Children’s drawings depicting extreme violence and distrust of government forces reveal the impact of narco-culture.
It has been 10 years since Mexico’s then-president Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s powerful drug cartels.
Calderon had just taken up office in 2006 when he he declared an all-out fight against them.
Ten days after taking office, Calderon deployed around 5,000 troops to his western home state of Michoacan – the start of a militarised campaign against drug trafficking.
Calderon’s six-year term was marked by a surge in murders, rising from 10,253 in 2007 to a peak of 22,852 in 2011. More than 150,000 people were killed in total and at least 28,000 have disappeared.
Widely supported at first, his strategies were heavily criticised as casualty figures rose and reports of human-rights abuse increased.
“It failed precisely because the process of breaking up the cartels, which was always going to lead to them fragmenting into violent gangs, wasn’t coupled with the rebuilding of state and municipal police who could then have neutralised these local gangs,” Guillermo Valdez, former director of Mexico’s National Intelligence Center, told Al Jazeera.
In a move to topple drug kingpins, Calderon sent the armed forces and federal police out on the streets.
But the weakening of major drug cartels such as the Beltran Leyva, Zetas, Gulf and Knights Templar has led to the emergence of smaller gangs that seek to diversify their business through kidnappings and extortion.
Battle lines redrawn
Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Mexico, said Ciudad Juarez used to be the epicentre of the violence but, as the government claimed victory, the battle lines were being drawn elsewhere.
“Even though the centre of operation for drug cartels shifted base, ineffective police and corrupt institutions remained a constant,” he said.
“That means, for criminal groups in Mexico, there is still money to be made and too little to stop them.”