Toll mounts in Mexico's drug war
A newspaper editor and police chief are
among the latest victims. More than 2,000 have died this
year, reports say.
MEXICO CITY — The death toll in Mexico's drug war has
surpassed 2,000 this year, with a newspaper editor found
dead in the resort city of Zihuatanejo and a police
commander assassinated in Tijuana apparently among the
latest victims, according to news reports.
Another police commander was killed Monday in the northern
city of Monterrey, and four people were reported killed in
the southern state of Guerrero.
No government agency keeps a tally of the drug-related
killings, but according to human rights organizations and
newspapers, an average of six people are killed in the
country's drug wars every day.
The newspaper El Universal said Saturday that its tally of
drug-related killings for the year had reached 2,012. Last
year, more than 1,500 people were killed in violence
related to a lucrative trade in illicit drugs, including
cocaine and methamphetamines.
The death Friday of Misael Tamayo Hernandez, the editor of
the daily newspaper El Despertar de la Costa, appeared to
be the sixth killing of a Mexican journalist this year,
Reporters Without Borders said.
But in a country where drug killings are often public
events — a hail of bullets on a busy street, a decapitated
head deposited on the steps of a government building —
Tamayo's death was different.
He died before dawn in a Zihuatanejo hotel room, officials
said. His sister Ruth Tamayo, who identified his body at
the hotel, said he was neither shot, nor strangled with a
towel, nor tied up and executed, as reported by various
The editor was found with three puncture wounds on his
shoulder, she said. The coroner established the cause of
death as a heart attack, but could not rule out foul play
until a toxicology report was complete, officials said.
"We still haven't managed to understand what happened,"
Ruth Tamayo said. "We're very sad, our entire family is
distraught. We still can't believe it."
Having last seen him Thursday morning, Tamayo's family and
co-workers became worried after he failed to show up at a
6:30 p.m. meeting at his newspaper. Within an hour,
reporters and family members began searching for him.
"My brother never let the paper go to print like that,"
Ruth said. "The newspaper was his passion. He was the kind
to call in every 10 minutes to see how things were going."
Days before he was found dead, the editor had written a
column denouncing local corruption. Guerrero, which
includes Zihuatanejo and Acapulco, has been ravaged by a
battle between competing drug cartels and the police.
Tamayo's newspaper reported extensively on the violence.
Three days before Tamayo's death, Mexican President-elect
Felipe Calderon visited Zihuatanejo to deliver a speech to
a foreign trade conference. He dedicated a part of his
speech to addressing fears that the wave of drug-related
violence might chase away foreign investment.
Calderon, set to take the oath of office Dec. 1, promised
his government would not waver in its battle against drug
"It's going to take work, time and money" to win the
battle, Calderon said. "And it will probably cost us human
lives as well…. But there is no other alternative."
In April, hit men left two severed heads outside a
Guerrero state government building in Acapulco. "So that
you learn to respect," read a message scrawled on a red
sheet left nearby. In October, two more heads were found
on Acapulco's beach.
In Tijuana on Thursday, more than 10 heavily armed men
ambushed a police vehicle on a busy thoroughfare near
downtown, killing one officer in a wild shootout that left
a flower vendor and a taxi driver injured.
A police commander, Hector Gaxiola Gamez, narrowly escaped
the attack. But the next morning, gunmen again caught up
to the commander, and this time they didn't miss.
Gaxiola's body, handcuffed to that of his brother, was
found in an empty lot, disfigured by more than 100 gunshot
Gaxiola was the 19th law enforcement officer to be killed
this year in Tijuana. Many were slain after the August
capture of alleged drug lord Francisco Javier Arellano
Felix, which many experts believe has triggered a battle
for control of the lucrative narcotics trade in the city.
Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon blamed the media, saying a
story erroneously identifying Gaxiola as a witness in the
case of the killing of another police officer had led to
"Are we becoming used to this being a 'normal' day in our
country?" El Universal asked in a Saturday editorial, as
the paper reported on the deaths of Tamayo and Gaxiola.
Times staff writer Richard Marosi in Tijuana contributed
to this report.