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Mexican Border
55 killed this year by drug-cartel push for border control

Posted: June 4, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2005

"It's a war – kidnappings, murders and disappearances are the order of the day," said human rights activist Mauro Cruz about the situation in Mexico near the U.S. border.

Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca told reporters last week that the murder total had reached 550 this year. But accounts indicate the number could be higher.

El Universal newspaper says it has documented 545 such murders just since February. And the Mexican Editorial Organization, which owns 62 newspapers, last week put the number at 800 – about 37 per week.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza told a crowd in Monterrey last month that "drug cartels ... are destroying the economic and social fabric of our communities."

The most violent spot on the Texas-Mexico border has been Nuevo Laredo with 45-drug-related murders so far this year. That's up from 37 for all of 2004, according to the Reynosa human rights center.

Federal officers have also come under attack. Sixty-two agents have died in the line of duty in Mexico since President Vicente Fox took office in 2000.

The dead include university students, assembly-plant workers, farm hands, businessmen, journalists, money couriers, drug gang henchmen and dozens of police officers.

At the center of the violent storm along the border are U.S.-trained Mexican commandos conducting a bloody war for control of the entire border in an effort to secure a monopoly on drug-smuggling routes, according to U.S. law enforcement officials.

Los Zetas were trained as elite commandos by U.S. forces to combat the drug cartels, but they have switched sides and are working for the drug smugglers in the border area posing a special hazard to American law enforcement and Border Patrol agents, according to a U.S. Justice Department memo.

There are widespread reports of the commandos making cross-border runs into U.S. territory in military-style vehicles, armed with automatic weapons.

The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars training Los Zetas to intercept drugs, some of them coming from Mexico's southern border, before they could reach the U.S. The U.S. government has also sent U.S. Border Patrol agents to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala to train law enforcement and military forces to intercept human smugglers destined to reach the U.S.

The spike in killings and kidnappings in northern Mexico in recent months has made headlines and prompted federal agents and soldiers to patrol the streets of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas.

Mexico is a major transport site for cocaine from Colombia to the United States and also produces heroin and marijuana.