Mexico's Bloody Summer: Drug War Spins Out of Control

It was a bloody week in Mexico. On Monday alone, 96 people were killed in drug related violence, and yesterday police found 12 decomposing bodies inside a cave in Cancun. It could easily get worse.

A couple of weeks before police found the 12 bodies in the tourist town of Cancun, six bodies were found in another nearby cave, three of them with their hearts cut out. Others had a "Z" carved into them, presumably for the Zeta cartel. The former police chief of Cancun was arrested last year for alleged connections to the Zeta cartel. Also this week, in the Pacific coast town of Tepic, a 20-minute gun battle broke out between a cartel and Mexican police and the military. From NPR:

Bullets ripped through the children's play area at the adjacent Burger King. Ulyses Ramirez, a cook there, says eight windows shattered but no customers were hurt. "There was a lot of panic. There were children," Ramirez says. "The bullets were entering the restaurant."

He says everyone dropped to the floor for cover, and eventually the staff herded all the customers into the kitchen.

The shootout left eight presumed drug cartel members and one policeman dead.

Since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon took office, over 23,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war. He has also dispatched around 45,000 soldiers and 5,000 police in the fight against the cartels. And while the cartels are known for using especially brutal tactics against civilians, the Mexican military has also been accused of scores of human rights abuses including rape, torture and extrajudicial killings. Many units are also believed to be working with the cartels. On Monday, Calderon issued a 5,000 word essay to defend his handling of the war, in which he wrote: "It's worth the effort to continue on with this fight. It's worthwhile in order to build a free and safe country." He added that "we will win."

And last week in Chihuahua, gunmen entered a drug rehab center and killed 19 people. It's already been a terrible year for Mexico, and it's only June. With the way things are going now—the government's inability to curb the violence, an influx of weapons from the US, high demand for drugs here, among many other factors—Calderon's war won't be won anytime soon.

[Image via AP]