The last four years of Mexico's drug wars have already killed at least 23,000. Last night more than 40 died as rival gangs clashed in prison and federal police officers were ambushed in two other attacks.
In the northwestern state of Sinaloa, where rival gangs the Sinaloa cartel and the Zetas fight a bloody, and sometimes gruesome, war for territory, a group of prisoners at the Mazatlán jail, armed with pistols and an assault rifle, forced their way into another cell block and opened fire. Eighteen died. Eleven others were stabbed to death when fighting broke out in other areas of the jail, the BBC reports. Some of the victims apparently belonged to the Zetas.
In the western state of Michoacán— the home of President Felipe Calderón, who began an outright war with the cartels shortly after taking office in 2006—federal officers in the city of Zitácuaro were returning from patrol in four pickup trucks. Gunmen blocked their route with a bus and machine-gunned the four pickups. Ten officers died immediately and two more died on the way to hospital, according to the AP. Thirteen officers were wounded. The Wall Street Journal cites analysts who suggest the ambush was likely carried out by La Familia, a prominent drug gang engaged in running battles with police and soldiers dispatched to the area to fight them.
In a third, separate attack, in the northern border city of Chihuahua, armed men drew up alongside two cars carrying police officers. Three died and one was wounded.
The Journal suggests that the violence is intensifying in the buildup to key elections in eight states. That comes on top of the everyday business of competing for a market in methamphetamine, marijuana, and heroin that may be worth $29 billion. On Friday, the BBC reports, 40 also died in two separate attacks blamed on drug gangs.
President Calderón had just published an article defending his war on drugs—a war that many say cannot be won by force. "I am convinced that we would be in a much worse situation if we had not decided to take on the criminals," he said, according to the BBC. "If we remain with our arms crossed, we will remain in the grip of organised crime, we will always live in fear, our children will have no future, there will be more violence and we will lose our freedom."