By Joshua Partlow
A shootout in northern Mexico left at least 14 people dead Wednesday, according to officials. It was the latest mass killing amid a sharp resurgence of violence related to the country's drug war.
The gunfight occurred between rival drug gangs in a rural part of Chihuahua state, which borders Texas and New Mexico, according to the state prosecutor's office. Initial reports put the death toll at 26, but Felix González, a spokesman for the state prosecutor, said that just 14 deaths had been confirmed as of Wednesday afternoon.
The violence follows a deadly incident on Friday in which 17 suspected drug traffickers were killed near the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan in a confrontation with police that some relatives of the victims suspected might have involved extrajudicial killings. Three days later, nine people were killed in the state of Puebla, east of Mexico City, as part of a festering dispute among fuel thieves.
The recent violence has underscored the deteriorating security across Mexico. More than 11,000 people have been killed in the first five months of the year, a pace of violence that is 30 percent higher than last year and puts Mexico on pace for what may be the deadliest year in its post-revolution history.
After an initial decline during the first two years of Enrique Peña Nieto's presidency, killings have roared back to levels that are comparable with those during the worst years of the country's drug war. Violence has been fueled by fractures within long-dominant drug cartels, the growing demand for heroin and other opiates across the border in the United States, and the widespread corruption within Mexican government and security forces, which allow lawlessness to flourish.
Chihuahua has a long history of drug-war violence, including in Ciudad Juarez, the border town that came to symbolize the savagery of the violence.
The former governor of the state fled last year to El Paso and is wanted on corruption charges.
The Wednesday clash occurred after 5:00 am in a village called Las Varas, in the municipality of Madera, between a drug gang known as La Linea and another from the state of Sinaloa, González said.
In recent years, La Linea was allied with the Juarez cartel, which battled Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa cartel for control over Ciudad Juarez. Since Guzmán's extradition to New York this year, security experts have noted significant clashes within and among cartels as they jostle for supremacy.