June 26, 2019  

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in Drugs (6)


El Salvador Gang Truce Expanded to Include Extortion (REPORT) 

(Video Al Jazeera)

Opinion by Tatiana Faramarzi

El Salvador’s involvement in a truce between the country’s two major street gangs has grown, with the government now pursuing a reduction in gang extortion in addition to homicides.

Although the daily homicide rate has declined sharply since 30 leaders of the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs were transported to a more relaxed prison facility in March, reports of extortion have continued and even risen in some departments, according to the country's Attorney General.

Transportation unions in particular have reported an increase in the monetary losses incurred by gang extortions.

(PHOTO: Tico Times) Straying from prior denials of government involvement in the negotiations, La Prensa Grafica reports that Justice and Security Minister David Munguia Payes has stated that “the government cannot sit down to negotiate with criminal groups, but if other institutions do, we will facilitate the dialogue.” The Church and former congressman Raul Mijango have already initiated efforts to negotiate a reduction in extortions with the gangs.

Munguia claimed that he is unsure of what the gang leaders will ask for in exchange for a reduction in extortions, but the government is prepared to do whatever is necessary to facilitate a dialogue, so long as concessions remain within the scope of the law. Currently, the government is considering some “gestures of goodwill” that gang leaders have requested, such as allowing imprisoned gangsters to be visited by their children, or lengthening the allowed visit time.

According to the minister, all the dialogue can do is “create opportunities.” If negotiations through Mijango and the Church are fruitless, the government will be forced to explore other options. However, he is convinced that the reduction in homicides that resulted from the truce can only be followed by a reduction in extortion, auto theft, and illicit arms acquisition.

The Salvadoran government’s continued facilitation of the discussion between the Church and the country’s two largest street gangs points to the state’s deepening investment in the deal.

The consideration of new concessions to curtail gang extortion also sheds light on the leverage that the gangs have in the negotiations.

(PHOTO: Justice Minister David Munguia Payes) Minister Munguia appears confident that dialogue between the Church and the gang leaders will lead to the decline of several criminal activities, but brokering a truce between two gangs at war is very different from convincing the groups to cease the activities that dictate their way of life.

Each of the myriad illicit activities that Salvadoran gangs engage in may require new government concessions.

As Insight has suggested, inadvertently delegating this kind of political power to gangs could compromise the justice system, as well as any peace that has already resulted from the negotiations.

---This piece originally appeared in INSIGHT HERE.


Guatemala President Calls for Drug Legalization Ahead of Summit Of The Americas (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: Guatemalan President Otto Molina & Honduras' Vice President Samuel Reyes speak during an anti-drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel, Antigua, Guatemala/IBT)(HN, March, 26, 2012) - This past weekend, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss the drug issue which has plagued their nations and their neighbors for decades.  In Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday for the first time, leaders met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the war on drugs has "failed", and it's time to end the "taboo" on discussing decriminalization for the Americas.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Invited to attend but who didn't were El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.  While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning.  Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and importance to the region.

"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said President Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

(PHOTO: Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla attends Saturday's drugs summit at the Santo Domingo Hotel in Antigua/CRTV)He said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated and suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

But US-backed drug policies in the region have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras,  combined with the cartel presence is making the region one of the world's deadliest.

El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates; and Guatemala recently has been saying it is being "outgunned by gangs".

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

President Molina also suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf - including the United States.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14-15 where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. 

Members of the OAS include 35 countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico,      Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Bahamas, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana.

The White House says US President Barack Obama will host Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for a North American summit in Washington on April 2. The meeting is expected to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, security, energy, and climate change; along with North America’s role in the upcoming Summit of the Americas

Ahead of the summit, Obama said Monday he was suspending trade benefits for Argentina from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, which waives import duties on thousands of goods from developing countries because of the South American country's failure to pay more than $300 million in compensation awards in two disputes involving American investors; effective in 60 days.

Argentina's top exports under the program were grape wine, prepared or preserved beef, sugar confections and olive oil. Washington waived about $17.3 million in duties on those goods from Argentina last year.

