More than 7,200 dead—almost double last year’s tally—in shoot-outs between federales and often better-armed drug cartels. This is modern Mexico, whose president, Felipe Calderón, has been struggling since 2006 to wrest his country from the grip of four powerful cartels and their estimated 100,000 foot soldiers.
The 7,200 dead in 2009 follow a 2008 in which 6,300 were killed. That's not even close to doubling last year's tally. The killings very rarely stem from federal forces battling gunmen, but rather rival gangs killing each other. If you accept the cartel paradigm as the best way of conceptualizing Mexico's drug trade (and I don't!), four isn't the best number: you have the Zetas/Gulf, Chapo, Juárez/Carrillo, la Familia, the Beltrán Leyvas, and I guess you'd add Teo García as well as the remnants of the Arellano Félix family in Tijuana. That'd be either five or seven, but not four. As far as the 100,000, I'm not sure where that comes from; the Mexican secretariat of defense says that 500,000 Mexicans make their living from the drug trade, with 40,000 being involved in the gangs' leadership, 160,000 taking part in logistics and retail sales, and another 300,000 cultivating drugs. It gets better from there, but four errors/questionable assertions in the first paragraph isn't the best way to kick off an article.