Timeline of the Mexican Drug War
The timeline of some of the most relevant events in the Mexican Drug War is set out below. Although violence between drug cartels had been occurring for three decades, the Mexican government held a generally passive stance regarding cartel violence through the 1980s and early 2000s.
That changed on December 11, 2006, when the newly elected President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 Mexican Army soldiers to the state of Michoacán to end drug violence there. This action is regarded as the first major retaliation made against the cartel violence, and is generally viewed as the starting point of the Mexican Drug War between the government and the drug cartels. As time passed, Calderón continued to escalate his anti-drug campaign, in which there are now about 45,000 troops involved along with state and federal police forces.
Note: To make the list more manageable, murdered politicians are listed separately in list of politicians killed in the Mexican Drug War, and journalists assassinated are listed at list of journalists killed in the Mexican Drug War. Other notable events in the ongoing conflict are included below.
- November 25 – Popular singer Valentín Elizalde is ambushed and gunned down along with his manager (and best friend) Mario Mendoza Grajeda, and driver Reynaldo Ballesteros, in the border city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas.
- December 1 – President Felipe Calderón assumes office. He also imposes a cap on salaries of high-ranking public servants and orders a raise on the salaries of the Federal Police and the Mexican Armed Forces.
- December 11 – Operation Michoacán is launched against the La Familia Michoacana cartel. A total of more than 60 Mexican soldiers and more than 100 police officers, and 500 cartel gunmen are killed in the operation.
- January 2 – Operation Baja California is launched.
- January 20 – Drug lord Osiel Cárdenas Guillén is extradited to the USA.
- March 17 – Zhenli Ye Gon is relieved of $213 million USD in Mexico City.
- May 14 – Jorge Altriste, head of operations for Mexico's elite police force in Tijuana, is murdered.
- December 2 – Popular singer Sergio Gómez is kidnapped and killed.
- December 8 – Gerardo García Pimentel, a crime reporter, is killed.
- December 29 – The entire police force in the town of Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, is disarmed under suspicions of collaborating with drug cartels.
For 2007, the drug-related death toll reached 2,477.
- January 1 – The Federal government, along with SEDENA, launches the Joint Operation Nuevo León-Tamaulipas in order to eliminate the operation areas of both the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
- January 21 – Mexican security forces capture drug lord Alfredo Beltrán Leyva.
- March 27 – The Federal government launches the Operation Chihuahua to confront the three drug cartels operating in the state. Moreover, Ciudad Juárez's violence is among the major concerns in this operation.
- April 26–15 people are killed in a gun battle between the Tijuana Cartel and a rival drug cartel.
- May 8 – Acting commissioner of the Federal Police Édgar Eusebio Millán Gómez was gunned down in Mexico City. He was the highest-ranking Mexican official killed.
- May 9 – Esteban Robles Espinosa, the commander of Mexico's investigative police force, was murdered in Mexico City.
- May 13 – The Federal government launches the Operation Sinaloa to crack down on the Sinaloa Cartel, the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, and Los Zetas in the state.
- May 28 – Seven Federal Police agents die in a shootout in Culiacán.
- May 31 – The United States announces it is implementing a drug trafficking law to impose financial sanctions on Mexican drug cartels.
- June 26 – Police commander Igor Labastida is shot dead in a restaurant in Mexico City.
- June 30 – The Mérida Initiative, a US$1.6 billion security cooperation agreement between the USA and Mexico, announced on October 22, 2007, was signed into law.
- September 13 – In Ocoyoacac, 24 bodies were found at a national park called La Marquesa; all bodies were shot and showed signs of torture.
- September 15 – 2008 Morelia grenade attacks: eight civilians were killed and more than 100 were injured in Morelia when hand grenades were thrown into a crowd.
- September 17 – Over 200 people across Mexico, Guatemala, Italy and the United States, including members of the Gulf Cartel and the 'Ndrangheta are arrested in a major anti-drug trafficking operation called Operation Solare.
- October 22 – Police capture boss Jesús Zambada García of the Sinaloa Cartel after a shootout in Mexico City.
- October 24 – Mexican criminal investigator Andrés Dimitriadis is shot dead by cartel gunmen (sicarios) in his car on his way home.
- October 26 – The Mexican army captured drug lord Eduardo Arellano Félix after a shootout in Tijuana.
- November 2 – The Federal Police chief Víctor Gerardo Garay resigns amidst claims of corruption. He was arrested and charged on December 10 for protecting the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.
- November 6 – In Reynosa, the Mexican army made the largest weapon seizure in the history of Mexico. The seizure included 288 assault rifles, 126 handguns, 166 grenades, 14 TNT explosives, 500,000 cartridges, over 1,000 ammunition magazines, and a rocket launcher.
- November 7 – The Federal Police arrest Jaime González Durán in Tamaulipas; he was a founding member of Los Zetas.
- November 17 – Rodolfo de la Guardia García, ex-director of Mexico's Interpol office, is arrested and charged of protecting the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.
- November 19 – Mexican Interpol chief Ricardo Gutiérrez Vargas is arrested on suspicion of links with drug cartels.
- November 21 – Noé Ramírez Mandujano, ex-head of Mexico's anti-organized crime agency, is arrested on suspicion of links with drug cartels.
- November 30 – Guatemalan and Mexican drug cartels clash on the two countries' border, leaving 18 dead.
- December 10 – Felix Batista, an American anti-kidnapping expert is kidnapped in Saltillo.
- December 21 – Seven off-duty soldiers and one police commander are kidnapped, tortured and decapitated. Their heads were left at a shopping center located in Chilpancingo with a threat note to the military.
For 2008, the drug-related death toll reached 6,290.