--- HUMNEWS (c) 2012


Fighting the drugs menace in Saudi Arabia (PERSPECTIVE) 

(PHOTO: Saudi Arabia Police train to find undercover drugs/ARABNEWS)From the Arab News

The latest figures relating to drug abuse in the Saudi Arabia Kingdom make appalling reading. In the last three years, 119,000 people of different nationalities have been arrested for drugs offenses. What is worse, it is reported that some 400 police and anti-narcotics officials have been killed fighting the traffickers.

The full extent of this great evil can be gauged by the astonishing fact that the total value of the drugs seized exceeded SR18 billion. The Department for Combating Drugs this week listed their haul as including 181 million Captagon tablets, 222 kilos of heroin, 61 tons of hashish and 2,206 tons of qat. 

Working on the basis that, as with anti-drug enforcement campaigns worldwide, narcotics seizures represent only a relatively small proportion of the actual amount of illegal substances in circulation, these figures are truly frightening.

What are our young people — and drug abusers are all too often the young — what are they thinking about? It is of course the nature of youth to rebel. Every new generation throughout history has sought to find its feet by establishing its own identity. Only with increasing age comes wisdom and an acceptance of established values. Yet the use of narcotics by the young, to somehow differentiate themselves from their elders is dangerous, foolish and deeply wrong.

Drugs do not just endanger the people who use them. They threaten the very fabric of society.

As the police have pointed out this week, fully 60 percent of the crimes in the Kingdom were drugs-related. Put simply, once users have become addicted to a narcotic, their competence in the workplace, their ability even to maintain natural relationships with friends and family, are steadily destroyed. Without income and support, only theft will enable them to sustain their body’s increasing demand for more narcotics. The result is squalor, loneliness and self-destruction.

Yet while society is the victim of drug users, so too are the users themselves victims of the cynical peddlers of death who grow, refine and otherwise manufacture narcotics and as a result, worldwide, rake in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits every year.

Young people can be educated about the dangers and evils of narcotics, as the Kingdom has been seeking to do in an ongoing campaign in schools and colleges. But this is clearly not enough. Moreover, it could be argued that this program should be harder hitting, with graphic and alarming displays of the horrors, degradation and ugly deaths to which addiction eventually leads. Maybe also, young people should be shown the bodies and surviving family members of some of the 400 brave security officers who gave their lives here in the Kingdom, so that these same young people could live safe, decent and productive lives.

Yet the harsh reality is that such campaigns will never be enough. The only way to stop the wicked destructiveness of narcotics use is to attack it at its source, to assault the merchants of death and smash the mafia-networks that run the international trade in illegal drugs.

This requires real coordination between anti-narcotics forces worldwide. Next week the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which is mandated by the United Nations to oversee the implementation of the UN’s drug control conventions, will release its latest annual report.

It is unlikely to make comfortable reading. The drugs barons arguably have larger financial resources at their disposal than the forces of law and order that are seeking to destroy them.

Nor do these mafias have to work within any legal framework. Yet they must be crushed, for the sake of young people around the world, not just here in the Kingdom, who take the foolish and fatal first step of experimenting with narcotics.

In a prosperous country like Saudi Arabia, where  the younger generation has so much to live for, the joy and security of work, family and eventually children of their own have to conquer the false lure of drug-induced well-being.

---- You can read more here from the Arab News


Drug War: Faster and More Furious (COMMENTARY) 

By Tania Arroyo

Jean Baptiste KingeryIn early September, Mexican authorities arrested a U.S. citizen, Jean Batiste Kingery, for smuggling grenades across the border for the Sinaloa cartel. Astonishingly, U.S. agents had released Kingery a year before when he was captured for the same offense. U.S. law enforcement officials reportedly wanted to use him in a sting operation.

The Kingery case is only the most recent scandal involving the flow of weapons from the United States to Mexico. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently sent a letter asking the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for a hearing on the controversial federal operation “Fast and Furious,” which in 2009 allowed 2,000 high-powered weapons from the United States to reach Mexico as part of an alleged effort to go after drug cartel leaders. According to McCain, the hearing's purpose is to “ensure further damage from this operation does not persist.”

But the real problem at the border goes beyond the Kingery case and the Fast and Furious fiasco, which are just one small part of the flow of arms into Mexico for use in drug war that has claimed more than 50,000 victims during the tenure of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Although Calderon will leave the presidency next year, the war will not likely end with his term of office.

The Merida Frame

On September 6, diplomat John Wayne formally assumed the post of U.S. ambassador to Mexico, replacing former Ambassador Carlos Pascual. In March, Pascual resigned after the Mexican government expressed its concern over the ambassador's doubts, revealed in WikiLeaks cables, about Mexico’s capacity to conduct the fight against drug trafficking.

This replacement, however, doesn’t bring anything new to the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States. In his statement to Congressin July, Wayne said, referring to the Merida Initiative, “one of my principal objectives, if confirmed, will be to work with my Mexican and U.S. colleagues to accelerate the implementation of the activities and to assure that we are achieving our Merida objectives.”

The Obama administration has done a great deal to support Calderon’s fight against Mexican drug trafficking through the Merida Initiative, the 2008 bilateral agreement of cooperation between Mexico and the United States to combat drug trafficking, organized crime, and money laundering. Yet Obama has done little to strengthen arms control on the U.S. side of the border. In March, during a joint press conference with President Calderon, Obama stated that "I believe in the Second Amendment. It does provide for Americans the right to bear arms for their protection, for their safety, for hunting, for a wide range of uses.” Although he went on to state that “that does not mean that we cannot constrain gun runners from shipping guns into Mexico,” he has not managed to reduce the arms trade.

On the other side, President Calderon demands more funds from the United States and insists that the war on drug mafias is a shared responsibility that must continue. Following the Zetas’ attack on a casino in the northern city of Monterrey last August, which claimed at least 52 lives, Calderon said that “the economic power and firepower of the criminal organizations operating in Mexico and Latin America come from this endless demand for drugs in the United States.” He stressed the need to continue this fight against “criminals” and “terrorists.”

Although the two governments disagree on small details, like the performance of former Ambassador Carlos Pascual, they are of one mind on the importance of the “war on drugs” and the Merida Initiative, which has proven to be a profitable business for arms manufacturers and dealers.

Good for the Arms Business

The Merida Initiative has been roundly criticized, even by those affiliated with the U.S. military. Paul Rexton, associate professor of national security studies at the U.S. Army War College, has suggested that this initiative has not led to substantial reductions in violence in Mexico or in drug smuggling to the United States. “In fact,” he writes, “the current policy has led to what can be described, at best, as a stalemate between Mexican state authorities and the cartels”.

The U.S. government has provided nearly $1.3 billion to the Mexican government to confront the drug cartels. Meanwhile with operations like Fast and Furious, it has fed weapons to the narcotraffickers. This apparent paradox can be explained by the different objectives of the state and the market, the former focused on security and the latter fixated on profit.

For the arms lobby, operations like Fast and Furious are always welcome: the more weapons that can be purchased, the more money arm dealers will get. There are cases in which one person has come to buy up to 190 guns a month in armories near the border, supposedly to ensure his personal safety under the Second Amendment. According to the owner of one of these stores: "In Arizona it is more difficult to get credit for a car than to buy 10 rifles. My business is the sale of weapons and to sell them under the law. Honestly, I don’t care where they will end up.”

Members of the arms lobby want Mexicans, too, to arm themselves in response to violence by drug cartels. More armed Mexicans translates into more arms sales. Drug cartels already get their supplies of lethal weapons manufactured and distributed by the U.S. arms industry through an “ant trail” across the border, like the one that Kingery followed.

Recent revelations of money laundering suggest that the United States is not really serious about the fight against drug trafficking. According to The Observer, banking giant Wachovia "paid federal authorities $110 million in forfeiture for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50 million fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine." The sum that Wachovia paid for these omissions, $160 million, pales in comparison to the overall volume of money, $378.4 billion, to which the bank failed to apply proper anti-laundering regulations. In a real war on drugs this should have been a sufficient reason to close that bank. However, Wachovia continues to operate normally (now as part of Wells Fargo) and may be able to continue laundering money, since the sanctions are affordable in relation to the gains.

