The death squads of the drug cartels are killing in spectacularly gruesome ways, using the violence as a language to deliver a message to society.
Two years ago, five heads rolled on to a Michoacan dance floor shocked the most hardened Mexican citizen, today, mass torture, mutilation, and beheadings have become routine across the nation. Videos of these executions are posted on the Internet, as taunts, as warnings. Corpses are dumped on playgrounds, with neatly printed posterboard messages beside them.
In the border city of Tijuana, 37 people were slain over the weekend, including four children. Nine of the adults were decapitated, including three police officers whose badges were stuffed in their mouths.
“There is a new and different violence in this war,” said Victor Clark Alfaro, the founder of the Binational Center for Human Rights, who moves around Tijuana accompanied by bodyguards. “Each method is now more brutal, more extreme than the last. To cut off the heads? That is now what they like. They are going to the edge of what is possible for a human being to do.”
Over 4,700 people have been killed this year in drug related violence. November has been the bloodiest month so far, with at least 700 official killings. Some victims had no connection to the drug trade, police say.
As competing drug cartels and their fragmented cells fight the police, the Mexican army and one another for control of billion-dollar smuggling routes into the U.S. drug market, the violence unleashed by President Felipe Calderón’s war against the traffickers grows more sensational.
Experts say the cartels and their enforcers are attempting their own twisted version of “shock and awe,” broadcasting via traditional media, rumor mill and the Internet their true willingness to fight to the end. Authorities also say the cartels are killing so graphically in order to sap public confidence in the government, hoping President Calderón will allow the cartels to return to business as usual, when the smuggling organizations operated with the total support of corrupt political, judicial, and police officials.
“They are making a joke about the authority of the government. All the killings and all so public. They are broadcasting that there is no government that can stop them. They are geniuses at marketing. They commit these spectacular murders. They decapitate people. They light people on fire. Who is not going to pay attention to that?”
As the President Calderon continues his iron fisted war against drugs,the violence in Mexico grows bolder and more grotesque by the day. Last week in Ciudad Juarez, the corpses of seven men, each shot multiple times, strangled and tortured, were lined up against a garden hedge at a primary school. The killers left poster-size signs. Soon after the bodies were discovered, the local police frequency was commandeered and narco corridos, songs in praise of cartels, were broadcast on police radios.
It is said, Calderon’s war against the cartels, is making progress. His crackdown, arrests, and extradition of cartel leaders has created chaos and destabilization amongst the remaining cartel ranks, which in turn is leading to extreme violence across the nation. Many people, including the American government, would like to believe this terrorism is a sign of the cartels weakening state, claiming the extreme violence only proves the cartels no longer have other forms of power.
This is psychological warfare. Although Mexico is no stranger to violence, this is new; this is terrifying, there is no way to simply get used to these horrific acts. These acts, along with the crimes committed against innocent civilians, are showing exactly what these cartels are capable of: Death and Destruction. I am not consoled by quotes that these violent, inhumane acts, prove cartels are weakening. I am not consoled by the destabilization, as their loss of stability only increases the possibilities of my losses; the loss of my wife, children, loved one, or friends due to another violently grotesque drug war fueled attack.
“It is three-dimensional chess,where an amazingly lucrative drug trade fuels this brutality, that serves multiple functions — for payback, for revenge, to send messages, to scare the hell out of the public and, of course, to win. Remember, these guys will do anything to win.”