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It has been a violent year in Mexico. Last weekend was no exception. Four Americans were killed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, which sets just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Two were fatally shot near the Zaragoza international bridge in one incident. In separate incidents, two other U.S. citizen suffered fatal shooting wounds in Ciudad Juarez.
According to the U.S. State Department, at least 35 Americans have been killed in Juarez alone so far this year. Twenty of those deaths happened in October, making it the most deadly month since 2008. Ciudad Juarez now ranks among the deadliest cities in the world, with over 6,800 people killed over the past two years. The U.S. State Department says that since 2006, more than three times as many people have been murdered in Juarez than the rest of the Mexico combined.
The violence comes mainly due to a gang war between two drug cartels that are fighting for control of the lucrative drug trade. The Sinaloa and Juarez cartels started battling over the Ciudad Juarez drug-smuggling route into the U.S. in 2008.
"We offer our condolences to the families of the victims," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, CNN reports. "We have been in touch with those families and are providing all possible assistance."
According to the El Paso Times, residents on the Texas side of the border now avoid visiting Juarez for fear of being killed. Mario Rodriguez, a 24-year-old student has reduced his visits to Juarez by about 90%, despite the fact that he has relatives across the border. He never drives by car, only carries $10 and tries not to dress nice or attract any attention to himself. "Everywhere I go, I always look over my shoulder. I mainly worry about my family over there getting hurt," Rodriguez says.
It is unknown at this point whether any of the weekend's murders had motives or whether they were random acts of violence. The tragic incidents also raise questions regarding the effectiveness of U.S. drug prohibition. While demand for drugs in the U.S. has not been reduced, money and resources continue to pour into prohibiting and punishing those engaged in the drug trade. One of the reasons put forth by supporters of California's Prop. 19, which would legalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, is that it would take the money out of the hands of drug cartels.