CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) - More than 29,000 people have died since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his military campaign on drug cartels when he took office in late 2006.
Following is a timeline of key events in the war on drugs in Mexico, a major transit point for narcotics smuggled into the United States.
2001 - Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman escapes from a Mexican prison in a laundry van. Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord, he builds a coalition of drug gangs from the western state of Sinaloa and vows to take control of Mexico’s vast drug trade.
2002 - Police weaken the Tijuana cartel by killing drug boss Ramon Arellano Felix and arresting one of his brothers.
2003 - Mexican soldiers capture Osiel Cardenas, leader of the Gulf cartel based in eastern Mexico, after a shootout between troops and gunmen in the border city of Matamoros.
2004 - Trying to take advantage of Cardenas’ arrest, Guzman sends well-armed enforcers to border cities south of Texas to take over Gulf cartel smuggling routes. Heavy fighting breaks out before Guzman’s fighters are eventually repelled.
2005 - Guzman seeks control of the border city of Tijuana and trafficking routes into California. Violence escalates across Mexico and about 1,500 people are killed over the year.
2006 - Killings spread to the resort of Acapulco, the industrial city of Monterrey and to Michoacan in western Mexico, the home state of Felipe Calderon. After taking over as president on December 1, Calderon immediately sends out troops and federal police to stem the violence. Drug gang killings rise to 2,300 and beheadings, torture and other atrocities increase.
2007 - Calderon extradites Gulf cartel leader Cardenas to the United States and makes a historic 23-tonne cocaine seizure. U.S. President George W. Bush pledges $1.4 billion in drug-fighting gear and training for Mexico and Central America. Violence escalates and more than 3,000 people are killed over the course of the year.
2008 - Guzman’s hitmen take on the Juarez cartel in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, which quickly becomes the drug war’s bloodiest flashpoint. Drug violence kills around 6,300 people across Mexico over the year.
2009 - Calderon sends 10,000 more troops to Ciudad Juarez but the killings continue. U.S. President Barack Obama visits Mexico and vows to clamp down on smuggled guns but the annual drug war death toll soars above 7,000.
In December, an elite navy squad tracks down and kills drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of the cartel of the same name and one of Mexico’s most-wanted traffickers. Six bodyguards also die in the raid on a luxury apartment in the city of Cuernavaca near the capital.
2010 - In January police capture drug kingpin Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, known for having rivals tortured, killed and dissolved in acid.
But the cartels grow more brazen, killing three people linked to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, murdering a gubernatorial election candidate in the increasingly lawless northeastern state of Tamaulipas and setting off car bombs. Mass killings at drug rehabilitation centers and parties become common and mayors and local officials are assassinated.
In late July, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, No. 3 in Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, dies as soldiers try to arrest him near Guadalajara.
On August 30, in Calderon’s second coup of the year, authorities capture Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez, the U.S.-born trafficker who was fighting to lead the Beltran Leyva gang based in central Mexico. Valdez was said to put up little resistance when he was captured in the State of Mexico.
Compiled by Robin Emmott in Monterrey; Editing by Xavier Briand
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.