Mexico's drug wars claimed a high profile victim Monday, as unknown gunmen assassinated Jose Nemesio Lugo Felix, the new head of a federal anti-drug intelligence unit, as he went to work in the southern part of Mexico City. The killing comes as the government of President Felipe Calderon is several months into an offensive against the drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- that has seen thousands of Mexican police and soldiers sent into drug trafficking hotbeds in an effort to break the power of the cartels.
Lugo was driving to his office when his car was cut off by another vehicle carrying several gunmen, who fired at least three shots into his car, hitting him in the head and back. One of the assailants then jumped onto a waiting motorcycle and fled the scene, while the others drove away.
Lugo's assassination got the attention of US Ambassador Tony Garza, who issued a statement lamenting the killing. "A principled and tireless crime fighter, Mr. Lugo is the latest Mexican law enforcement official to have lost his life in a valiant stand against the criminals who seek to enrich themselves by destroying the very fabric of our society," Garza said. "American law enforcement officials who worked with Mr. Lugo admired him for his dedication and professionalism," he said.
Formerly the head of a unit in the federal attorney general's office that investigated trafficking of minors and illegal immigrants, Lugo was appointed just last month to lead an elite anti-drug intelligence unit in that same office. While other police and soldiers have been killed by the cartels -- including five soldiers killed in an ambush in Michoacan earlier this month -- Lugo's assassination marks the highest-level killing so far. His killing was also unusual in that in occurred in the capital, which has been spared most of the violence surrounding the Mexican drug trade and the efforts to suppress it.
Last year, prohibition-related violence killed more than 2,000 people, and this year the killing is occurring at an even more rapid pace, with an estimated 1,000 dead so far. Calderon's offensive, which has seen extensive military and police sweeps in border cities, Acapulco, and his home state of Morelos, has, instead of calming the situation, only thrown fuel on the fire.
Still, the Calderon government remains steadfast in its aggressive policy. "The deaths of the men and women who die while doing their duty is lamentable," Mexican drug czar Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos told the newspaper Reforma. "But in spite of this, we are winning this battle. We can't give ourselves the luxury of being cowed by organized crime."