- January 2 – Mexican authorities arrested Alberto Espinoza Barrón, one of the La Familia Michoacana cartel leaders.
- January 6 – Gunmen fired on and threw grenades at the Televisa TV station in Monterrey during a nightly newscast, causing no injuries. A note left on the scene read: "Stop reporting just on us. Report on the narco's political leaders."
- January 22 – Police arrest Santiago Meza, a man who allegedly dissolved 300 bodies of rival drug traffickers for his boss Teodoro García Simental.
- February 3 – The body of retired General Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñónez, who had been appointed a special drugs consultant to the Benito Juárez municipality mayor, was found near Cancún along with the bodies of his aide and a driver.
- February 5 – Police capture trafficker and lieutenant Gerónimo Gámez García in Mexico City.
- February 7 – The Federal government, along with SEDENA, launches the Operation Quintana Roo, sending thousands of troops to Cancún and several cities within the state. Several police officers in that state where found guilty of drug trafficking, and 'El Puma,' a Gulf Cartel lieutenant, was captured.
- February 10 – Military troops took over a police station in Cancún in connection with the torture and murder of former general Mauro Enrique Tello Quiñónez, who led an elite anti-drugs squad.
- February 12 – Gunmen assassinate Detective Ramón Jasso Rodríguez, the chief in charge of the homicide division for the state police of Nuevo León.
- February 15 – The Mexican Navy, with the help of the United States Coast Guard, confiscated 7 tons of cocaine being transported on a fishing vessel in international waters in the Pacific Ocean.
- February 17 – A shootout took place in the city of Reynosa, between members of the Mexican Army and presumed members of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. The death of the high-ranking Gulf Cartel leader Héctor Manuel Sauceda Gamboa was confirmed.
- February 20 – Ciudad Juárez's Police Chief Robert Orduna announced his resignation after two police officers are killed. Drug traffickers had threatened to kill one police officer every 48 hours until the chief resigned.
- February 22 – Five assailants attacked the convoy of Chihuahua governor, José Reyes Baeza, killing a bodyguard.
- February 24 – Mexican authorities extradited Miguel Ángel Caro Quintero to the U.S, top-leader of the Sonora Cartel.
- Heavily armed gunmen assassinated Adrián López, mayor of Vista Hermosa, Michoacán.
- U.S. raids code-named Operation Xcellerator on the Sinaloa cartel in California, Minnesota and Maryland lead to 755 arrests, the discovery of a 'super meth lab' and laboratory equipment capable of producing 12,000 ecstasy pills per hour.
- February 25 – The New York Times report on ATF statistics stating that 90% of traced guns originated in the United States. This prompted a resurgence of heated debates in USA concerning the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
- February 28 – Close to 1,800 Mexican troops arrived in Ciudad Juárez as part of a contingent of 5,000 Federal Police and troops.
- March 9 – The Mexican Army confirmed the arrest of 26 members of the Arrellano Félix Cartel, including Ángel Jácome Gamboa (El Kaibil), one state police officer, one municipal police officer, and other suspects.
- March 10 – The Mexican Ministry of Defense orders 6 Eurocopter EC 725 Helicopters from Eurocopter to transport soldiers in special operations. The deal was finalized behind closed doors between Felipe Calderón and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
- March 12 – The United States Department of Homeland Security stated that it is considering using the National Guard 'as a last resort' to counter the threat of drug violence in Mexico from spilling over the border into the US.
- March 19 – The Mexican military captures alleged Sinaloa Cartel drug boss Vicente Zambada Niebla, son of drug lord Ismael Zambada García El Mayo.
- March 22 – Gunmen killed Édgar Garcia, a state police commander in charge of investigating kidnappings and extortion in the western state of Michoacán.
- March 25 – A Mexican Special Forces Unit captured one of Mexico's most-wanted drug smugglers, Héctor Huerta Ríos.
- March 26 – A US Marshal, Vincent Bustamante who was the subject of an arrest warrant, was found dead in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
- April 2 – Vicente Carrillo Leyva, son of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, was arrested in Mexico City.
- April 19 – Eight Federal Police agents were killed in an attack on a prison convoy transporting senior leaders of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.
- April 22 – The bodies of two undercover federal agents are found in Durango, along with a note saying "Neither priests nor rulers will ever get El Chapo" (referring to Joaquín Guzmán and with clear allusion to the comments of the Archbishop of Durango Héctor González Martínez.)
- May 17 – Gulf cartel gunmen disguised as police officers break into a prison in Zacatecas and free 50 inmates.
- May 27 – Arrest of 27 high-ranking officials including 10 mayors and a judge in Michoacán suspected of collaboration with La Familia Cartel.
- June 6 – A total of 16 cartel gunmen and 2 Mexican Army soldiers were killed during a four-hour shootout in Acapulco.
- June 15 – Juan Manuel Jurado Zarzoza a lieutenant of the Gulf Cartel in Cancún was captured.
- June 26 – Gunmen attempt to kill Ernesto Cornejo, a Partido Acción Nacional candidate, in Sonora, but fail to kill him.
- July 7 – Anti-crime activist Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law Luis Widmar are murdered after armed men storm their house in Galeana, Chihuahua.
- July 11 – Several state police offices are attacked by gunmen in Michoacán, leaving several injured, and 2 members of the Mexican Army dead.
- July 14 – Twelve Mexican Federal Police agents were kidnapped, tortured and killed, and their bodies were later disposed on a mountain highway. The agents were investigating crime in President Felipe Calderón's home state of Michoacán.
- August 6 – A shootout between police and gunmen leaves over a dozen dead and 22 injured in Pachuca. Some kidnapped Federal agents were found alive, however this confrontation initiated simultaneous shootouts and grenade attacks on police installations around Mexico.
