Mexico's Brutal Turf War

(AP Photo)
This was written by CBS News producer Susana Seijas in Mexico City

For Mexicans living in Ciudad Juarez, this week's massacre at the rehab center could've been just another violent day in Mexico's deadliest city.

But this latest killing spree has jolted Juarez, recently dubbed "Mexico's murder capital."

Wednesday's rampage on a drug rehab center claimed the lives of 18 men shot down by an armed commando with AK-47s. The multiple homicides are reported to have taken place in a matter of 10 to 15 minutes.

The killings were so brazen, that after the execution-style killings, the drug rehab walls were bathed in blood.

Sadly, the dead are just another statistic to add to the ever growing number of Mexicans killed in Juarez this year. So far there have been around 1,500 people killed in this border city just across from El Paso, Texas.

The terrifying number of people killed in Juarez tells the story of a brutal turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels. These powerful cartels are not only fighting for control of trade routes into the U.S., the largest market for drugs in the world, but for an ever increasing market share of Mexicans now consuming drugs.

Read Angela Kocherga's Border Blog

The rehab killings happened a few hours after President Felipe Calderon gave his yearly state of the nation address, when he reiterated the importance of his administration's war on drugs.

That same day, back in Calderón's home state of Michoacán, José Manuel Revueltas, the Michoacán deputy minister for Public Security was gunned down in a drive-by shooting just outside the building of the state Public Security Ministry. Revuelta's two bodyguards and a bystander were also killed in the attack.

But why were these men killed at the "El Aliviane" drug rehab center? Patricia González, the Chihuahua State prosecutor, where Juarez is located, said the men were most likely killed by rivals. Gonzalez also said that drug rehab centers are often used by drug cartel members as hide-outs from rival gangs.

Up to now, there is no evidence that the 18 killed were members of a cartel. This did not stop Mexican headlines, such as ones found in today's "La Prensa" from declaring: "Eran narquitos," or "They were little narcos."

A more heavily substantiated article in Friday's reports that the massacre at the rehab center "is part of a final push by one drug cartel to finish off another."

Drug violence in Juarez has reached such levels that President Felipe Calderón sent in 4, 500 troops to Juarez this year alone as part of his administration's military surge to keep law and order in Juarez's lawless streets.

Since Calderón took office in December 2006, more than 13, 000 people have been killed in drug-related violence across Mexico. Although Calderón's approval ratings are high (68 percent according to the daily Reforma) many here are asking whether his war on drugs is working.
  • Susana Seijas

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