Monday, July 5, 2010

Marchman Act Blog: Drug gangs terrorize residents in small Mexican villages on Arizona's doorstep; roads are bare

[In this photo, Sonora State police man a checkpoint near the site where a gunbattle broke out between rival drug and migrant trafficking gangs on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico, on the border with Arizona, Thursday July 1, 2010. Sonora state officials say that 21 people were killed in the gunbattle and at least six others were wounded.(AP Photo/Diario de Sonora) (Diario de Sonora, AP / July 2, 2010)]

ALTAR, Mexico (AP) — Very few residents dare to drive on one of the roads out of this watering-hole for migrants, fearing they will be stopped at gunpoint. They worry they will be told to turn around after their gas tanks are drained or, worse, be kidnapped or killed.

A shootout that left 21 people dead and six wounded on the road last week is the most gruesome sign that a relatively tranquil pocket of northern Mexico is quickly turning into a hotbed of drug-fueled violence on Arizona's doorstep. The violence in recent months is grist for supporters of the state's tough new law against illegal immigration, who are eager to portray the border as a lawless battlefield of smugglers both of drugs and humans.

Nogales, the main city in the region, which shares a border with the Arizona city of the same name, has had 131 murders so far this year, nearly surpassing 135 for all of 2009, according to a tally by the newspaper Diario de Sonora. That includes two heads found Thursday stuffed side by side between the bars of a cemetery fence. Read Full Story...

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