Thursday, June 2, 2011

Debate rises over death toll in Mexico drug war

E. Eduardo Castillo / Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The debate over how many people have died in Mexico's 4 1/2-year-old drug war is intensifying as the government's silence over the figure grows longer. The last official count, more than 34,600 dead, came almost six months ago, and the number of lives lost is now obviously far higher, with daily reports of slayings and shootouts in drug hot spots and the occasional horror of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies.
Some Mexican news media are reporting that their counts show the death toll has risen past 40,000, a number that includes rival gang members killed in turf battles, as well as innocent bystanders, extortion victims, police and soldiers.
The most recent official count came in January, when the government released a database of drug-related deaths as a gesture of openness about President Felipe Calderon's military assault on drug cartels, which began as he took office in December 2006.
Government officials also had occasionally released updated numbers in past years when pressed by the news media.

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