Mexico's "murder city" out of control, says author

Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:51am EDT
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By Robin Emmott

MEXICO CITY (Reuters Life!) - Feuds between rival cartels in northern Mexico have spun out of control, unleashing a wave of bloodshed security forces are unable to subdue, the author of a new book on Mexico's escalating drug war said.

'Murder City,' the latest of more than a dozen books on drugs and immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. author Charles Bowden, documents the killings of hitmen, police and bystanders in a drug war that has killed over 26,000 people since late 2006 and defined the presidency of Felipe Calderon.

Arizona-based Bowden, a leading writer on border issues, spent several months in 2008 in the underworld of Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas, which is the main drug route into the United States, and now the world's most violent city.

Mixing journalism with the darkly poetic stories of a hitman, a beauty queen, a journalist and a priest, Bowden argues attacks in Ciudad Juarez -- shootouts in broad daylight, beheadings, assassinated police -- can no longer be blamed solely on rivalry between Juarez cartel boss Vicente Carrillo and Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, who heads the Sinaloa cartel.

Their feud has spawned a hell where jobless youths see a future only in joining gangs and wading into countless battles over protection rackets, drug sales, smuggling and kidnapping.

"I don't think Vicente Carrillo and Shorty Guzman can shake hands and say it is all over. I don't think that there is anyone sitting in a room who can pick up a phone to stop it now," Bowden said in a recent interview.

Violence in Ciudad Juarez began to climb in early 2008 when Guzman, Mexico's most wanted man, sent hitmen into the city in a bid to edge out the powerful Juarez cartel.

"I don't think most of the violence has anything to do with disagreements between drug organizations, except if you include in that every little punk fighting for his square meter of turf to sell something in a barrio," said Bowden.   Continued...

<p>A woman is comforted near the body of a dead man in Ciudad Juarez April 8, 2010. REUTERS/Alejandro Bringas</p>