The U.S.-Mexico border is the most unstable region in North America. During the first eight months of 2008, more than 2,500 drug-related killings have occurred in Mexico. Half of the murders have happened in border cities; cartels are fighting for authority over smuggling routes from Tijuana to Matamoros. Systematic campaigns of bribery, intimidation, and assassination have prevented law enforcement officers from curbing the violence. On both sides of the line, news seems to worsen daily.
Since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, almost 5,000 Mexicans have died, more than the number of American troops killed in seven years of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than half of the casualties have been police officers. Throughout Mexico, 40,000 troops struggle valiantly—but often unsuccessfully—to impose order. "It is a war," President Calderon declared in May 2008 to reporters, while also appealing for U.S. assistance.