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Drug Civil War Rages in Mexico

Phil Brennan

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A full-scale civil war is raging in Mexico -- and few are paying attention.

Drug cartels seeking to keep control over huge swathes of Mexico have been on a rampage. In the past two weeks alone, at least 10 police officials have been murdered -- including the chief of Mexico's federal police, Edgar Millan.

Millan was gunned down outside his home Thursday morning. On Friday, the killings continued with the the shooting death of Esteban Robles Espinosa, commander of Mexico City's police detectives. His body was riddled with eight bullets.

President Felipe Calderon began taking on the cartels last year, deploying the nation's military to bolster police activities. So far, estimates say more than 3,000 Mexicans have been killed, with almost 1,000 deaths this year alone in a brutal struggle by the civilian government to reassert authority.

The engagements between cartels and the authoritied are getting more grisly by the day.

Earlier this month, dozens of armed gunmen dressed as police showed up at the home of a powerful political boss in Petatlan, a pacific coastal town. His name is Rogaciano Alba. Alba was not home, but the drug combatants decided to line up 10 of Alba's friends and family against his home. All were murdered from a wave of bullets, including Alba's two sons.

The cartels play by practically no rules. Beheadings, a technique used by Muslim terrorists, is commonly employed against enemies of the cartels.

The Mexican government suggests the deadly attacks against the police and others indicates their efforts to crackdown are working.

Some analysts suggest Mexico may be the victim of the success of the Uribe government in Colombia. Efforts there have been so successful in recent years, many of the leading drug cartels shifted their base of operations away from Colombia to Mexico.

the Bush administration has pushed Congress for the Merida Initiative -- a $500 million emergency aid package to help Mexico's beleuguered effort to fight the cartels.

But the aid bill is getting resistance from Congressional Democrats who have complained about the lack of focus on social improvements in Mexico. Last week two unions, the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers, came out against the aid bill, citing Mexico's human rights abused.

One of the few media focusing on the Mexican civil war is CNN's Lou Dobbs.

While highlighting the drug war, which Dobbs says "frequently spills across the border into the United States," he argued the aid bill will be just a drop in the bucket and won't solve the real problem: the porous U.S-Mexican border.

Said Dobbs "Mexico is the primary source of methamphetamines, marijuana, cocaine and heroin into the United States. So, as you listen to open borders advocates and -- please consider that they're responsible, in part, for continuing a losing role on our part in the drug war.

"Well, these drug wars that are raging along our border with Mexico have a direct and devastating impact on young people in this country. More of our teenagers use marijuana than all other illegal drugs combined. The vast majority of that marijuana, as I said, comes across our open border with Mexico."

CNN's Casey Wian also reported that the drug cartels have developed direct retail connections in the U.S. He cited San Diego State University, where nearly 100 students were involved in a marijuana smuggling and pushing operation, saying: "You've got direct connections between campus drug leaders and Mexican drug cartels.

In the face of all this deadly surge in violence against Mexican police, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has argued that the situation has been improving and that the U.S. should lift the State Department's travel advisory.

Richardson's position drew Dobbs' scorn.

"Well, it gets scary when you think of an elected official, a man who wanted to run for president, point of fact, New Mexico's governor, failed Democratic presidential candidate Governor Bill Richardson. He is completely out of touch with the reality of violence in Mexico and absolutely unrestrained in his pandering," said Dobbs.

"Governor Richardson says the U.S.-Mexican border is now more secure. He said that just hours before the top federal police officer of Mexico was assassinated. Governor Richardson also said he wants a State Department travel alert issued by the U.S. ambassador to Mexico re-evaluated, as he put it. Governor Richardson was in Mexico yesterday making those Remarks. One of the officials that Richardson met with is the mayor of the border city of Ciudad Lorez, where more than 200 people have been killed in drug cartel violence just so far this year."

Dobbs concluded: "And those cartels are crossing our borders and preying on teenagers with marijuana and other drugs. Mexico, a key player in the war on drugs. [Is] anyone in Washington paying attention?"