- August 8 – Federal Police arrest Manuel Invanovich Zambrano Flores, a top lieutenant of the Tijuana Cartel.
- August 9 – Mexican police defused an attempt to kill Mexican President Felipe Calderon by the Sinaloa Cartel.
- August 20 – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) disarticulated a large Mexican drug operation in Chicago, and knocking out a major distribution network that operated out of that city. The drug operation allegedly brought 1.5 to 2 tons of cocaine every month to Chicago from Mexico and shipped millions of dollars south of the border.
- September 3 – Gunmen attack a drug clinic in Ciudad Juárez, lining up patients against a wall and killing at least 17. José Rodolfo Escajeda of the Juárez cartel was arrested several days later.
- September 16 – Ten people are killed in another gun attack on a drug rehabilitation clinic in Ciudad Juarez.
- November 3 – Los Zetas founder Braulio Arellano Domínguez is killed by the Mexican Navy in the state of Veracruz.
- December 15 – As part of the Mérida Initiative, the Mexican Air Force received five Bell 412 helicopters worth $66 million from the United States to use for transport and reconnaissance missions for Mexico's drug war.
- December 16 – A two-hour shootout between 200 Mexican Marines and Beltrán-Leyva Cartel gunmen led to the death of Marcos Arturo Beltrán-Leyva, the leader of the criminal organization, in an upscale resort in Cuernavaca. Furthermore, four of his bodyguards were killed, one of which one committed suicide while surrounded by the Marines. Two marines were also injured while another, Navy 3rd Petty Officer Melquisedet Angulo Córdova, died while being treated for his injuries.
- December 22 – Only hours after the burial of 3rd Petty Officer Melquisedet Angulo Córdova, gunmen break into his family's house and kill Córdova's mother and three other relatives. The shooting is believed to be retaliation for the death of Marcos Arturo Beltrán-Leyva, as well as a warning against the military forces.
For 2009, the drug-related death toll reached 7,724.
- January 2 – Carlos Beltrán Leyva, brother of Marcos Arturo Beltrán-Leyva was arrested by Federal Police officers in Culiacán, Sinaloa.
- January 8 – Due to high crime rates in the municipality of Tancítaro, Michoacán, its Municipal Police force have been disbanded. City officials left the Army and State Police in charge of public security.
- January 12 – Federal Police agents arrested a partner of the Tijuana Cartel, Teodoro "El Teo" García Simental in La Paz, Baja California Sur.
- January 28 - Ernesto Coronel Peña, Juan Jaime Coronel, Juan Ernesto Coronel Herrera, and Gael Carbel Aldana, several members of the Coronel clan were arrested.
- January 31 – Sixteen teenagers with no criminal ties were gunned down at a party in Ciudad Juárez.
- February 1 – In Torreón, Coahuila, a group of gunmen opened fire at three different bars throughout the city, killing 10 and injuring over 40 people.
- February 24 – Los Zetas engaged in a violent turf war against is former employer/partner, the Gulf Cartel, in the northern border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, rendering some border towns to "ghost towns".
- March 5 – The Red Cross in Mexico no longer treating gunshot victims after finding themselves caught in cross fire.
- March 14 – Three people associated with U.S. consulate were killed in Chihuahua in two drive-by shootings. Two of their children were injured. Presidents Obama and Calderón condemned the attack.
- March 19 – Two graduate students from the ITESM in Monterrey were mistakenly killed by soldiers at the university's entrance during a gun battle against drug traffickers. Both students had engineering scholarships for academic excellence.
- March 23 – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visit Mexico and pledge increased support in the fight against drug cartels.
- March 30 – Cartel gunmen launched seven coordinated assaults against government forces by setting up roadblocks near Army garrisons, firing on checkpoints and ambushing patrols. Among the weapons used were armored vehicles, explosive devices and grenade launchers. The attacks were neutralized by Mexican troops. Mexican forces killed 18 cartel gunmen and seized more than 50 assault rifles, 61 grenades, 8 homemade explosive devices, numerous grenade launchers and 6 armored vehicles. Army casualties were limited to one soldier with an injured toe.
- April 1 – Cartel gunmen initiate road blocks in Reynosa, a single cartel member is killed in a shootout with Mexican soldiers. In Tampico, cartel gunmen ambush a state police checkpoint, killing one officer and wounding one officer, as well as a bystander.
- April 23 – In San Dimas, Durango, troops clashed with gunmen. Six gunmen were killed and one was captured. The army reported that only one of their own was injured.
- May 15 – In Torreón, a group of gunmen opened fire during the inauguration of 'Bar Las Juanas,' killing 8 and injuring 19 people.
- May 31 – A mass grave containing 55 bodies is found in an abandoned mine near Taxco, Guerrero.
- June 2 – In Tubutama, Sonora, right across the U.S. border from New Mexico, a gunfight between rival drug cartels left 21 people dead.
- June 9 – Leader of the Los Zetas division in the state of Nuevo León, Raúl Héctor Luna, is arrested in Monterrey.
- June 10 – 2010 Chihuahua shootings: 40 people are killed and at least 4 others are wounded in an attack by at least 30 gunmen in Chihuahua. The attack occurred at multiple places within the city, including a rehabilitation center where 19 of the victims died.
- June 14 – In Michoacán, 12 Federal Police officers were killed and 13 wounded, several cartel gunmen were killed as well. A separate attack took place in Ciudad Juárez, resulting in 3 gunmen dead and 2 Mexican soldiers wounded.
- June 15 – Army soldiers killed 15 gunmen and confiscated twenty guns and two homemade explosives during a 40-minute shootout on the outskirts of Taxco.
- June 26 – Banda Singer Sergio Vega, also known as "El Shaka", is murdered outside the city of Los Mochis in the state of Sinaloa.
