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Mexican car wash massacre: Rehab centers latest target in drug war

Three brutal killings in Mexico in the past few days, including today's car wash massacre, killed at least 41 people. Most of the victims were formerly involved with drugs.

By Staff / October 27, 2010

A police officer places police markers next to bullet cases at a crime scene in Guadalajara on Oct. 26. According to local media, three people were shot dead by two hitmen outside a car wash.

Alejandro Acosta/Reuters

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Three brutal Mexican massacres in less than a week have killed at least 41 people, with young people formerly involved in the drug trade making up the majority of the victims.

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The perpetrators are suspected to be involved in drug trafficking. The massacres could signal the lengths to which Mexico’s drug lords will go to prevent reformed addicts from giving information to authorities.

"Police believe drug cartels use the clinics to recruit hit men and smugglers, threatening to kill those who fail to cooperate," according to the BBC.

The latest attack Wednesday morning killed up to 16 people working at a car wash operated by a drug rehabilitation center in Tepic, the capital of Nayarit state.

"The workers were all men; they were washing cars when the gunmen, probably members of organized crime, drove up in SUVs and started opening fire," a spokeswoman from Nayarit state attorney general's office told Reuters. "We have reports of 13 to 15 dead, including a bystander."

“The number of fatalities may grow because the crime scene there are more people injured,” reported El Dario. Bullets also hit a nearby fruit seller, reported La Jornada.

The Ministry of Interior, in a statement, condemned the attack and vowed to “bring those responsible to justice.”

The coastal state of Nayarit is known as a peaceful corner of Mexico, but Reuters reports “the shootings underscores how killings have spread from the notoriously violent border region across the country.”

On Sunday, at a drug rehabilitation center in Tijuana, 13 recuperating addicts were lined up against a wall and shot dead. On Friday, at a birthday celebration in Ciudad Juárez, gunmen killed 14. In June, 19 more people were gunned down at another drug rehabilitation center in Ciudad Juárez.

After the recent incidents, the Monitor’s correspondent Nacha Cattan reported that the killings highlight how young people, and even children, are being targeted:

Experts blame a lack of job opportunities – more than 20 percent of Mexican youth don’t have access to jobs or an education – for drawing youths into an increasingly violent underworld. Armed to the teeth, they become both victims and victimizers in bloody turf battles.

More than 28,000 lives have been lost to drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón took office and dispatched the military to fight organized crime in December 2006.

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