logistics, money and weapons.
A top official in Nuevo Leon, whose capital is Monterrey, said the bar where the killings took place was a well known drug distribution point run by the Zetas drug cartel, which controls most of the drug trade in Monterrey. The official said the attack was likely the work of the rival Gulf Cartel. The Zetas were once the enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, but have been fighting their former employers since last year for control of Monterrey and other northern cities.
In Torreon, in the northern state of Coahuila, the Zetas are engaged in another war with the Pacific Cartel, run by Mexico's most powerful drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, for control of the city. A Torreon police official said that signs found alongside the bodies were signed by the Zetas and that the dead, whose heads were prominently displayed on bridges and traffic crossovers, most likely were low-level members of Mr. Guzman's organization.
"The Zetas are the authors (of this crime)," the official said. "They signed the signs saying: Send more of these. We are here and aren't going anywhere."
The 11 dead found in Chalco, a Mexico City suburb, had been bound and had their faces covered with brown tape, according to the State of Mexico's Attorney General Office. Police sources say the Knights Templar, a drug trafficking organization based in Michoacan state, could be responsible for the massacre.
The Knights Templars are an offshoot of La Familia, a crime organization which controls much of violence-wracked Michoacan state. The Chalco massacre is a worrying development given Chalco's proximity to Mexico City, which so far has largely been able to avoid the violence that has afflicted much of the country.
Over the weekend, Mexico's Federal Police said it had sent some 1,800 of its forces to Michoacan, including several Black Hawk helicopters and armored vehicles. The move came following several days of clashes between federal officials and members of organized crime. At least 11 gun men were killed over two days of clashes, while seven federal police were wounded, according to the Federal Police.
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