More than 15,000 died last year in Mexico's drug war

Despite high figure, authorities claim victories thanks to high-profile detentions

Mexico's ongoing drug war claimed 15,273 lives last year, more than double those recorded in 2009 and three times more than in 2008. A total of 34,612 people have been killed in narco-related violence since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006.

Despite the stunning figure, Calderón argued last Wednesday in a state address that the battle only began after he assumed office in late 2006 and it is a fight that "is beginning to yield some results."

Among these are the fact that 19 of the estimated 37 major drug lords have been arrested or killed since March 2009 and the amount of confiscated drugs and weapons is increasing. Calderón said that the number of drugs confiscated represents about 1,600 doses that had once been available to each Mexican between the ages of 15 and 30."

New database

The president also referred to the fact that the fatality figures are compiled in an informal manner. Until now, most government officials have relied on figures given by the daily newspapers, but Calderón said this was going to change as he announced that a group of experts would set up an independent database "in an unprecedented exercise in transparency" so that any citizen can have access to the information on the internet.

Alejandro Poire, government spokesman on public safety issues, said that despite the high number of deaths, there was still reason for hope. "The number of homicides dipped by 10 percent in the last quarter of 2010 after five quarters of growth," he said.

The senior official also stressed that the violence is not widespread throughout Mexico, but is concentrated in certain states such as Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, which account for more than 50 percent of drug-related homicides. One in five of the 2010 murders was committed in Ciudad Juárez, deemed by international law enforcement agencies as the most dangerous city in the world.

Warfare between rival cartels over control of drug trafficking routes - such as the Zetas and their former allies in the Gulf Cartel - accounted for the majority of the deaths last year.

A member of the Mexican police forensics team examines the bodies of two men killed by drug traffickers on the outskirts of Monterrey.
A member of the Mexican police forensics team examines the bodies of two men killed by drug traffickers on the outskirts of Monterrey.AP
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