Mexico Drug War
Drug cartels are responsible for thousands of deaths a year in Mexico. Powerful cartels battle for control of territory and people, leaving anyone who tries to stop them dead in their wake. Reuters

Drug violence in Mexico last year accounted for more than 12,000 deaths. While the number is staggeringly high, it is only about six percent higher than it was in 2010.

The actual figure varies according to reports, but daily newspaper Reforma puts the number of drug-related killings at 12,359, while the Daily Milenio tallied 12,284. The government is expected to release an official figure later this month.

While the figures aren't exact, an average of about 32 people were killed in Mexico each day. Daily Milenio noted that violence spiked in the states of Veracruz and Guerrero. In a single incident in Veracruz this year 35 bodies were dumped off of a highway overpass, The Associated Press noted.

Additionally, 1,079 murdered bodies showed signs of torture, according to Reforma. Incidents of torture by drug cartels last year included victims like Guerrero state congressman Moises Villanueva de la Cruz and an anti-cartel blogger.

There were also about 600 cases of beheadings, nearly double that of 2010, and the number of female victims was 900, topping 2010 figures.

Murder rates were down in Ciudad Juarez, Baja California and Tijuana. The most dangerous states were Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipa, areas close the United States border that are prime territory for cartels shuttling drugs north.

Since 2006, more than 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico. That year, President Felipe Calderon began a militarized push to crush the country's powerful drug cartels. The initiative has led to a number of important arrests, but also pushed violence and murder rates through the roof.

Calderon will step down in 2012. The campaign for his replacement is already underway and drug violence has become one of the top issues facing presidential candidates.

Despite widespread unpopularity, Calderon's war on drugs will continue until the end of his term.

The first obligation of a government is to guarantee the security and the rights of the citizens, Calderon said in December. We have done that, and we are going to continue defending the citizens until the last day of my term.

“Those who say that it would’ve been better not to confront the criminals are roundly mistaken,” he added. “If we hadn’t done this, the criminals would have advanced on our societies and institutions.”

It is evident that we are not facing common criminals. We are facing true terrorists who have surpassed not only the limits of the law but basic common sense and respect for life, Calderon said during a State of the Union address in September.