- June 27 – Gunmen killed nine people at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Gómez Palacio, Durango.
- July 15 – La Línea, the Juárez Cartel's armed wing, used a car bomb for the first time, setting a deadly trap against federal police in the city of Ciudad Juárez; the car bomb killed three police officers.
- July 18 – Gunmen in five SUVs drove up to a party on the outskirts of Torreón, Coahuila and opened fire killing 17 party-goers.
- July 25 – In state of Nuevo Leon, 70 corpses were exhumed from clandestine mass graves. Also, the municipality of Benito Juárez counts with 51 of the total 70.
- July 29 – Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, one of the three leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel was killed in a shootout with the Army in Zapopan, Jalisco. One soldier was also killed and another wounded during the shootout.
- July 30 – On the heavy trafficked highway Matamoros-Ciudad Victoria, just outside San Fernando, Tamaulipas, 15 dead bodies from Los Zetas were left for display by the Gulf Cartel on the middle of the road.
- August 22 – Four decapitated and mutilated bodies were discovered hanging by their ankles from a bridge in Cuernavaca in the southern state of Morelos. Héctor Beltrán Leyva took responsibility for the killings in a message left with the bodies, the message left with the bodies threatened: "This is what will happen to all those who support the traitor Edgar Valdez Villarreal".
- August 24 – Tamaulipas massacre: Following a gunfight in the state of Tamaulipas between gunmen alleged to be drug traffickers, in which three gunmen and a marine were killed, 72 bodies were recovered from a remote ranch in the state of Tamaulipas. It was "the biggest single discovery of its kind" in the ongoing drug war. The 58 men and 14 women were believed to be undocumented migrants from South and Central America trying to cross the border to the United States. A surviving migrant claims that the migrants were kidnapped by the Los Zetas cartel and killed for refusing to do work for them. Twenty one rifles, 101 ammunition clips, four bullet-proof vests, camouflage uniforms and four vehicles were seized by officials. The bodies were found in a room, some of which were piled up on top of each other.
- August 30 – Authorities capture Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, a U.S.-born trafficker who was fighting to lead the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel based in central Mexico.
- September 2 – Twenty seven suspected drug cartel gunmen are shot dead in clashes near the U.S. border in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas; the bodies were found on a property believed to be owned by Los Zetas.
- September 8 – The mayor of El Naranjo, San Luis Potosí, Alexander López García, is killed in his office by a group of gunmen.
- September 9 – Gunmen killed 25 people in a series of drug-related attacks in Ciudad Juárez, marking the deadliest day in more than two years for the Mexican border city. Two graffiti message's appeared in Ciudad Juárez threatening the Sinaloa Cartel drug lord Joaquin Guzman. One message read: "You are killing our sons. You already did, and now we are going to kill your families."
- September 10 – In the border city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, 85 inmates – 66 of whom were convicted or on trial for federal charges like weapons possession or drugs – scaled the Reynosa prison's 20-foot (6-meter) walls using ladders. Forty four prison guards and employees were under investigation. Two were missing. So far this year a total of 201 inmates have escaped from prisons in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
- September 12 – Mexican marines arrest Sergio Villarreal Barragán, a lieutenant of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.
- September 16 – In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, over 25 people were killed after a confrontation between the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, and elements of the Mexican Navy. This was during the eve celebration of the Mexican Independence Day.
- October 18 – Mexican authorities seized 105 tons of marijuana bound for the U.S., representing the biggest bust in the history of the state of Baja California. Soldiers and police seized the drugs in pre-dawn raids in three neighborhoods. The marijuana was found wrapped in 10,000 packages. The drug had an estimated street value in Mexico of 4.2 billion pesos, about $338 million.
- October 22 – Gunmen kill 14 people at a boy's birthday party in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.
- October 24 – Gunmen in Tijuana kill 13 people at a drug rehab clinic.
- October 27 – Gunmen kill 15 people at a car wash in Tepic, Nayarit.
- November 4 – In Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas, 8 beheaded corpses were found on the trunk of a pickup truck. On top of the corpses, a poster read the following: “This happens for supporting Los Zetas. Here are all your halcones (informants). Sincerely, the Gulf Cartel.
- November 5 – Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillen, co-leader of the Gulf Cartel, was shot and killed during a gunbattle against Mexican authorities, along with more than 50 of his gunmen, in the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Although not confirmed, some local sources reveal that more than 100 people died that day in Matamoros.
- November 9 – Customs authorities at the International Airport of Mexico City seized 113 kilos of cocaine and two thousand bottles of pills with Risperidone.
- November 9 – Mayor Gregorio Barradas Miravete was found executed with a note left on him that read: "This is going to happen to all those who continue to support Los Zetas."
- November 22 – In the rural outsides of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, drug cartel gunmen threatened a 77-year-old local entrepreneur, Don Alejo Garza Támez, to give away all his property. According to the report, they gave Don Alejo one day to leave his ranch before the gunmen arrived. If not, they threatened to kill him. Instead, Don Alejo made a fortress in his own ranch; setting up traps, and placing rifles on every house window, waiting for the arrival of the gunmen all by himself. When the gunmen arrived, Don Alejo shot and killed 4 of them, and gravely injured 2. Nevertheless, Don Alejo was killed, too, but he was commemorated for his heroic act.
- December 3 – In Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexican authorities capture Edgar Jiménez Lugo, alias "El Ponchis," a 14-year-old hitman from the South Pacific Cartel. He is the youngest sicario that there is register of in Mexico; "El Ponchis" is well known for carrying out over 300 violent executions, most of them by mutilation, torture, and decapitation.
