The Washington Post

In Mexico 12,000 killed in drug violence in 2011

About 12,000 people were slain last year in Mexico’s surging drug violence, according to grim tallies reported Monday by the country’s leading media outlets. Annual indexes of torture, beheadings and the killing of women all showed increases.

More than 50,000 people have been killed during President Felipe Calderon’s U.S.-backed military confrontation with organized crime and drug trafficking, which began in 2006.

The Calderon government, after promising to update figures regularly, has not reported its own death count, perhaps because the trend line does not look good. A government spokesman said new figures would be released later this month. The ruling party is facing national elections this summer, in which the main opposition party threatens to retake the presidency.

The daily newspaper Reforma, one of the nation’s most respected independent news outlets, reported 12,359 drug-related killings in 2011, a 6.3 percent increase compared with the previous year. There were 2,275 drug killings in 2007, Reforma said.

Other media reported similar numbers.

Daily Milenio recorded 12,284 drug-related deaths last year.

La Jornada counted 11,890 deaths in 2011, which it says is an 11 percent decrease from the previous year. Regardless, in its annual tally La Jornada featured a cartoon that showed Father Time 2011 lying in the desert with his head chopped off.

In the Reforma count, the number of bodies that showed signs of torture grew to 1,079. Beheadings reached almost 600, up from 389 the year before. Reforma also found that women increasingly were victims of drug violence, with more than 900 slain last year.

The newspaper did not offer a count of juveniles or children killed, but children increasingly have been caught in the crossfire or intentionally targeted to send a chilling message that the drug gangs will stop at nothing.

One of the few bright spots is that the homicide rate appears to be down by about a third in the border manufacturing hub Ciudad Juarez, once dubbed Murder City. Baja California and Tijuana also saw decreases in homicides.

Yet the violence has steadily spread across Mexico. The states that abut Texas — Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas — remain the most deadly. But new zones of conflict, such as the once-mellow gulf coast state of Veracruz, are now gripped by a wave of killing.

William Booth is The Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief. He was previously bureau chief in Mexico, Los Angeles and Miami.

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