Monday, January 2, 2012

Five year drug war death toll is 46,969, claims MILENIO

Mexico's Milenio news network reported today that 46,969 people have died in the country's five year old drug war, launched in December 2006 by president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. The network cited no source for the calculation, apart from its own tally. The government has not officially reported an estimated death count since Jan. 2011.

[Update: Mexican government releases official drug war death tally January 11:].

Milenio also reported that 12,284 persons were killed in 2011, 398 less than in 2010. In the month of December alone, 905 people died, including 41 women, 19 police officers and 14 children -- all of them at the hands of drug traffickers and organized crime. In 2011, a total of 578 police officers, 633 women, 237 children and 42 government functionaries of differing ranks were murdered in events related to narco violence, according to Milenio.

President Calderón's term ends in November. Mexico will elect a new president on July 1.

Calderón and top members of his administration face war crime allegations which were filed with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands last November, by Mexican social activists and "intellectuals." They stand accused of human rights violations, most of them centered around alleged abuses by Mexican armed forces against innocent civilians. A Human Rights Watch study issued in November found what it said were 24 unjustified killings, 39 unsolved disappearances and 170 instances of torture committed by Mexican troops during the anti-cartel offensive. Some had expected larger numbers, and were surprised by the rather anemic report. When it was issued, Calderón met with HRW officials and responded, "Criminals present the greatest threat to human rights."

The Mexican government's position is that at least 90% of those killed in the 61 month old conflict were working for drug cartels, or otherwise involved in narcotics trafficking and related organized crime enterprises.

Two of the 2012 presidential candidates, PRI nominee Enrique Peña Nieto and PRD nominee Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have said that if elected, they will remove the armed forces from the conflict and "return troops to their quarters." PAN pre-candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, an avid supporter of the Calderón drug war strategy, disagrees, and has said she would leave troops in the fight until security in Mexico greatly improves.

The U.S. government says that Mexican drug cartels have established a strong foothold in many regions of the country, and launder up to $40 billion per year in narcotics profits and proceeds from other illegal enterprises through American banks. A bill introduced in the House of Representatives last year, HR 3401, would declare the drug cartels international terrorist organizations, and would authorize a coordinated strategy by federal agencies and departments to directly combat the threat presented. The United States has been an active supporter of Mexico's anti-cartel offensive since 2008, through the Mérida Initiative. The $1.6 billion aid program approved by the U.S. Congress includes state of the art military equipment, intelligence sharing and training for over 50,000 security personnel.

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