- December 9 – Mexican authorities report that Nazario Moreno González, leader of La Familia Michoacana has been killed in a shootout with the federal police. However, it is later speculated that the drug lord is still alive, and on March 9, 2014, the Mexican government claims to have finally killed him in Michoacan.
- December 18 – In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, 151 inmates escaped a federal prison—58 of them were high-profile criminals—and investigations mention that the convicts left through the front door, which implies that the director allowed them to escape.
- December 19 – 2010 Puebla oil pipeline explosion: In the state of Puebla, a pipeline owned by PEMEX company exploded after thieves from Los Zetas attempted to siphon off the oil. The explosion killed 28 people, injured 52, and damaged over 115 homes.
- December 28 – Around 60 gunmen stormed the small, indigenous town of Tierras Coloradas, Durango. The gunmen burned all the houses (40), cars (27), and an elementary school; over 200 natives had to flee the area, others were killed.
For 2010, the drug-related deaths reached 15,273.
- January 8–28 bodies were discovered in Acapulco, including the decapitated bodies of 15 young men, with the heads scattered around them, which were found outside the Plaza Sendero shopping center. Media reports say that three messages signed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, were found alongside the bodies. The other bodies include 6 found in a taxi behind a supermarket, 4 riddled with bullets in two residential neighborhoods and 3 others in other locations.
- February 16 – In San Luis Potosí, the American ICE agent Jaime Zapata was ambushed, shot, and killed on a highway during his trajectory to Mexico City by a group of gunmen, later confirmed to be Los Zetas. The second agent, Victor Avila, was wounded, and is now in the United States. The gunmen involved in the shooting have been apprehended.
- February 27 – Sergio Mora Cortes, aka "El Toto," is captured by Mexican Marines in Saltillo, Coahuila. Mora Cortes was a leader of Los Zetas in the state of San Luis Potosí, and he was wanted for the murder of the American ICE agent Jaime Zapata and for the murder of a Nuevo Laredo police chief.
- February 28–7 bodies found hanging from bridges in Mazatlán, Sinaloa. Messages left with the corpses alleged that the dead were members of the South Pacific Cartel.
- March 1 – A mass grave with over 20 bodies was uncovered in San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero. Other sources, however, mention that more than 70 bodies were exhumed.
- March 2 – A three-day shooting was registered between the Mexican Marines and Los Zetas in the city of Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas. During these three days, all local businesses and schools closed; a convoy of 50 SUV’s from Los Zetas was seen in the rural highway outside the city.
- March 8–18 killed in gunfights in Abasolo, Tamaulipas. Most of the dead are believed to be operators for the warring Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. Mexican troops were deployed to restore order.
- March 10 – Jorge Hernández Espinoza, the Director of Public Security for Santiago Tangamandapio, Michoacán, was found dead in his vehicle with a single shot to his head and three shots to his chest.
- March 29 – Police found the bodies of 6 men and 1 woman inside a car abandoned in an exclusive gated community near Cuernavaca.
- April 2 – In Ciudad Juarez, a group of gunmen attacked two bars with fire bombs and shootings in less than forty-eight hours, killing over 15 people.
- April 4 – A clash between the police and drug cartel gunmen left 7 dead and 6 people injured in Acapulco, Guerrero. In addition, a whole shopping center was burned down by the gunmen, and a dozen of the stores were left in ruins.
- April 26 – 2011 San Fernando massacre: In San Fernando, Tamaulipas, after exhuming more than 40 mass graves, the final body count reached 193 corpses. Although not confirmed, some newspapers mention that the body count surpassed 500, but that the state government of Tamaulipas supposedly censored and prevented such publications.
- May 1 – MEXICO CITY – The drug-war death toll for Mexico in April was 1,400, the highest of any month since the Mexican government began its war on illicit drug trade four years ago. The previous high was 1,322 in August 2010.
- May 9 – The Mexican government, along with Sedena, disarm all police forces in the state of Tamaulipas, beginning with the cities of Matamoros and Reynosa.
- May 14 – 2011 Durango massacres: In the state of Durango, 249 bodies were exhumed from numerous clandestine mass graves. Some sources, however, indicate that the actual body count reached 308 corpses.
- May 16 – In Guatemala, 27 farmers were killed by Los Zetas; the majority of the victims presented signs of torture and decapitation.
- May 20 – In Nuevo Laredo, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas, 31 people were killed in a 24-hour span. In addition, more than 40 people were injured, and 196 drug cartel gunmen were detained.
- May 27 – In Ruiz, Nayarit, a convoy from the Los Zetas ambushed and killed 29 gunmen of the Sinaloa Cartel.
- A confrontation between the Federal Police forces and La Familia Michoacana in a ranch at Jilotlán de los Dolores, in western Jalisco, left 11 La Familia gunmen killed and 36 arrested. More than 70 assault rifles were confiscated, along with 14 handguns, 3 grenades, 578 cartridges, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and 40 bullet-proof vests. It was later discovered that La Familia Michoacana was planning a raid against the Knights Templar.
- June 3 – In the state of Coahuila, 38 bodies were exhumed from clandestine mass graves.
- June 9 – The United States government arrested 127 U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who were collaborating with the Mexican drug cartels.
- June 15 – A total of 34 people were killed in Monterrey, Nuevo León in a 24-hour span.
- June 21 – José de Jesús Méndez Vargas 'El Chango', leader of La Familia Michoacana, was captured in Aguascalientes.
- July 1 – In Fresnillo, Zacatecas, during a confrontation between Los Zetas and the Mexican forces, 15 Zeta gunmen were killed, and 17 were arrested; SEMAR notified that 6 marines were wounded.
- July 4 – Federal Police agents arrest Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar, one of the leaders and co-founders of the Los Zetas drug cartel.
