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

The number of people who have died in the Mexican government’s war against drug cartels is fast approaching the 50,000 mark.

Mexico's Federal Attorney General's (PGR) office said that almost 13,000 people were killed in drug and organized crime-related violence in the country between January and September of last year. That translated to an 11 percent increase from the prior year -- but the government noted that the pace of the rise is slowing down sharply.

PGR officials cited that in 2009-2010, drug killings soared by 70 percent; in 2008-2009 they climbed by 63 percent; while a phenomenal 110 percent jump was recorded in 2007-2008.

Overall, 47,515 such killings have been recorded since President Felipe Calderon commenced his aggressive offensive against the drug traffickers in the final months of 2006.

The government estimated that about three-fourths of all homicides in the country are connected to the drug trade.

Genaro Garcia Luna, the Public Safety Secretary, also said during a press conference in Washington D.C. that in the first five years of Calderon’s drug war, the federal police had arrested 2,700 gang suspects and 205 gang leaders; investigated 283,000 extortion complaints and seized 10,000 tons of marijuana, 111 tons of cocaine and seized 136,000 weapons, 11,000 grenades and 13 million rounds of ammunition. The government has also seized nearly $1-billion of assets belonging to drug cartels over that period.

The endemic violence will surely dominate presidential elections to be held this summer.

Nonetheless, PGR insists that security in Mexico is gradually improving in some areas.

For example, murders in the dangerous border town of Ciudad Juarez was cut by more than half from 2,500 last year to about 1,206.

Officials also point to the fact that the murder rate in Mexico is far below those found in Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil and Venezuela.

The killings in Mexico also appear to be concentrated in only eight of the country’s 32 states.

What is especially concerning to authorities is that drug violence has now spread to formerly untouched areas like Veracruz and Mexico City (where two beheaded bodies were found in a burning car in an affluent shopping center parking lot on Wednesday).

Veracruz and Mexico City are important parts of Mexico’s tourism industry.