Seven people were killed in the northwestern Mexican port city of Mazatlán on Monday with some of the incidents tied to drug cartels operating within the region, a police spokesman said.
“A series of crimes occurred in different parts of the city,” the spokesman said. The first death occurred after a man opened fire on police officers in the popular tourist neighborhood of Villa Union.
Two separate incidents left another two people dead in neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts, while gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles killed a 35-year old man in an alleged drug hit. The bodies of two other men were found in an SUV north of the city and finally gunmen opened fire on two people traveling in another vehicle, killing the passenger.
Mazatlán is located in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, home to the drug cartel of the same name. The Sinaloa Cartel is headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who along with holding the title of the most wanted person by the F.B.I. and Interpol, is listed as one of the richest people in the world by Forbes Magazine.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.
Guzmán was arrested in 1993 in Guatemala, but in 2001 pulled off a daring escape from a maximum-security prison in the western Mexican state of Jalisco.
While Mazatlán and other Mexican cities continue to deal with widespread violence from the country’s drug war, the border of city of Tijuana has reported a drop in the level of drug murders.
The massacres and dead bodies that plagued Tijuana a few years ago have slowed thanks in part to the Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel allegedly gaining control over the city and its lucrative drug smuggling corridors to the United States.
Tijuana, home to both trashy bars and brothels as well as renowned contemporary artists, has seen one of the most dramatic drops in violence in all of Mexico. To date this year the city has seen only 349 homicides, compared with the peak years of 820 in 2010 and 844 in 2008.
The Mexican government has claimed credit for the turn around in violence as in 2009 it sent droves of police and soldiers to the region in an attempt to dismantle the once-dominant Arellano Felix Cartel. However, some security experts see the gap filled by the Sinaloa Cartel after the demise of the Arellano Felix Cartel as the main reason for the drop in violent crime rates.
“The drugs continue flowing, without a doubt. What has diminished is violence between criminal groups,” Edgardo Buscaglia, a security expert at Mexico’s ITAM university told Reuters. “Organized crime continues, not only drug trafficking but extortion, kidnapping, human smuggling and gun running. But it’s under a consolidated group (Sinaloa).”
Mexican President Felipe Calderón recently boasted that the government’s effort to combat drug cartels was succeeding.
During his annual national report to Congress, Calderón said that he has strengthened the rule of law and fought against drug gangs like never before. The report states that 21 of Mexico’s 37 most wanted criminals have been killed or captured and that the government has confiscated $12.7 billion in assets from drug gangs.
The president, however, has been under fire since he declared war on the cartels shortly after taking office in 2006. Since then more than 40,000 people have died in drug related violence, with 15,270 people being killed last year alone.
Photo: DennisSylvesterHurd @ Flickr.