President Felipe Calderón of Mexico pledged on Tuesday to “apply the weight of the law” against killers of the family of a marine who died last week combating drug lords.
Irma Córdova Palma and three family members were murdered after unidentified gunmen burst into her humble house in southern Mexico and opened fire just before midnight on Monday. The attack took place just hours after the family attended the funeral of Ms Córdova’s son, a marine who had become a military hero after dying last week during an operation that resulted in the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, one of the world’s most wanted drugs traffickers.
Investigators suspect the murders may have been a revenge killing ordered by Beltran Leyva’s cartel, which bears his name and which has long been associated with brutal acts of violence.
The centre-right Mr Calderón, who has made fighting the country’s drug-trafficking groups a priority since taking office three years ago, called the attack “cowardly” and one that “shows how unscrupulous organised crime is”.
He added that the killing would serve only to strengthen his government’s resolve to fight the drugs traffickers.
According to US and national authorities, at least 80 per cent of the cocaine consumed in the US passes through Mexico, a business worth billions of dollars a year.
The country’s drugs cartels, which import the cocaine from Colombia but control the most lucrative part of the business, have grown rich and powerful in the process.
Since Mr Calderón declared an all-out war against drugs in December 2006, an estimated 16,000 people have died as the result of drugs-related violence.
In recent years, Mexicans have been shocked by reports of grisly drugs-related violence. But the killing of the marine’s family has shocked even the most hardened observers of Mexico’s drugs war.
More than 7,000 people have been murdered this year, and more than 180 in the past week alone. The spiralling violence is reminiscent of the intense bloodletting suffered by Colombia as it battled to rein in its drugs cartels during the late 1980s and 1990s.