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Merida Initiative: Working From the Bottom Up in Mexico

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

After Mexican President Felipe Calderon won a highly controversial election by a razor-thin margin in 2006, he kicked off his presidency by declaring war on his country's increasingly powerful and brutal drug cartels, deploying tens of thousands of troops across the country. Since Calderon's much-publicized crackdown began however, the death toll from drug violence in Mexico has exploded, claiming roughly 23,000 lives -- including cartel members, innocent civilians, police officers and soldiers -- with 4,000 of those deaths coming in the first five months of this year alone.

Over the past four years, Ciudad Juárez, a sprawling city of 1.3 million inhabitants that sits just across the border from El Paso, Texas, has suffered the most. With more than 2,700 drug-related murders in 2009 -- up from 1,600 in 2008 -- the city has become the murder capital of the world. And in 2010 the trend has continued, with "Murder City" adding almost 1,000 more to the growing list of the dead. But Ciudad Juárez is hardly a forgotten town in the anti-cartel effort. The bloodletting has occurred despite the presence of 11,000 troops and federal police that have taken over from the local police since 2007, showcasing the futility of taking a strictly military approach to combating the cartels. ...

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