Mass killings in Mexico

The violence and killing that has become for many part of daily life in Mexico has recently become even more intense. Despite the heavy military presence in many regions the drug cartels are still brazen enough to carry out mass killings in order to eliminate opponents in the escalating drug war. The latest incident occurred on Tuesday (15/09/09) when hooded gunmen again stormed into a rehabilitation clinic in Ciudad Juarez in the north of Mexico and killed ten of the patients inside. Two weeks earlier gunmen rounded up a group of patients at another clinic in the same city, ushered them into a corridor and opened fire. Seventeen of the young men died in the clinic while another later died of his wounds in hospital, several more received injuries. Rehabilitation clinics are often used as a refuge by cartel members who know they are wanted dead. This audacious act of violence was on such a level that even it shocked Ciudad Juarez’s battle worn residents who have seen more than 1000 drug related killings in their city this year.

Another worrying factor in this bloody war to profit from the US drug habit is that the victims of drug killings are becoming younger and younger. At the beginning of the month three youngsters between the ages of thirteen and sixteen were gunned down by an armed group at a set of traffic lights where they were cleaning car windscreens. A couple of days before this Mexicans were again in shock due to the cold-blooded massacre of a group of eight youngsters in the state of Sinaloa. Three of the group were minors and two were females, the massacre took place in a crowded are which is popular with socialising youngsters.

Surely these examples only underline what the Brazilian former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has recently stated, that the hard-line war on drugs has failed and the consequences have been disastrous for Latin America. The repercussions for Mexico are that tit-for-tat murders are evolving into mass killings, once the hallmark of counter-insurgency policies in Latin America during the cold war. The Mexican government has responded to the increase in violence with increased militarisation. In many of the most violent regions the military are being used in a law enforcement role. Thousands of extra police and troops have been deployed to Ciudad Juarez alone but Septembers’ events have shown that the drug cartel’s can still carry out large-scale killing operations unhindered.

 The irony is that while post-revolutionary Mexico was one of the only Latin American countries not to have been ruled by a military dictatorship, the current militarisation has given the army significant authority over Mexico’s citizens. The use of the military in a law enforcement role which the President has justified as necessary to increase public security has lead to a significant increase in human rights abuses. Accusations of abuse by soldiers are taken to a military tribunal instead of a civilian tribunal leading to a conflict of interest. The consequence of this is an atmosphere of impunity and few cases of human rights abuses lead to a conviction. Regardless of large-scale accusation of Human Rights abuse the US government is still going ahead with the Merida Initiative, a funding package to provide military and law enforcement training and equipment in Mexico and Central America.