- July 8 – In the city of Monterrey, Nuevo León, a group of gunmen shot and killed 27 people, injured 7, and kidnapped 8 in 'Bar Sabino Gordo.' Presumably, this massacre was from the Gulf Cartel to their rival group Los Zetas.
- July 9 – Fighting among Los Zetas and other drug cartels led to the deaths of more than 40 people whose bodies were found in three Mexican cities over a 24-hour span.
- July 11 – Armando Villarreal Heredia, a U.S-born drug lieutenant of the Arellano-Felix drug cartel, is arrested by the Federal Police.
- July 12 – In Ciudad Juárez, 21 people were killed in different parts of the city by gunmen. This marked the deadliest day for Ciudad Juarez in 2011.
- July 14 – The Mexican Army discovers the largest marijuana plantation ever found in the country, 320 km (200 mi) south of San Diego, CA., in the Mexican state of Baja California; consisting of 120 hectares (300 acres) that would have yielded about 120 tons, and was worth about USD $160 million.
- July 15 – In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, 66 inmates escaped a federal prison during a massive brawl, where 7 other inmates were found dead.
- July 23 – The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and peace and human rights activists, which included the poet Javier Sicilia, gathered in Chapultepec Castle to initiate a national aired discussion on Mexico's drug war violence and on the country's military-led strategy against the drug cartels.
- July 24 – An unidentified group of gunmen disarmed 21 policemen in Michoacán. According to the information given, the gunmen carried out personal inspections to each police officer, disarming them one by one. The cops refused to defend themselves because the gunmen expressed high levels of anxiousness, and they were scared of being executed.
- July 25 – Inside a prison in Ciudad Juárez, 17 inmates were shot and killed during a brawl between rival drug groups.
- July 28 – Fortino Cortés Sandoval, the mayor of Florencia de Benito Juárez, Zacatecas, is found dead after a group of gunmen abducted him from his office.
- July 31 – The Federal Police forces of Mexico captured José Antonio Acosta Hernández, nicknamed "El Diego," supreme leader of La Linea, the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. According to government sources, "El Diego" had ordered more than 1,500 executions, some of them including government officials.
- August 4 – The Secretariat of National Defense announced that after the initiation of the 'Operation Lince Norte', an operation focused primarily on destroying the financial and logistic sectors of Los Zetas, more than 500,000 pesos have been confiscated, and more than 30 'Zeta' gunmen killed.
- August 12 – Óscar García Montoya, alias ‘El Compayito’, supreme leader of the criminal group La Mano con Ojos, was captured. He confessed to have killed over 300 people by himself, and ordered the execution of 300 more.
- August 20 – In Torreon, a shooting was registered during a Mexican soccer match between Santos Laguna and Monarcas Morelia.
- August 25 – 2011 Monterrey casino attack: a well-armed group of gunmen massacred 52 people, and injured over a dozen, at Casino Royale. Although not confirmed, some sources mention that 61 were killed in the attack. This attack was the most violent and bloodiest in the history of Monterrey and of the whole state of Nuevo Leon. According to eyewitnesses, the gunmen quietly stormed the casino and immediately opened fire at the civilians, and then doused the casino entrances with gasoline and started a fire that trapped the people inside.
- August 30 – In Acapulco, 140 elementary schools closed and over 600 teachers quit their jobs due to the money threats they have been receiving from the drug cartels. Over 75,000 kids are not attending school. One teacher confessed to have seen on a regular basis men in cars with assault rifles sticking out the windows, just outside school grounds.
- September 14 – In the small town of Juchipila in the state of Zacatecas, over 80 gunmen—presumably from the Gulf Cartel—took control of the town, its jail, and its city hall for over five hours. They mentioned that their goal was to wipe out any presence of Los Zetas in the area.
- September 20 – Two trucks containing 35 dead bodies are found in Boca del Río, Veracruz. Sources mention that all victims were linked to Los Zetas, and that the executions were performed by the Sinaloa Cartel's armed wing, Gente Nueva. Nevertheless, the criminal group Los Mata Zetas claimed responsibility for this massacre. In addition, 14 more bodies were found around Veracruz two days after this incident, summing up to 49 bodies found in public highways in the last forty-eight hours.
- October 4 – The Mexican federal government launches the military-led project called Operación Veracruz Seguro to ensure tranquility in Veracruz. Reports mention that Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and the Sinaloa Cartel are present in that state.
- October 5 – In Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexican authorities captured Noel Salgueiro Nevárez, the supreme leader of the Sinaloa Cartel's armed wing, Gente Nueva. They also captured Martín Rosales Magaña, one of the founders of La Familia Michoacana.
- October 6 – In Boca del Río, Veracruz, a total of 36 bodies were found by Mexican authorities in three houses. Eight alleged perpetrators of the recent killings in Veracruz have been caught, including the leader of the group Los Mata Zetas. Also, the Attorney General of Veracruz resigned from his position due to the increasing violence. A day after this incident, another 10 bodies were found across the state of Veracruz. The wave of violence has caused over 100 deaths in the past two weeks in Veracruz.
- October 14 – Carlos Oliva Castillo alias "La Rana," third-in-command in Los Zetas organization and the mastermind of the 2011 Monterrey casino attack where 52 were killed, was captured in northern city of Saltillo, Coahuila.
- November 11 – Francisco Blake Mora, Secretary of the Interior in the cabinet of Felipe Calderón, dies in a helicopter accident in foggy weather. Some sources speculate that his death was an assassination, though no concrete evidence suggests this.
- November 23 – A total of 23 bodies—16 of them burned to death—were located in several abandoned vehicles in Sinaloa.
- November 24 – Three trucks containing 26 bodies were found in an avenue at Guadalajara, Jalisco. All of them were male corpses. Reports mention that Los Zetas and the Milenio Cartel are responsible for the massacre of these twenty-six alleged Sinaloa Cartel members.
