CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – A violent and ongoing battle between two powerful drug cartels has pushed this northern border city's murder rate — already one of the highest in the world — to new records in 2009, according to a government report issued Wednesday.
Ciudad Juarez has had 1,986 homicides — almost all drug-related — through mid-October this year, up from 1,171 for the same period in 2008, said the report from the Chihuahua state attorney general's office. There have been 195 murders this month alone, officials said.
The killings, averaging seven a day in the city of 1.5 million, can be blamed on an escalating drug war between the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the most-wanted man in Mexico, and the Juarez Cartel, said Chihuahua state Public Safety Secretary Victor Valencia. The cartels are fighting to control the lucrative smuggling route between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, just across the border in Texas.
The U.S. is gravely concerned about the ongoing violence, said newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual.
"Drug trafficking is a threat to the entire hemisphere. It is a threat that has points of supply and demand and traffic ... and we have to analyze the problem as well, engage, invest in resources and capabilities to address all those issues," Pascual said Wednesday at a news conference after a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to present his diplomatic credentials.
While Ciudad Juarez is clearly the most violent city in Mexico, cartel battles continue to take lives throughout the country.
In the central town of Hidalgo on Wednesday, police were trying to identify the body of a young man, about 16 years old, who was found dead with two bullets in his head, his genitals cut off and a warning note stabbed into his chest.
The body, dressed in a navy-blue school uniform, was found Tuesday evening by local residents.