The gangs are ruthless and will murder anyone who interferes, along with their families. Last month some 35 Mexican police and national guard troops were forced to release the drug lord Ovidio Guzmán after they were surrounded and out-gunned by cartel forces. Ovidio is the son of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who is now in an American prison.

“The hard truth is that Mexico is dangerously close to being a failed state,” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said Tuesday and, despite the country’s economic advances in recent decades, he’s not far off about the security failures. Especially along drug trafficking routes, cartels essentially are the state.

The mayhem has increased under Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office last year promising to end the anti-cartel campaign prosecuted by his two immediate predecessors. He called the war on drugs a failure and vowed to “begin a peace process with organized crime organizations and adopt models of transitional justice that guarantee the rights of victims.” This is leftist mumbo-jumbo for surrender, and the cartels have taken the message and gone on the offensive.