Finally, Mexicans have been privatizing the drug war in Mexico much as Colombia has already done. The United States spends nearly $550 million per year on Plan Colombia (and spent an average of $700 million per year before 2009), and more than 50 percent of that sum has reached private contractors operating as mercenaries in the South American country. According to the State Department, since 2007 Lockheed Martin, DynCorp International, and ARINC, Inc., among other companies in the industry, have been the major beneficiaries of Plan Colombia.

Mexico is not far behind. According to one of the representatives on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Jose Gomez del Prado, in 2006 instructors from the company Global Risk Solutions Inc. trained Mexican federal agents in torture techniques. Once the drug war becomes a lucrative business, the conflict becomes potentially endless.

For the two governments, the Kingery case and Fast Furious represent only small miscalculations in the grand strategy of the Merida Initiative, which continues unabated. The Secretary of Defense in Mexico (SEDENA) recently purchased $4 billion worth of weapons for "operations of internal order and national security contingent emergency" through the Trust for Military Equipment.

A Bleak Balance

The Mexican and U.S. governments are duty-bound to guarantee human rights and preserve the lives of their citizens. The actions of organized crime, from the distribution of arms and drugs to kidnapping, murder, and human trafficking, are reprehensible. But so is the double standard of the Mexican and U.S. governments, which have been jointly responsible for the escalation of violence on both sides of the border in their effort to defeat the mafias.

For President Calderon this is even more outrageous because, under the Merida Initiative, he has given Washington the authorization to act with the freedom and discretion it wants, further undermining Mexico’s national sovereignty. But the actions taken by U.S. law enforcement in connection with arms trafficking and the failed Fast and Furious operation are only partially responsible for the escalation of violence in Mexico. The real culprits are the Mexican and U.S. governments and their bilateral agreements concerning the war against drugs.

It’s long past time to look at the failures of the overall war and not just the debacles of particular battles.

- Tania Arroyo is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. 

Commentary originally published by the Institute for Policy Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Commentrary published and distributed by HUMNEWS represents the views of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of the board members or staff of HUMNEWS or of the HUMNEWS editors.


Legalising drugs a solution to the violence? (REPORT/VIDEO)

By Lucia Newman 

Almost five years ago, Mexicans watched their President Felipe Calderon send soldiers out onto the streets of cities like Ciudad Juarez, announcing an unprecedented frontal attack on the country’s drug cartels.

Then, they saw the death toll rise year by year, from around under 3,000 in 2007 to almost 20, 000 in 2010. This year could be even higher.

When I went to Cancun for the Climate Summit in late November, a taxi driver told me that the leve of violence was seriously disrupting the economy - especially tourism - and that he hoped the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) , which ruled Mexico for 70 years, would be brought back to power in the next presidential elections.

“Before, during the PRI governments , we didn’t have this problem with the drug traffickers . They minded their business and we minded ours. Why should we do the dirty work for the Americans, who are the ones who consume the drugs?“ the man asked point blank.

I was amazed that anyone could articulate what seemed like such a short-sighted point of view. Didn’t he realise that sooner or later the traffickers would become so powerful that they would become everyone’s problem in Mexico?

Eight months later, I find that it is not just the taxi driver who believes that it is time to go back to a policy of peaceful co-existence with the cartels, but also some politicians and opinion makers, including former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, who served under previous President Vicente Fox.

“Call off the war. Take the army back to the barracks and say enough of this business. Let’s concentrate our efforts, our army and navy on reducing violence against society, kidnapping, extortion, etc," he said.

"And frankly, let the cartels do pretty much what they want as long as they don’t get involved in these things. Now since we don’t want to encourage a culture of illegality, we’re going to try to begin the process of legalisation." 

What legalisation? I asked.

"In a perfect world, all drugs, all over, everywhere,” Castaneda told me.

Was he really proposing an accommodation with the cartels, I enquired.

“Isn’t that what the Americans are doing in Afghanistan with the poppy growers who are producing heroin? Nobody complains about that!”

