Mexico’s drug cartels unleash a weekend of bloody violence*
Armed men burst into a drug rehab centre in the Mexican border city of Tijuana and killed up to 13 people. While police would only confirm today that 10 people were shot dead, officials had been celebrating a decline in the terror unleashed on the city by the drug cartels.
Targeting Rehab Clinics
The attackers made the addicts lie on the floor and then sprayed them with bullets, killing 13 during the assault on Sunday night, according to one witness, Jesus, who asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of reprisals. There are normally about 45 clients at this ramshackle, privately run treatment centre and the people sleeping upstairs survived.
Police have not identified the motive behind the massacre but gangs have attacked clinics in other cities to target rivals.
It was the second massacre of the weekend in Mexico: 14 people were killed on Friday night when gunmen stormed a birthday party in another border city, Ciudad Juárez. The victims ranged from 13 to 32 years old, and most of them were high school students, a survivor said.
But the attack in Tijuana is the first mass killing at an addiction treatment centre in a city praised for its anti-gang efforts. In Ciudad Juárez, several such attacks have killed dozens of recovering addicts; and these killings have been accompanied by a message from an unknown voice – “this is a taste of Juárez” – heard over a police radio frequency.
Just two weeks ago, President Felipe Calderón singled out Tijuana as a success in his campaign against the drug cartels, adding that homicides are down from a peak in 2008. And just a week ago, on 18 October, security agencies seized a record 134 tonnes of marijuana in the city.
However, since the president’s visit the gangs have resumed gruesome tactics not seen in the Tijuana for months, beheading rivals and hanging bodies from bridges. The deliberate intensification of the violence, according to some residents, is meant to undermine Calderón’s message.
In Ciudad Juárez, Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office, said three police officers were killed outside their patrol vehicle on Sunday, the same day that police in the Pacific coast state of Guerrero found the executed bodies of six men on a highway outside the resort city of Acapulco. They had been blindfolded, their hands and feet bound, and they were shot; the killers left three handwritten messages with bodies, a tactic used by Mexico’s drug cartels to threaten their rivals or the authorities. Police, however, routinely do not reveal the contents of such messages.
Nationwide, More than 28,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug gang violence since December 2006, when Calderón deployed soldiers in a war against the cartels in their strongholds in northern Mexico and along the Pacific coast.
Most of the dead were involved in the drug trade, according to the government, but innocent bystanders have also died, such as the three people killed in the crossfire of a shootout between gunmen, police and soldiers in northern Coahuila state.
The victims were a 14-year-old boy and two women, aged 18 and 47. The state prosecutors’ office said gunmen travelling in two vehicles opened fire on a convoy of federal police and soldiers in the city of Saltillo. The officers and soldiers returned fire.
The state attorney general’s office said it was investigating who fired the fatal rounds. “They are civilians who unfortunately died in the exchange of gunfire,” said the statement, which described a running series of confrontations between police and the assailants who allegedly fired shots into the air to clear people from their path at one point.