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Mexico massacre: How the drug war is pushing cartels into human trafficking

The Mexico massacre of 72 migrants reveals how stronger police enforcement in the Mexico drug war is pushing criminal gangs into side businesses such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

By Staff writer / August 30, 2010

Mexico massacre: Investigators inspect what remains of a vehicle that exploded outside the Televisa network in the northern city of Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, Friday Aug. 27.



Mexico City

Most drug trafficking news in Mexico, horrific as it might be, slips out of the public consciousness the following day.

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But the massacre of 72 migrants in northern Mexico last week, the worst known mass killing since Felipe Calderón took office in December of 2006 declaring war against organized crime, has sparked debate about the vulnerabilities of migrants traveling through Mexico to the United States.

It also confirmed what the government and analysts have claimed for some time: that criminal gangs are increasingly diversifying their illicit activities and targeting more than just rival drug traffickers.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

The government says that sending some 50,000 federal forces to weaken the power of criminal gangs has made them desperate and forced them increasingly into other businesses, such as extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking.

“When it comes to justice and the social dynamic, we are losing against criminal organizations,” says Javier Oliva Posada, a drug expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “It is seen not just in the number of murders but the cruelty in each one of them.”

Tamaulipas violence continues

The violence is constant in Tamaulipas, the troubled state where the 72 migrants were massacred. On Friday, a car bomb exploded outside the broadcasting group Televisa in the state's capital of Ciudad Victoria. On Sunday, a Mexico mayor was assassinated – the second in less than two weeks.

“This cowardly crime and the condemnable violent events that have recently occurred in this part of the country reinforce the commitment to continue fighting criminal groups with all the resources of the state,” President Calderón's office said in a statement Sunday night. On Monday, the local press reported that about 3,200 federal officers, or 10 percent of the entire force, were fired for corruption charges or for failing to carry out their duties.

The government also announced over the weekend that because of the presumption that drug traffickers are the perpetrators of the massacre of the 72 migrants, the investigation is now in federal hands. The state prosecutor who was leading the investigation has been missing for several days. Authorities suspect the massacre was carried out by the Zetas, a group of Mexican Army deserters who worked for drug cartels before forming their own drug trafficking organization.