Their killings of three police officers this month marked a dangerous new front in Mexico’s battle against drug gangs in the borderlands south of Texas, reports the Washington Post. More than 22,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón started a war on trafficers in 2006, says a a confidential government report, a toll that far exceeds previous media estimates.
The northeastern states along the Gulf of Mexico had been mostly quiet as drug cartels and the Mexican mlitary fought farther west. But powerful and warring crime syndicates have now launched a campaign of terror, abducting journalists, beheading police officers and assaulting military garrisons. After assailants lobbed a fragmentation grenade at the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo this month, the State Department temporarily shuttered offices in the region. The Mexican interior minister, Fernando Gómez Mont, said gangsters are attacking U.S. interests to provoke both countries, aiming to bring more Mexican troops into the area and possibly weaken rival cartels, a tactic known as “heating up the plaza.” “Plaza” is slang for a trafficking route to the United States.