The border city is in the throes of a vicious turf war between a local drug-smuggling organization and rivals from the northwestern state of Sinaloa. The feud, and the Mexican government's 2-year-old crackdown on organized crime, has sent killings soaring.
The violence has reached such a furious pitch that the Pentagon warned of the possibility that Mexico could become a failed state, as Time magazine reports.
The specter of U.S. troops fighting the cartel armies on Mexican soil is not simply a product of paranoia, however. The possibility was raised in a Pentagon policy document last December. The report by U.S. Joint Forces Command, entitled "Joint Operating Environment 2008", focuses on the challenges potentially facing the U.S. military over the next 25 years. It speculates that the Mexican state could face "a rapid and sudden collapse" from the onslaught of cartel paramilitary armies, and says the U.S. forces would have to respond to such a threat. "Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone," it says.