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Timeline: Mexico's Failed War on Drugs, Deaths and Disappearances

Allegations of human rights abuses in Mexico have soared since the so-called war on drugs was launched in 2005, since then, more than 150,000 people have been killed, more than 28,000 have disappeared and at least 8,000 cases of torture have been documented. Recently the state was accused of crimes against humanity by international organizations. 
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2005 – Mexico sees a surge in gang related violence, particularly because of increased fighting between Gulf and Sinaloa cartels, as well as the rise of the Familia Michoacana cartel. Drug cartels in Mexico control approximately 70 percent of the foreign narcotics flow into the United States. (Photo: The Mexican army patrols Matamoros city on the border with the U.S. as part of a national crusade against drug trafficking, Jan. 27, 2005. The city is the main base of the Gulf cartel.)
2005 – Mexico sees a surge in gang related violence, particularly because of increased fighting between Gulf and Sinaloa cartels, as well as the rise of the Familia Michoacana cartel. Drug cartels in Mexico control approximately 70 percent of the foreign narcotics flow into the United States. (Photo: The Mexican army patrols Matamoros city on the border with the U.S. as part of a national crusade against drug trafficking, Jan. 27, 2005. The city is the main base of the Gulf cartel.) Photo:EFE
2006 – Felipe Calderon wins the presidency in July in an election that his main opponent denounces as fraud. Calderon takes power Dec. 1, and in an effort to shore up his legitimacy, calls a major military offensive 10 days later in the state of Michoacan, to end drug violence. The new President sends 4,000 military troops and 2,500 federal police officers to the region. In 2015 this has risen to some 45,000 troops plus other federal police officers involved in the region.
2006 – Felipe Calderon wins the presidency in July in an election that his main opponent denounces as fraud. Calderon takes power Dec. 1, and in an effort to shore up his legitimacy, calls a major military offensive 10 days later in the state of Michoacan, to end drug violence. The new President sends 4,000 military troops and 2,500 federal police officers to the region. In 2015 this has risen to some 45,000 troops plus other federal police officers involved in the region. Photo:Reuters
2007 – Mexico and the United States, under then President George W. Bush, announce a new security plan called the “Merida Initiative,” allegedly to tackle drug related violence in the country. The initial pact is for a three-year US$1.4 billion security package. (Photo: Felipe Calderon (R) and George W. Bush talk during a meeting in the Mexican city of Merida, March 13, 2007)
2007 – Mexico and the United States, under then President George W. Bush, announce a new security plan called the “Merida Initiative,” allegedly to tackle drug related violence in the country. The initial pact is for a three-year US$1.4 billion security package. (Photo: Felipe Calderon (R) and George W. Bush talk during a meeting in the Mexican city of Merida, March 13, 2007) Photo:EFE
2007 – Calderon
2007 – Calderon's war on drugs intensifies as he sends military troops and federal police to the border city of Tijuana, and the Golden Triangle area – the top drug producing region in Mexico. (Photo: Mexican soldiers look on as 134 tonnes of marijuana are incinerated at Morelos military base in Tijuana Oct. 20, 2010) Photo:Reuters
2008 – Cartels battle for control over the border city of Ciudad Juarez. These were the bloodiest battles in drug wars, which accounted for more than one third of all deaths over the next three years. (Photo: Police investigators work at a crime scene in Ciudad Juarez, Dec. 3, 2008.)
2008 – Cartels battle for control over the border city of Ciudad Juarez. These were the bloodiest battles in drug wars, which accounted for more than one third of all deaths over the next three years. (Photo: Police investigators work at a crime scene in Ciudad Juarez, Dec. 3, 2008.) Photo:EFE
2008 – By the end of 2008, the government deploys more troops to the northern region. At the end of the year, the death toll related to drug violence was reported to be 6,800. (Photo: Soldiers arrive in Ciudad Juarez on March 1, 2010.)
2008 – By the end of 2008, the government deploys more troops to the northern region. At the end of the year, the death toll related to drug violence was reported to be 6,800. (Photo: Soldiers arrive in Ciudad Juarez on March 1, 2010.) Photo:Reuters
2009 – 2011 - Operation Fast and Furious is launched by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This allowed illegal gun sales in order for them to be tracked to Mexico where it would help to implicate drug cartels. Estimates suggest that 1,400 weapons were lost by the ATF in Mexico with many falling into the hands of drug cartels. Two of the weapons were later believed to have been used in the murder of a United States Border Patrol agent. (Photo: View of an arsenal of ammunition and weapons found after a clash between gunmen and members of Mexico
2009 – 2011 - Operation Fast and Furious is launched by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This allowed illegal gun sales in order for them to be tracked to Mexico where it would help to implicate drug cartels. Estimates suggest that 1,400 weapons were lost by the ATF in Mexico with many falling into the hands of drug cartels. Two of the weapons were later believed to have been used in the murder of a United States Border Patrol agent. (Photo: View of an arsenal of ammunition and weapons found after a clash between gunmen and members of Mexico's Army Sept. 2, 2010) Photo:EFE
2009 – The most violent place in the country is Ciudad Juarez, though there are already 10,000 soldiers and police deployed to the area. (Photo: Military and forensic experts inspect the body of a man who was killed outside a nightclub in the border city of Ciudad Juarez August 31, 2009.)
2009 – The most violent place in the country is Ciudad Juarez, though there are already 10,000 soldiers and police deployed to the area. (Photo: Military and forensic experts inspect the body of a man who was killed outside a nightclub in the border city of Ciudad Juarez August 31, 2009.) Photo:Reuters
2009 – By the end of 2009, the death toll for drug related violence reaches 9,600. (Photo: View of a sign next to a body that was found Oct. 18, 2009, in the town of Barra Vieja the southern state of Guerrero. Several Guerrero deaths in the same month had messages from the executioners next to the body.)
2009 – By the end of 2009, the death toll for drug related violence reaches 9,600. (Photo: View of a sign next to a body that was found Oct. 18, 2009, in the town of Barra Vieja the southern state of Guerrero. Several Guerrero deaths in the same month had messages from the executioners next to the body.) Photo:EFE
2010 - Anabel Hernandez launches her groundbreaking book Los Señores del Narco (Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers) highlighting the complicity of the Mexican government, police, military, and business and finance sectors in the drug cartels and U.S. state involvement. (Photo: Anabel Hernandez reports death threats to authorities, Dec. 3, 2010)
2010 - Anabel Hernandez launches her groundbreaking book Los Señores del Narco (Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers) highlighting the complicity of the Mexican government, police, military, and business and finance sectors in the drug cartels and U.S. state involvement. (Photo: Anabel Hernandez reports death threats to authorities, Dec. 3, 2010) Photo:EFE
2010, January – Gunmen open fire at a teenager
2010, January – Gunmen open fire at a teenager's birthday party and killed 15 people in Ciudad Juarez. (Photo: Hearses carrying the coffins of students who were killed at a high school birthday party drive into the cemetery in Ciudad Juarez February 3, 2010.) Photo:Reuters
2010, February – A new turf battle erupts up in the north western state of Tamaulipas between the Gulf and the Zetas cartels. The conflict between the two cartels also spreads south to business capital Monterrey. The cartels also impose a media blackout on local media, threatening local journalists who report on gang violence. (Photo: The army with six alleged members of the Zeta cartel, the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, May 4, 2009)
2010, February – A new turf battle erupts up in the north western state of Tamaulipas between the Gulf and the Zetas cartels. The conflict between the two cartels also spreads south to business capital Monterrey. The cartels also impose a media blackout on local media, threatening local journalists who report on gang violence. (Photo: The army with six alleged members of the Zeta cartel, the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, May 4, 2009) Photo:EFE
2010, August – Gunmen kill 72 migrants at a ranch in Tamaulipas, most of whom were traveling to the U.S. from Central America. The massacre is thought to have been carried out by the Zetas cartel after the migrants refused to smuggle drugs into the U.S. (Photo: Bodies of some of the 72 immigrants killed in Mexico Ranch lie on the floor of an abandoned warehouse in San Fernando.)
2010, August – Gunmen kill 72 migrants at a ranch in Tamaulipas, most of whom were traveling to the U.S. from Central America. The massacre is thought to have been carried out by the Zetas cartel after the migrants refused to smuggle drugs into the U.S. (Photo: Bodies of some of the 72 immigrants killed in Mexico Ranch lie on the floor of an abandoned warehouse in San Fernando.) Photo:AFP
2011, January – The Mexican government publishes data of drug related violence, putting the total death toll since Calderon took office in 2006 at 34,612. (Photo: Honduran Public Ministry employees examine the repatriated bodies of the 16 Hondurans who were killed in the 2010 Tamaulipas massacre.)
2011, January – The Mexican government publishes data of drug related violence, putting the total death toll since Calderon took office in 2006 at 34,612. (Photo: Honduran Public Ministry employees examine the repatriated bodies of the 16 Hondurans who were killed in the 2010 Tamaulipas massacre.) Photo:EFE
2011 – During March and April, continuous attacks on five municipalities close to the U.S. border, later known as the Allende massacres after one of the municipalities, left hundreds of people disappeared. Hundreds of bodies have since been found in clandestine burial grounds in the area. There was not one trace of military or police intervention in the two months of violence. (Photo: People exhibit the photos of up to 300 victims of disappearances in Mexico’s forgotten massacre – International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Aug. 30 each year.)
2011 – During March and April, continuous attacks on five municipalities close to the U.S. border, later known as the Allende massacres after one of the municipalities, left hundreds of people disappeared. Hundreds of bodies have since been found in clandestine burial grounds in the area. There was not one trace of military or police intervention in the two months of violence. (Photo: People exhibit the photos of up to 300 victims of disappearances in Mexico’s forgotten massacre – International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on Aug. 30 each year.) Photo:Reuters
2011, May – Thousands protest across Mexico against cartel violence, and the lack of adequate policing in the country. The response by the Mexican government is seen is widely seen as insufficient. (Photo: People in Mexico City march under a banner that reads
2011, May – Thousands protest across Mexico against cartel violence, and the lack of adequate policing in the country. The response by the Mexican government is seen is widely seen as insufficient. (Photo: People in Mexico City march under a banner that reads 'No More Violence.') Photo:Reuters
2011 – By the end of 2011, local media said the death toll for the year was roughly 10,000, bringing the total number to over 45,000 during Calderon
2011 – By the end of 2011, local media said the death toll for the year was roughly 10,000, bringing the total number to over 45,000 during Calderon's first 5 years in office. (Photo: Police barricade a crime scene where they found the bodies of 10 men and one woman in the Valle del Chalco outside of Mexico City in July, 2011.) Photo:EFE
2012, May – 49 people were found decapitated and mutilated along the Mexican Federal Highway 40, near the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez in the state of Nueva Leon. (Photo: Residents look at shoes of missing people that have been arranged to form the number forty-nine, in memory of the Cadereyta victims.)
2012, May – 49 people were found decapitated and mutilated along the Mexican Federal Highway 40, near the municipality of Cadereyta Jimenez in the state of Nueva Leon. (Photo: Residents look at shoes of missing people that have been arranged to form the number forty-nine, in memory of the Cadereyta victims.) Photo:Reuters
2013, February - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (who took office in 2012) announced that the state had records of more than 27,000 cases of “disappeared people,” though human rights organizations claimed that real figure was actually higher.
2013, February - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (who took office in 2012) announced that the state had records of more than 27,000 cases of “disappeared people,” though human rights organizations claimed that real figure was actually higher.
2013, August 9 – Former Mexican drug cartel boss Rafael Caro Quintero is released from prison after a court overturns his 40-year jail sentence. There have been other allegatins of convicted cartel leaders being released before serving their time. (Photo: A U.S. DEA reward poster for Caro Quintero prior to his arrest in 1985.)
2013, August 9 – Former Mexican drug cartel boss Rafael Caro Quintero is released from prison after a court overturns his 40-year jail sentence. There have been other allegatins of convicted cartel leaders being released before serving their time. (Photo: A U.S. DEA reward poster for Caro Quintero prior to his arrest in 1985.) Photo:DEA
2013 – August, Allegations surface that allege Mexican drug cartels are privately hiring U.S. military personnel for training and to carry out murders in exchange for cash and drugs.
2013 – August, Allegations surface that allege Mexican drug cartels are privately hiring U.S. military personnel for training and to carry out murders in exchange for cash and drugs. Photo:AFP
2014 – Vigilante groups (community militias) spring up in the southern state of Michoacan, they accuse  Michoacan of being a “failed state” due to cartel violence that has taken over the area and a police force that has done nothing to protect citizens. (Photo: Jose Manuel Mireles (3rd L), head of Michoacan state
2014 – Vigilante groups (community militias) spring up in the southern state of Michoacan, they accuse Michoacan of being a “failed state” due to cartel violence that has taken over the area and a police force that has done nothing to protect citizens. (Photo: Jose Manuel Mireles (3rd L), head of Michoacan state's community police or vigilantes, poses for a photograph with vigilantes in Churumuco.) Photo:Reuters
2014, September – 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers
2014, September – 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers' training college in the state of Guerrero went missing after they were arrested by police and handed over to a local drug gang United Warriors (Guerreros Unidos). The arrest and handover was reportedly ordered by a local mayor and his wife. One of the students has been confirmed dead, however the other 42 remain missing. The nation continues to fight for government transparency and justice. (Photo: A demonstrator holds up his hand with the number 43 written on it, in reference to the missing students.) Photo:Reuters
In the first eight months of 2015 more than 60 mass graves were located in the southern state of Guerrero, containing the remains of at least 129 people. In that same year Mexico ranked the second worst country in the world at prosecuting crimes, by the Global Impunity Index.
In the first eight months of 2015 more than 60 mass graves were located in the southern state of Guerrero, containing the remains of at least 129 people. In that same year Mexico ranked the second worst country in the world at prosecuting crimes, by the Global Impunity Index. Photo:Reuters
In 2016 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, fugitive drug lord, is captured in Mexico..."Mission Accomplished," President Enrique Peña Nieto says "We have him." However during the first quarter of the year more than 789 people died in organized crime-related attacks.
In 2016 Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, fugitive drug lord, is captured in Mexico..."Mission Accomplished," President Enrique Peña Nieto says "We have him." However during the first quarter of the year more than 789 people died in organized crime-related attacks. Photo:Reuters
Published 18 June 2016
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