Even Castaneda recognises that what he suggests is politically incorrect, but with drug trafficking violence getting worse, and the amount of drugs crossing the border into the United States undiminished, many Mexicans I talked to are demanding a Plan B, which some say should include less confrontation with the traffickers.

The Mayor of Ciudad Juarez, from the opposition PRI , supports Calderon’s policy and insists that the government must keep the pressure on.

But many people I spoke to - including a respected community leader, Protestant Pastor Alfonso Murguia, say that “it is time for the army to leave. They had already been corrupted by traffickers and they are committing abuses against the population. We need to do something else. “

Everyone agrees that if Mexico is serious about dealing with the cartels, it needs to dramatically reduce poverty , corruption and impunity, an elusive goal since independence.

And as long as millions of Mexicans cannot make a decent living legally, the cartels will always have an army of willing foot soldiers.

“So many young people tell me they would rather have a couple of good years on the street, than a lifetime on their knees living in poverty,” Pastor Murguia told me, shrugging his shoulders.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 17, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 


Drug gangs wage war for Acapulco (REPORT/VIDEO)

By Mariana Sanchez

It’s noon... and very busy under the scorching sun of Acapulco.

On one side of La Costera, the main road that runs along the coast, thousands of bathers are diving into the warm waters of this tourist city, once a paradise for honeymooners.

On the other side, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. A corner has been sealed off with red tape. Soldiers and police are waiting for a forensic team to pick up the body of a man lying on the ground, lifeless. Apparently, the man was a taxi driver killed by a drug gang.

We rushed to the scene. It happened just a few hours after landing in Acapulco. Local crime reporters have been incredibly busy. One killing is happening after another.

That’s exactly what I saw in the course of two hours.

Another alert. Ten minutes away, up the mountain through busy streets, a forensic team was picking up the remains of at least two dismembered bodies left on a corner, out in the open. The scenes were too horrible to describe.

Then another call came in. This time a young man who’d been in a phone booth had been shot dead.

This is what Acapulco has become by day and night.

These days members of the so-called Independent Cartel of Acapulco are fighting for control of territory.

I've travelled to Acapulco many times this year to cover the violence. But this time it seemed much more intense and out of control.

Violence begun spiralling in the port city when the top boss of a major drug cartel was killed by Mexican soldiers in December, 2009. Arturo Beltran Leyva’s drug organization divided. His brother Hector took over one faction and he fought Edgar Villareal known as “La Barbie”, who’d been a right hand man for Arturo Beltran.

When Villareal was caught one year ago, the fighting intensified again. Another boss, Moises Montero led an emerging powerful new group called the Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Two weeks ago he was captured.

“For days now, violence has erupted and all of us who are following the news know that this violence is in retaliation to Montero’s capture”, said Uriel Sanchez, a crime reporter covering Acapulco’s violence.

Mexico’s government strategy to target drug “capos” is having a multiplying effect. As bosses are captured or killed, drug organisations divide into smaller gangs, who are armed and with a thirst for power. They embark on a killing spree.

According Ramon Almonte, security chief of Guerrero state, where Acapulco is located, the majority of violent attacks happen among rival gangs.

“I’m completely sure that the majority of the fallen is because of the decomposition of the criminal groups. That’s why I can say that 98 per cent of the dead in this wave of homicides are directly or indirectly involved in organised crime, and a very narrow number of victims are circumstantial of the situation,” he said.

The government contends the strategy is weakening the drug cartels. But on the ground the reality is that the violence is getting worse.

Acapulco’s level of violence is starting to look like that of Ciudad Juarez one year ago. Juarez is still considered Mexico’s most violent place, though the level of daily killings has now wound down in that northern border city.

Taking a stroll some blocks away from the crime scenes, Ricardo Gonzalez, a resident of Acapulco, says that life before was much better, although Acapulco has always had violence. Many like Gonzalez say they almost crave for the days when one sole kingpin was in charge.

“There were no territorial disputes, when there was one boss he had nobody to fight with, or it was between them. It was better having only one boss. The violence today is senseless.”

Originally published by Al Jazeera on August 15, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing