Margarita was celebrating her third birthday on the front patio of the family home in the sweltering northern Mexican city of Culiacán when the shooting started. By the time it stopped three gunmen were dead, and two of her cousins lay screaming with bullets in their legs. “We used to tell her that the noise was fireworks,” said her mother, Claudia, of the shoot-outs nearby. “She doesn’t believe us now. She knows they are bullets.”
Childhood innocence is not the only victim of Mexico‘s descent into narco-violence. A turf war between drug cartels, fuelled by a government crackdown launched in 2006, has set in train an epidemic of violence that is killing 20 people a day on average. News bulletins are saturated with episode after grisly episode – torture and beheadings chief among them. This, after all, is lucrative business: the US government estimates that Mexican drug traffickers make profits of between $25bn and $40bn a year.
It is sad but we may never be safe in Mexico again.