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Mexico’s War With Drug Cartels Claims More Lives

June 16, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: And now to a more immediate concern along the Mexico border: the deadly and escalating war between the government and robust drug cartels.

Ray Suarez has our look.

RAY SUAREZ: The latest spasm of violence has erupted at points all over Mexico, including a drug rehab center where two dozen gunmen killed 19 people last week. That was in the northern city of Chihuahua. Sixteen others were gunned down in the eastern city of Ciudad Madero. And, this week, there’s been major bloodshed in the west and in the south in regions beyond Mexico City.

On Monday, 29 inmates died at this prison in Sinaloa state, as rival gang members battled. They were among nearly 100 people killed that day across Mexico, including a dozen federal police officers. And, yesterday, troops killed 15 suspected gang members in a shoot-out here among colonial buildings in the tourist town of Taxco.

In all, more than 23,000 people have died in the last three-and-a-half years, since President Felipe Calderon ordered thousands of soldiers and federal police to stop the drug cartels.

Last night, Calderon made a nationally televised appeal, asking Mexicans for help.

FELIPE CALDERON, Mexican president (through translator): Your participation is vital, because this is everyone’s fight. For this reason, the information that you give us is key in helping us advance in this fight.

RAY SUAREZ: The Mexican leader also wrote an essay in the country’s newspapers Monday blaming U.S. demand for drugs. He wrote: “The origin of our violence problem begins with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world.”

Calderon had voiced that same complaint in a speech to the U.S. Congress last month. The Mexican government is also taking aim at money-laundering, announcing new limits Tuesday on cash transactions in U.S. dollars.

ERNESTO CORDERO, Mexican finance secretary (through translator): This measure is part of a strategy to combat not only drug trafficking, but also organized crime, which implies the closing of avenues for dollars coming from possibly illicit origins.

RAY SUAREZ: It’s estimated $10 billion to $25 billion in drug profits flow to Mexico each year from the U.S.