A shootout in northern Mexico left at least 14 people dead Wednesday, according to government officials. It was the latest mass killing
amid a sharp resurgence of violence related to the country’s drug war.
The gunfight occurred between rival drug gangs in a rural part of Chihuahua state, which borders Texas and New Mexico, according to the state prosecutor’s office. Initial reports put the death toll at 26, but Felix González, a spokesman for the state prosecutor, said that 14 deaths had been confirmed as of Wednesday afternoon.
The violence follows a deadly incident Friday in which 17 suspected drug traffickers were killed near the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan in a confrontation with police that some relatives of the victims suspected might have involved extrajudicial killings. Three days later, nine people were killed in the state of Puebla, east of Mexico City, as part of a festering dispute among fuel thieves.
The recent violence has underscored the deteriorating security across Mexico. More than 11,000 people were killed in the first five months of this year, an increase of 30 percent over the same period last year, putting Mexico on pace for what could be the deadliest year in its post-revolution history.
After an initial decline during the first two years of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency, killings have roared back to levels that are comparable with those during the worst years of the country’s drug war.
Violence has been fueled by fractures within long-dominant drug cartels, the growing demand for heroin and other opiates across the border in the United States, and the widespread corruption within Mexican government and security forces, which allows lawlessness to flourish.
Chihuahua has a long history of drug-war violence, including in Ciudad Juarez, the border city that came to symbolize the savagery of the violence.
The governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), has accused his predecessor, César Duarte, from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), of ignoring criminal cases and brokering deals with drug cartels. Duarte fled last year to El Paso and is wanted on corruption charges.
Corral told the Wall Street Journal this week that drug traffickers were “sent to the Sierra de Chihuahua, and they began to take control of the towns, the local police forces, and they became bosses of the whole territory.”
The Wednesday clash occurred after 5 a.m. in a village called Las Varas, in the municipality of Madera, between a drug gang known as La Linea and another from the state of Sinaloa, González said.
THE WASHINGTON POST