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Mexican drug war death toll now approaching 50,000

The Americas Post - Unless it's your job to do so, you probably shouldn't look inside that car

Mexican officials report that almost 13,000 people were killed in violence blamed on drug cartels between January and September of 2011.

That would bring the death toll to 47,515 since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive against drug traffickers at the end of 2006.  Officials claimed the 11% rise in murders was slower than in previous years, but with presidential elections in July, violence is set to be a key issue for voters.

This week, Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) released data showing 12,903 people killed in drug-related violence during the first nine months of 2011.  The first official statistics released since January 2011, they came in response to multiple freedom of information requests filed during the last several months.

The PGR claimed that the 11% rise was “a significant decrease” on previous years.  In 2009-2010, murders climbed 70%; 2008-2009 had a 63% rise and there was a 110% increase in 2007-2008.  But with the 2011 figures running just until September, the final total could surpass 16,000.

The PGR pointed out the violence was concentrated in just 25% of Mexico’s states.  Security improvements have been achieved in some areas, such as the border city of Tijuana.  Ciudad Juarez, also on the US-Mexico, remains among the most violent cities with 1,206 murders, although that was half of the approximately 2,500 killings the year before.  However, experts say the decline in killings may be the result of one cartel exerting overall control rather than specific success by the military or police.

Last year also brought drug violence to previously calm areas, such as the Gulf port city of Veracruz.  The capital, Mexico City, has remained relatively untouched.

On Wednesday however, two decapitated bodies were discovered inside a burning vehicle outside an upscale mall in the Santa Fe neighborhood of Mexico City.  Two heads were placed in front of the car.

The government mentions that Mexico’s murder rate remains below that of several neighbors, including Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil and Venezuela.