Amid elections, Mexico's drug violence rages on

(CBS News) MEXICO CITY - Mexico will choose a new president on Sunday. One issue dominates: drug violence. About 56,000 have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007 -- more than 6,000 this year alone -- leaving so many families torn apart.

The toll of Mexico's street war isn't measured only in deaths. It's also the toll on average citizens who are terrorized -- like one young woman that talked to CBS News. She's in hiding, afraid to reveal her identity.

She said she still lives in fear even though she is far away. She fears someone will recognize her.

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A few months ago, she was a happy wife and a mother. with a 2-year-old daughter and a baby on the way. When we met he, she couldn't stop crying. Her family had fled from Los Zetas, Mexico's most ruthless cartel, known for torture and beheadings.

Her father-in-law was the best surgeon in town. One day, a gangster's girlfriend asked him to come help a friend. Suspicious and afraid, he refused. A few weeks later, armed thugs burst into their house looking for the doctor. They found his family instead.

"They said they were going to cut our heads off," she told us. They told her they would cut her unborn baby out of her belly.

The woman thought she would die, but she worried more about her daughter. When they didn't find the doctor, the gangsters took his son -- her husband -- at gunpoint.

The woman told us she wasn't able to get a last word or touch. All she could do was look out the window and call his name.

"I hope he did," she replied when asked if he heard her. She hasn't heard of her husband since.

Valentina Peralta helps victims escape drug violence on a kind of Mexican Underground Railroad. She said all three major presidential candidates vow to stop the violence, but won't say exactly how. Most Mexicans don't think they can.

She said cartels have the money and power to intimidate police, judges and politicians -- a Frankenstein monster no one can control.

These days this woman in hiding lives in a kind of prison: no job, no money, no freedom. What she has in abundance is fear and anger. She doesn't want to raise her children on that.

  • Bill Whitaker

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