- December 14 – A convoy of U.S. military members was seen crossing the U.S-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas into Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The U.S. soldiers were greeted by Mexican military officials at the international bridge, and were escorted to their meeting location south of Matamoros. Reports mention that the meeting between the two military units was to discuss “mutual security” concerns.
- December 25 – The Mexican army announced that it had captured Guzmán's head of security. The arrest took place in Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital.
- January 4 – In a prison brawl in Altamira, Tamaulipas, 31 inmates were killed. According to the witnesses, the brawl was between Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
- January 7 – Mexican police in the northern city of Torreon found the severed heads of five people killed in a suspected outbreak of drug gang violence. Officials were still searching for the bodies. The heads were found in black bags in various parts of the city late on Friday, a spokesman for the ministry of public security in the state of Coahuila said on Saturday. Threatening messages were left with the severed heads – a common feature of killings by drug cartels in Mexico – that suggested the slayings were the result of feuding between local gangs, the spokesman said.
- February 2 – Two U.S. missionaries from a Baptist Church were killed in Santiago, Nuevo León by drug cartel members.
- February 19 – In Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, 44 inmates were killed in a prison riot, presumably caused by a brawl between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
- March 19 – While conducting an investigation on the beheadings of ten other people, 12 policemen were ambushed and killed by gunmen in Teloloapan, Guerrero. Eleven other police officers were wounded.
- March 23 – Thirteen people were killed in a wave of drug violence that swept Mexico a day before the Pope's visit. Seven men were found shot on the side of the road in Angostura, Sinaloa at a spot where locals often purchased contraband gasoline from the cartels. Four severed heads were found in an abandoned car in Acapulco. The body of a minor and a cab driver were also found in the town.
- March 27 – Ten people were reported killed in a shootout in Temosachi in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, where the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels have been fighting for control over drug smuggling routes into the U.S.
- April 20 – Gunmen kill 16 people in a bar in the capital city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua. Two of those killed were journalists.
- May 1 – Armed confrontations between the Mexican military and cartel members in Choix, Sinaloa left 27 people dead.
- May 4 – In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, 23 corpses—14 of them decapitated and 9 of them hanged from a bridge—were found early in the morning.
- May 9 – The chopped-up remains of 18 bodies were found inside two trucks near Chapala, Jalisco, just south of the city of Guadalajara.
- May 13 – The Cadereyta Jiménez massacre occurred on the Mexican Federal Highway 40. The decapitated and dismembered bodies of 49 people were found in Cadereyta Jiménez. The remains were left along the road in Nuevo León state, between the cities of Monterrey and Reynosa. A message written on a wall nearby appeared to refer to Los Zetas drug cartel.
- June 4 - In the Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila, gunmen killed 11 people at a rehabilitation clinic.
- August 12 - A total of 12 decomposing bodies are found inside an abandoned vehicle in Zacatecas.
- August 14 - Members of the Gulf Cartel storm a bar in Monterrey and kill 10 people.
- October 7 - Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano is killed by the Mexican Navy.
- December 19 – A failed prison break and subsequent brawl between inmates leaves at least 23 dead in Gómez Palacio, Durango.
- January 15 – High-ranking Gulf Cartel leader El Metro 4 is assassinated in Tamaulipas state by alleged drug traffickers.
- January 20 - José Ángel Coronel Carrasco, cousin of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arrested in Culiacán by Mexican soldiers.
- January 28 – The bodies of eight members of the band Kombo Kolombia were found dead in Hidalgo, Nuevo León. Three days earlier, several unidentified gunmen kidnapped 20 members of the band after a concert in the same city.
- March 10 – Gulf Cartel forces led by Miguel "El Gringo" Villarreal and Mario Pelón Ramírez clash in Reynosa, leaving an unofficial death toll of 36 dead.
- March 24 - Humberto Rodríguez Coronel, regional cartel leader of Durango and nephew of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arrested by the Navy.
- April 13 – Sinaloa Cartel high-ranking leader Javier Torres Félix is deported to Mexico after serving jail sentence in the U.S.
- April 30 – Inés Coronel Barreras, the father-in-law of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, is arrested.
- May 13 – Gulf Cartel high-ranking leader Aurelio Cano Flores is sentenced to 35 years in prison in the United States. He is the "highest ranking Gulf Cartel member to be convicted by a U.S. jury in the past 15 years."
- May 14 – Former U.S. Marine Armando Torres III is kidnapped by gunmen in the state of Tamaulipas and is not heard of since then.
- May 26 – In broad daylight at a bar in Zona Rosa neighborhood in Mexico City, 12 young people were kidnapped.
- June 6 – The Mexican Army rescues 165 kidnapped migrants from a safe house in Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Tamaulipas.
- July 7 – Mexicans go to the polls to cast their votes in the local elections. The voting season, however, was among the most violent in the country's history, with several politicians threatened, beaten, kidnapped, and/or killed in less than a month.
- July 15 – Los Zetas leader Miguel Treviño Morales is arrested by the Mexican Navy in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
- July 23 – Following six ambush attacks against the Mexican federal police in the state of Michoacán, 22 people were killed; two of them were law enforcement officials and the rest of them were alleged drug traffickers of the Knights Templar Cartel.
- July 29 – Vice Admiral Carlos Miguel Salazar Ramonet of the Mexican Navy is killed by alleged gunmen of the Knights Templar Cartel in Michoacán. His death was regarded as the highest-profile killing of a member of the Mexican Armed Forces in the ongoing conflict against organized crime.
- August 9 – Former Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero is released from prison after a tribunal determined that he was tried improperly. He was one of the founders of the extinct Guadalajara Cartel and was responsible for the murder of U.S. Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985.
- August 17 – Gulf Cartel leader Mario Ramírez Treviño, known by his aliases El Pelón and/or X-20, is arrested in a joint operation by the Mexican Army and Navy in Río Bravo, Tamaulipas.
- September 2 – Juárez Cartel leader Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, alias Betty la Fea (Ugly Betty), is arrested in Bucerías, Nayarit. He is the brother of the deceased drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, former leader of the criminal organization until his death in 1997.
- September 23 – Alleged members of La Línea, a gang controlled by the Juárez Cartel, burst into a party and kill 10 people in Ciudad Juárez. All of them were shot dead as they celebrated the victory of a baseball game held hours earlier near the city.
- October 18 – Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, is killed in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur by gunmen disguised as clowns.
- November 20 – DEA agents arrest Serafín Zambada Ortiz, son of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, one of the Sinaloa Cartel's top leaders, as he tried to cross the international border from Mexico into Arizona.
- December 1 – Mexican authorities unearth at least 67 corpses from clandestine mass graves in La Barca, Jalisco.
- December 6 – Following a massive excavation in the outskirts of Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexican authorities exhumed a total of 17 bodies.
- December 18 – High-ranking Sinaloa Cartel leader Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza (alias "El Macho Prieto") is killed by Mexican authorities in the resort area of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. During the raging firefight that resulted in his death, several of his gunmen took his body from the scene.
- December 31 – El Chino Ántrax, a founder and high-ranking leader of Los Ántrax, an armed squadron of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arrested in the Netherlands.
- January 27 – Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the leaders of the Knights Templar Cartel, is arrested by Mexican security forces at his home in Morelia.
- February 19 – Mexican authorities discover clandestine mass graves with at least 30 corpses in Gómez Farías, Tamaulipas. They believe that Los Zetas may be responsible for the mass murder. Local residents believe that there are at least 80 bodies in the area.
- February 22 - Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, is arrested in a hotel in Mazatlán by Mexican authorities.
- March 9 - Nazario Moreno González, leader of the Knights Templar Cartel, and former leader of La Familia Michoacana, is killed in a shootout with Mexican authorities. The Mexican government formerly claimed to have killed Moreno in December 2010 when he was head of La Familia Michoacana.
- March 31 – High-ranking Knights Templar Cartel leader Enrique Plancarte Solís is killed in a shootout with the Mexican Navy.
- May 11 – Galindo Mellado Cruz, one of the founders of Los Zetas, is killed in a shootout in Reynosa, Tamaulipas with five other people.
- June 7 - Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, reportedly died of a heart attack following an accident he had suffered days earlier, injuring his vertebral column in a car wreck. This source is not confirmed by Mexican authorities.
- June 20 – At least 31 corpses are exhumed from clandestine mass graves in Tres Valles, Veracruz. The ranch where the bodies were found was previously owned by the former mayor of the town.
- June 23 – Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano, leader of the Tijuana Cartel, is arrested at a fast food restaurant in Tijuana while watching the FIFA World Cup game between Mexico and Croatia.
- June 30 – A shootout between Mexican security forces and alleged gang members leaves 22 dead in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico. The gunfight reportedly started after the suspected criminals opened fire at law enforcement who were patrolling the area.
- 27 September – 43 students disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, after having been taken from the city by municipal police and handed over to the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization.
- October 1 - Héctor Beltrán Leyva, leader of the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, is arrested with another man inside a restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato by the Mexican Army.
- October 5 – At least 28 corpses are found in several clandestine mass graves in Iguala, Guerrero.
- January 7 – In Chilapa, Guerrero, security forces discovered 10 bodies and 11 severed heads in six clandestine mass graves. Most of victims were tied up, and the corpses bore signs of torture. Authorities did not comment if the heads belonged to the corpses.
- March 20 – An ambush attack from a criminal group left 11 dead in Ocotlán, Jalisco. Five of them were members of the Federal Police gendarmerie, three suspects, and three uninvolved civilians. This was the deadliest attack on Mexico's new gendarmerie.
- April 6 – In San Sebastián del Oeste, Jalisco, gunmen ambushed a police vehicle and killed 15 police officers. Five more were wounded in the attack. It was the highest single mass killing against Mexico's police force since 2010.
- May 1 – In Jalisco state, a massive attack by cartels struck with blockades, fire stations burned, chopper down and resulting in at least 7 dead.
- May 3 – 11 rural workers from Sinaloa disappeared while on their way to Hermosillo, Sonora for a summer-time work.
- May (between 9 and 14) – In Chilapa, Guerrero, 10 people went missing after armed men took over the town for several days. According to local residents, the armed men claimed to be community policemen and said they overran the town to protect residents from gang violence.
- May 22 – A shootout between alleged members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Federal Police left 43 dead in Tanhuato, Michoacán.
- July 12 - Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán escapes from the maximum security prison of Altiplano, for a second time in his career. He escaped through a 1.5 kilometre long tunnel under the shower in his cell, where the cameras could not follow him. The tunnel ended in a little village nearby, and El Chapo used a motorbike to get out fast. After his escape he was placed by Mexican authorities again on the top spot of most wanted men in the country, offering a USD$3.5 million reward for whoever has information about his whereabouts.
- January 8 - Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Guzmán recaptured and 5 gunmen killed in raid codenamed Operation Black Swan in Los Mochis, Sinaloa.
- January 29 - 2 Sinaloa Cartel members killed, 22 arrested in joint Mexican-American Operation Diablo Express in Sonoyta, Sonora, and Lukeville, Arizona.
- March 14 - At least nine suspected cartel members died in gunfights with government forces during an anti-cartel operation in the city of Reynosa, Mexico.
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