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As drug cartels wage turf wars to gain transportation routes into the United States, the number of deaths resulting from gang-related violence in Mexico has doubled in the past year, shifting from 2,477 in 2007 to over 5,300 in 2008.
The most recent wave of killings occurred in December, with the gruesome discovery of eight bodies showing signs of torture in the state of Chiapas, in southeastern Mexico on Dec. 23. Three of the bodies were identified as local merchants.
The findings came just two days after Mexican authorities uncovered nine decapitated bodies and their severed heads in the southeastern state of Guerrero. Eight were identified as soldiers, with the ninth body being that of a high-ranking police official.
The discoveries have left Mexican citizens terrified and bring a very bloody year—with the death toll up 117% from last year—to a close. A USA Today article reported that the violence has even caused parents to keep their children out of school to prevent them from becoming victims of the violence in Juarez, a border city that was rocked by more than 1,530 killings in 2008 and is the place of the mysterious murders of hundreds of women.
Since December 2006, 40,000 soldiers and police have been deployed across the country to try to break up the powerful drug cartels. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has repeatedly stated his desire to ally with the United States to crack down on the violence.
But although the U.S. has contributed $133 million to the Merida Initiative, a government-sponsored program aimed to help Mexico combat drug cartels, Mexican Ambassador Carlos Rico said until the U.S. stops consuming cocaine, the cause is hopeless. The U.S. State Department estimates that 90% of all cocaine reaches the U.S. via the country’s southern neighbor.
“‘The key market in this case is a U.S. Market, that in spite of very, very impressive efforts that the U.S. government has put into reducing demand, it has remained as pretty much as it used to be a few years ago,’ [Mr. Rico] said. ‘So as long as that demand is there and the impressive possibility of amazing profits of illegal operators and criminal organizations, it is going to be pretty much impossible for Mexico to solve the issue’” (Voice of America).