Drug Violence Plagues the Country
In May 2008, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora announced that over 4,000 people had been killed in drug-related violence since President Calderon took office—1,400 of the deaths occurred in 2008 alone.
In Aug. 2008, hundreds of thousands of protesters across the country marched for the more than 2,700 people who were killed and 300 kidnapped in drug-related violence since January 2008. In Dec. 2008, the number of killings registered between 1 January and 2 December was 5,376—a rise of 117% from the previous year. In Nov. 2008 alone, there were 943 drug-related murders.
In Dec. 2008, the U.S. released $197 million of a $400 million plan called the Merida Initiative to help Mexico fight the drug cartels, yet drug violence continued mostly unabated. By the end of 2009, an estimated 6,500 people had been killed in drug-related violence.
Late April and early May 2009 brought a new challenge: a flu outbreak. A new strain of influenza, known as swine flu, originated in Mexico and spread to at least 24 other countries. The World Health Organization declared that a pandemic was a possibility. Originally, Swine Flu was thought to be quite dangerous, though as time passed, Mexican authorities said they may have overestimated the threat. As a precaution, the Mexican government shut down all nonessential business for five days starting on May 1, 2009. Other governments limited travel to and from Mexico.
Despite Calderón's pledge to bring down the drug cartels, drug-related violence escalated into 2010. After the fatal shooting in March 2010 of a pregnant U.S. consulate employee by an alleged drug trafficker, Calderón stepped up his pressure on the U.S. to take responsibility for its role in the crisis; U.S. arms traffickers supply weapons to the cartels and drug users in the U.S. are consumers of Mexican drugs. As the violence spilled over into the U.S., officials did in fact acknowledge the country's role in the growing problem and the potential risks to U.S. national security. The U.S. and Mexico revised their counternarcotics strategy with a $330 million program intended to expand the Merida Initiative, which was begun under President Bush. The plan includes strengthening poor communities to give citizens alternatives to crime, better screening at the border, and shifting the focus of funding from military equipment to a civilian police force that will patrol Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez.