A graphic picture is emerging in Mexico five years after President Felipe Calderon launched his all-out assault on organized crime: Mass killings as cartels fight each other for territory and civilians caught in the violence; police unable to prevent the mayhem or to investigate the aftermath.
The government needed to act decisively, he said, to prevent organized crime from taking over the country. Over the next five years, he deployed 45,000 troops, made major hits on the leadership of at least five cartels and spent nearly $46 billion fighting organized crime, his defining domestic policy.
Since then, chaos has exploded on the ground in once-quiet places across the country, including Veracruz. As authorities cracked down in one spot, violence moved to another. When cartel leaders were arrested, the gangs dissolved into more violent splinter groups fighting in areas where corrupt local authorities did not fight back.
The warring splinter groups have allowed two major cartels to take over most of the territory. The death toll has grown from 2,000 in 2006 to more than 45,000 by many counts. Calderon says the government was reacting to violence that was already heating up among cartels, not the cause of it.
Meanwhile, drugs continue to flow into the United States. According to various U.S. drug reports, cultivation of marijuana and poppies is up. Mexico continues to be a source of 95 percent of all cocaine going into the United States and remains the primary foreign source of marijuana and methamphetamine. AP
Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full, not screened out for graphic content. There are many dead bodies. The photographs are graphic and stark. This is the reality of the story and an important part of the drug war in Mexico.
Soldiers stand in line as they prepare to board vehicles at the Military School in Mexico City to be deployed to the northern part of Mexico to participate in drug crop eradication duties and to learn first-hand Mexico's ongoing war against the drug cartels. Five years after President Felipe Calderon launched his assault on organized crime, about 45,000 troops have been deployed, plus several thousand more from the Navy infantry, or marines. More than 45,000 people have been killed by several counts, though the government stopped giving figures on drug war dead when they hit nearly 35,000 a year ago. Still, the flow of drugs continues unabated into the U.S. while arms and money flow into Mexico. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File) #
A soldier guards a detainee during a presentation for the media in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. On a conjoined operation with the army, local and state police seized 105 tons of U.S.-bound marijuana Monday, by far the biggest drug bust in the country in recent years. Eleven suspects were detained. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias) #
Mexican army soldiers pass near a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory in Tamazula, Mexico, during an operation Monday, Aug 10, 2009. According to federal law enforcement authorities, the lab had the capacity to produce about one ton of methamphetamine, or crystal meth, each week. (AP Photo/Miguel Tovar) #
In this Oct. 24, 2010 file photo, friends and relatives of Sotero Reyes Ricario, one of the 14 victims of a shootout on two private homes during a teenage birthday party, mourn over his coffin at a funeral service in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz, File) #
The body of a man with his hands tied behind his back lies on the ground in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexico. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez, File #
A police officer runs after a car bomb attack on police patrol trucks that killed two officers in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. More than 45,000 people have been killed by several counts, though the government stopped giving figures on drug war dead when they hit nearly 35,000 a year ago. (AP Photo, File) #
Soldiers carry coffins during the funeral of six members of Mexico's Army that were found decapitated in Chilpancingo, Mexico, the most gruesome attack yet against the Mexican army in its battle against drug gangs. (AP Photo/Claudio Cruz, File) #
In this Aug. 16, 2011 file photo, the bodies of two men shot dead next to the Caleta beach, lie, one of them covered, in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexico. The city of Acapulco has been hit by violence as drug gangs continue to battle for control of the region. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez, File) #
The body of an unidentified beaten and mutilated man hangs from his neck under a bridge on the old Rosarito Highway as authorities stand by in Tijuana, Mexico. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias, File) #
A man, carrying a mime, rides a bicycle past a federal police convoy in Ciudad Juarez, Thursday, April 9, 2009. Drug violence has spiked since President Felipe Calderon began a national crackdown on organized crime in 2006. Battles among cartels, their rivals and soldiers have led to nearly 9,000 deaths and a cross-border crime spillover. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) #
Funeral workers walk toward their car at the end of a burial in San Rafael cemetery, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, April 8, 2009. Drug violence has spiked since President Felipe Calderon began a national crackdown on organized crime in 2006. Battles among cartels, their rivals and soldiers have led to nearly 9,000 deaths and a cross-border crime spillover. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) #
Soldiers stand at attention before the destruction of seized illegal drugs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday, April 7, 2009. According to army and federal police authorities, 18 tons of marihuana and more than 300 kilograms of cocaine were burned. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) #
In this May 16, 2011 file photo, the hand of a corpse hangs from a bed with a syringe that is being used by forensic experts at a makeshift morgue inside a refrigerated container as they try to identify hundreds of bodies found in mass clandestine graves in Durango, Mexico. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File) #
Soldiers burn marijuana plants at the largest marijuana plantation ever discovered in Mexico, near San Quintin, Baja California state, Mexico. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini, File) #