Open any Mexican newspaper today and the drug carnage is front and center. In the last three years, narco-related murders surpassed 18,000, nearly 8,000 of these occured in 2009 alone. The macabre nature of the violence ratcheted up too, featuring heads rolling across an Acapulco disco floor, a “stewmaker” admitting to dissolving some 300 bodies in acid and a dead man's face stitched onto a soccer ball. The drug cartels openly taunt the authorities and each other, hanging narcomantas, or banners, over major throughfares boasting about their latest kills and threatening future violence if not left alone. Both the number of the attacks and their brazenness—particularly in states such as Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Michoacánare—are unprecedented.
Yet crime-related violence in Mexico is not new. Mexico has always been a supplier of illegal markets in the United States, from alcohol in the prohibition era, heroin during World War II, marijuana throughout the 1960s, and in recent decades, a variety of drugs including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines. As illicit businesses without access to formal contracts and courts, disputes and “mergers and acquisitions” have traditionally been settled with blood on the streets.
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