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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Zetas disclaim responsibility in dumping of 49 bodies

Columnist says killings are part of failed drug war and says collateral damage from drug war is increasing
Still, death toll so far this year shows projected decline despite high-profile massacres

UPDATE, MAY 21: Authorities say Zetas indeed were behind dumping of bodies.

The Zetas this week have been disclaiming responsibility in the dumping of 49 bodies in Cadereyta in Nuevo León state, indicating that the Sinaloa Cartel may be trying to sway public opinion against them. Markings indicating the Zetas were involved had been left at the site where the bodies were dumped. The Zetas' disclaimers were put up in Ciudad Valles in San Luis Potosí state, as well as in Nuevo León and Zacatecas states. Story in Frontera (PDF). The Sinaloa Cartel is also known as the Pacific Cartel.

Also this week, columnist Sergio Sarmiento linked the killings to what he called the country's failed drug war. He said that while high-profile drug traffickers have been captured or killed, drug use does not appear to have dropped and collateral damage from the drug war is growing. Sarmiento's column (PDF).

Still, the death toll for this year appears to be headed for a drop over last year's, despite the large number of massacres. The following table cites some of the figures mentioned in Sarmiento's column: a projection of the deaths so far this year points to a possible decline over last year's death toll. Last year, the rate of increase in the homicide rate dropped dramatically. Mexico actually has a homicide rate lower than much of the rest of Latin America, but headline-grabbing mass killings make it appear worse than it is (while still nothing to be proud of).

Year Reforma death tally   % increase
2006 2,119    
2007 2,275   7.4%
2008 5,207   128.9%
2009 6,587   26.5%
2010 11,583   75.8%
2011 12,366   6.3%
2012 10,875 (projected*) 3,952 (to May 12)  
Total 44,089 (to May 12)
Note: Reforma count is lower than actual toll, which is more than 50,000; see USD Transborder Institute 2011 drug violence report, Page 9 (PDF file)


It remains to be seen what will happen through the end of the year. Mexican analyst Ricardo Raphael, in an appearance at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego last week, said he fears there will be an increase in organized crime violence after Mexico's July 1 presidential election. He said this might occur because of the apparent coming shift in power from the National Action Party to the Institutional Revolutionary Party. He said the PAN has been perceived as favoring the Sinaloa (Pacific) Cartel, while the PRI has been heading governorships in many northern states where the Zetas or Gulf Cartel have held sway. He noted that there was a runup of violence after Felipe Calderón was elected president in July 2006.

Update, May 20: Nine detained in Cadereyta slayings, but the group they worked for is not mentioned. Among those detained was alleged leader Daniel "El Loco" Elizondo. Seized were four rifles, a pistol, three granades, 881 cartridges, a kilo of what was suspected to be cocaine and communications equipment. Story, El Mexicano (PDF). Jump.
Update, May 21: Authorities say El Loco was a Zeta member.