But there's even more evidence the cartels are operating with near impunity as they wage bloody battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the U.S. It's only 28 days into the new year and already there have been 400 drug-related slayings across Mexico.
Last year ended with a grisly flourish: 12 soldiers were found decapitated with this note: "For every one of us you kill, we'll kill 10."
"These criminal kingpins are not afraid of government authority," said Rand Corp. terror expert Brian Jenkins. "They're willing to take it on directly."
The cartel carnage and brutality are escalating so rapidly - and the authorities are so besieged - that some U.S. analysts are warning that Mexico is in danger of collapse, leaving a lawless, failed state right across the southern U.S. border.
A recent Pentagon report warned that if trends continue into the next decade, the U.S. must be on alert for the possible "rapid and sudden collapse" of Mexico.
"We are not inclined to think of our relationship with Mexico, or our southern border as a national security problem," Jenkins said, "but if this trajectory continues, it will become so."
"Well, I certainly don't think it is a failed state," said Jorge Casteneda, former foreign minister of Mexico, who adds that the Obama administration can't afford to let it become one. Casteneda also has other concerns. "I'm very scared about threats and danger to American interests in Mexico."
Meeting with Mexico's president two weeks ago, then-President-elect Obama pledged cooperation.
Mexico's President Felipe Calderon says the solution will be found by working together.
"We need to combat together this common problem, our fight with organized crime," he said.
Casteneda says Mexico needs "much more U.S. support and involvement. Much more money, much more effort, much more intelligence-sharing."
And that's on top of the $400 million for hardware, software and training the U.S. has already pledged to help Mexico fight the cartels.
It's yet another challenge for the new president: help stop this bloodbath before it drenches both sides of the border.