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  HOME | Mexico

Mexico Mayhem: Drug Violence Claims 20
Mexico's increasingly powerful and dangerous drug cartels killed over 20 people over the weekend -- including a massacre at a drug rehab center and singer Sergio Vera in Sinaloa, who sang about the narco-trafficers in his ballads (VIDEO)

MEXICO CITY -- Gunmen murdered nine people at a drug rehabilitation center in northern Mexico, while 10 other people were reported killed in drug-related violence in the country, officials said.

The gunmen entered the Fuerza Para Vivir drug treatment center in Gomez Palacio, a city in the northern state of Durango, around 1:40 p.m. on Saturday and opened fire, killing nine people and wounding five others, police spokesmen told Efe.

The drug rehabilitation center's owner, Roberto Mayoral, was among those killed, the Reforma newspaper reported.

The rehab center in Gomez Palacio, located 815 kilometers (506 miles) northwest of Mexico City, housed 46 people, the newspaper said.

Gunmen employed by Mexico's drug cartels have attacked several drug treatment centers in recent months.

Durango ranked third among Mexico's states last year in terms of homicides, with 734.

A woman and four men were gunned down early Saturday at the Habana bar in Ciudad Juarez, a border city in the northern state of Chihuahua, prosecutors said.

Gunmen opened fire on the table where the victims were sitting, a Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office spokesman told Efe.

The gunmen managed to carry out the attack even though the bar is on El Trigal Plaza, one of the areas most watched by military and state police patrols.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's murder capital, is located across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, has been battling Vicente Carrillo Fuentes's Juarez cartel for control of smuggling routes around the border city.

Press reports say the Sinaloa organization, Mexico's oldest and largest drug cartel, has effectively taken control of Juarez.

Ciudad Juarez, where more than 5,000 people have been murdered since 2008, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.

The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when 310 people were killed, then it more than tripled to 1,607 in 2008, according to state AG's office figures, with the number of killings climbing to 2,635 last year.

The death toll for this year currently stands at more than 1,200.

Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas and Guatemala, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said in a report released earlier this year.

Army troops, meanwhile, engaged a group of gunmen in a firefight near Ciudad Mier, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, the Defense Secretariat said.

Five suspected gunmen were killed in the incident Friday near the road that leads to state-owned oil company Pemex's Arcos facility, the secretariat said.

The gunmen opened fire on the soldiers, who "proceeded to repel the attack," the Defense Secretariat said.

Soldiers seized nine rifles, more than 11,300 rounds of ammunition, 99 ammunition clips, four grenades and two vehicles after the firefight.

The incident occurred two days after Pemex told legislators that five of its employees and two belonging to a contractor had been kidnapped in Cuenca de Burgos, an area in northeastern Mexico, two months ago.

Organized crime groups' activities are affecting Pemex's operations in the area, which has large natural gas reserves, Pemex director general Juan Jose Suarez Coppel said.

Pemex has asked the army to guard the Gigante Uno liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility, located near the border with the United States and in an area where the Los Zetas and Gulf cartels have been battling for control of smuggling routes and territory.

Singer Sergio Vega Gunned Down

Mexican singer Sergio Vega was shot to death while driving on a highway in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, Mexican media reported Sunday.

Vega was heading to Alhuey, where he planned to perform with several other artists, when gunmen who had apparently been following the singer attacked him.

The death of the 40-year-old singer, known as "El Shaka," was confirmed by businessman Jesus Tirado, who was organizing the concert at which Vega was to perform and which has been cancelled.

Judicial officials also confirmed the killing of Vega, who was traveling with another person at the time of the attack, the Mexico City daily El Universal reported on its Web site.

Vega denied a few hours before his death that he had been the target of an attack.

The singer said he had bolstered his security in light of the attacks on musicians in Mexico in recent years.

Singer Carlos Ocaranza was gunned down last August as he left a bar where he had given a concert in the western city of Guadalajara and his agent was seriously wounded.

Ocaranza, who was related to a famous singer murdered in 2006, had just finished performing at the La Revancha bar in the city's western section when two gunmen shot him and fled on a motorcycle.

Investigators found 12 bullet casings from 9mm weapons at the crime scene.

Ocaranza's agent, Jorge Altamirano Pelayo, was wounded in the attack.

Ocaranza was related to Valentin Elizalde, who was murdered in November 2006 in the border city of Reynosa by drug traffickers apparently unhappy with some of his compositions, the Jalisco state Attorney General's Office said.

Elizalde and other singers perform what is known in Mexico as grupero music, a genre that includes so-called "narcocorridos," ballads that recount the exploits and travails of drug kingpins.

Reports claim that drug capos pay large sums for the ballads and more than a dozen grupero singers have been murdered since 1992.

In January 2008, Roberto Ignacio del Fierro Lugo, the publicist for Jesus Elizalde, Valentin's brother, was murdered near a recording studio in the Guadalajara suburb of Zapopan.

Before managing Jesus Elizalde's public relations, Del Fiero had represented Valentin.

Valentin's brothers, including Jesus, have stopped playing narcocorridos.

In December 2007, a wave of violence was unleashed against various grupero singers, such as Sergio Gomez, 34, the lead singer of Grammy-nominated band K-PAZ de la Sierra, who was kidnapped and murdered after a concert, and vocalist Zayda Peņa Arjona, 28, killed by a gunman who pursued her to the hospital where she was recovering from gunshot wounds.

2 Indians Die in Election-Related Violence in Chiapas

Two Indians were killed and more than 50 others arrested in a clash between rival political groups in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, officials said.

The incident occurred Saturday in Zinacantan, one of the cities where elections will be held on July 4.

The disturbance started around 11:00 a.m. in the Tzotzil community of Nachig following a rally by mayoral candidate Domingo Hernandez Perez, who belongs to the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution.

PRD members opened fire on a group of Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, members who were in the plaza where the rally was held, eyewitnesses said.

The PRD members barricaded themselves inside a house after the shooting.

Two houses were burned and more than 20 vehicles were vandalized in the incident, with angry PRI members blamed for the rampage.

Brothers Martin and Juan Sanchez Lopez were taken to a hospital in San Cristobal de Las Casas.

The brothers were both shot to death, with Martin being killed in the plaza and Juan at the hospital.

The Chiapas state government deployed more than 200 police officers and three helicopters in the community to restore order.

Chiapas is governed by Jaime Sabines with the support of the PRD.

Sabines succeeded Pablo Salazar Mendiguchia, who broke the PRI's decades-long grip on power in the state.

A total of 118 mayoralties are up for grabs in the July 4 elections in Chiapas.


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