There was a time when the violence of Mexico’s 2006-2012 drug war shocked Americans but barely touched them. This time, it’s worse, the Associated Press reports. The slaughter of three U.S. women and six of their children, some infants, in the northern state of Sonora on Monday punctured the belief that the drug cartels would avoid killing foreigners, women or children. Children are being killed with chilling frequency as the unwritten rules of Mexico’s drug war fade. In August, gunmen burst into a house in Ciudad Juarez, home of the Juarez cartel, and fired 123 bullets that killed girls aged 14, 13 and 4, with an adult male who apparently was the target. Last week, police arrested a suspect in the state capital of Hermosillo holding a New York-based businessman for ransom, in a case of a foreigner being targeted. The man was kidnapped near Tucson.
The shocking killings of the nine Americans by gang gunmen prompted an offer from U.S. President Donald Trump to help Mexico wipe cartels “off the face of the earth.” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rebuffed the offer, but others are wondering if the time has come for him to change his “hugs not bullets” policy of avoiding confrontations with gangs and instead addressing social problems. Breaking the old rules against killing children, families or attacking foreigners no longer appears to be a concern for criminals, given weak law enforcement. “From the criminal’s perspective, killing one person or killing nine, it’s all the same,” said security analyst Alejandro Hope. “They don’t see any increased risk in committing these kinds of acts of extreme brutality.” Moving reports of mothers trying to protect their children from the hail of bullets and wounded children walking for hours to get help for survivors intensified calls for a new war on drug cartels.