In this AFPTV screen trucks burn in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019. - Heavily armed gunmen in four-by-four trucks fought an intense battle against Mexican security forces Thursday in the city of Culiacan, capital of jailed kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's home state of Sinaloa. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
STR/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
In this AFPTV screen trucks burn in a street of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico, on October 17, 2019. - Heavily armed gunmen in four-by-four trucks fought an intense battle against Mexican security forces Thursday in the city of Culiacan, capital of jailed kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's home state of Sinaloa. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:29
Son of Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman at center of shootout
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on April 10, 2021, shows a view of a 3000 year old city, dubbed The Rise of Aten, dating to the reign of Amenhotep III, uncovered by the Egyptian mission near Luxor. - Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient city in the desert outside Luxor that they say is the "largest" ever found in Egypt and dates back to a golden age of the pharaohs 3,000 years ago. Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the "lost golden city", saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
TOPSHOT - A picture taken on April 10, 2021, shows a view of a 3000 year old city, dubbed The Rise of Aten, dating to the reign of Amenhotep III, uncovered by the Egyptian mission near Luxor. - Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of an ancient city in the desert outside Luxor that they say is the "largest" ever found in Egypt and dates back to a golden age of the pharaohs 3,000 years ago. Famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass announced the discovery of the "lost golden city", saying the site was uncovered near Luxor, home of the legendary Valley of the Kings. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:21
3,000-year-old city discovered and looks like it was 'left as if it were yesterday'
A worker is seen in front of a Christ statue being built in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on April 09, 2021. - The Christ the Protector statue under construction in Encantado will be larger than Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer and the third-largest in the world. (Photo by SILVIO AVILA / AFP) (Photo by SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images)
SILVIO AVILA/AFP/Getty Images
A worker is seen in front of a Christ statue being built in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil, on April 09, 2021. - The Christ the Protector statue under construction in Encantado will be larger than Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer and the third-largest in the world. (Photo by SILVIO AVILA / AFP) (Photo by SILVIO AVILA/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:21
New Christ statue in Brazil will be taller than Rio's
People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle.
Matt Dunham/AP
People view flowers left in front of the gate at Buckingham Palace in London, after the announcement of the death of Britain's Prince Philip, Friday, April 9, 2021. Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. He was 99. Philip spent a month in hospital earlier this year before being released on March 16 to return to Windsor Castle.
Now playing
01:54
Tributes to Prince Philip pour in from around the world
Now playing
01:20
This Russian 'Lord of the Rings' adaptation is barely recognizable
Getty Images
Now playing
02:18
This airplane-shaped bag is selling for more than some actual planes
In this photograph taken on April 4, 2021, winner of Mrs. Sri Lanka 2020 Caroline Jurie (2-L) removes the crown of 2021 winner Pushpika de Silva (C) as she is disqualified by the jurie over the accusation of being divorced, at a beauty pageant for married women in Colombo. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images
In this photograph taken on April 4, 2021, winner of Mrs. Sri Lanka 2020 Caroline Jurie (2-L) removes the crown of 2021 winner Pushpika de Silva (C) as she is disqualified by the jurie over the accusation of being divorced, at a beauty pageant for married women in Colombo. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:52
Beauty pageant winner has crown snatched on stage
Reuters
Now playing
00:57
Video captures couple accidentally defacing expensive artwork
Now playing
05:27
Our video streaming habits impact the planet. Here's how
Now playing
01:30
5 ways to cut your plastic waste
Lumbermen work on the felling of eight 230 years old Sessile oak trees selected the week before to be used in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in the Foret de Berce, near Jupilles, on March 8, 2021. - A total of 1000 oaks are due to be hacked down by the end of March to rebuild the spire and roof of the cathedral, which was ravaged by fire in April 2019. Oaks from every region of France are being used to rebuild the cherished national monument, around half from state land and the rest from private donations. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)
Jean-Francois Monier/AFP/Getty Images
Lumbermen work on the felling of eight 230 years old Sessile oak trees selected the week before to be used in the reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in the Foret de Berce, near Jupilles, on March 8, 2021. - A total of 1000 oaks are due to be hacked down by the end of March to rebuild the spire and roof of the cathedral, which was ravaged by fire in April 2019. Oaks from every region of France are being used to rebuild the cherished national monument, around half from state land and the rest from private donations. (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP) (Photo by JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
01:04
The ancient trees bringing Notre Dame back to life
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upcoming elections including restricting ballot drop boxes, requiring an ID requirement for absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting days. The Georgia House passed the bill and will send it to the Senate. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Megan Varner/Getty Images
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upcoming elections including restricting ballot drop boxes, requiring an ID requirement for absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting days. The Georgia House passed the bill and will send it to the Senate. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:24
Coca Cola, Delta Airlines strike back at Georgia voting laws
Now playing
04:14
Patagonia's former CEO uses profits to protect landscapes
screengrab belarus police abuse
BYPOL
screengrab belarus police abuse
Now playing
04:59
Leaked police video shows the brutality of this Kremlin-backed regime
syria down syndrome children center damon pkg vpx_00000127.png
syria down syndrome children center damon pkg vpx_00000127.png
Now playing
04:39
Center supports children with Down syndrome in Syria
Now playing
23:06
Meet the women fighting climate change in Nigeria
(CNN) —  

This has been a horrific week for Mexico.

On Monday, at least 13 police officers were shot and killed during an ambush in the western state of Michoacán.

Fifteen people, including 14 civilians and one law enforcement official, were killed Tuesday in a shootout near the city of Iguala, in Guerrero.

But in a country tragically accustomed to such violence, it was Thursday’s events in Culiacán that were truly stunning.

It was there that authorities arrested Ovidio Guzmán López, the son of drug lord “El Chapo” Guzmán and now a top leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, who is wanted for extradition to the United States.

But Culiacán is the heart of the cartel’s territory and it responded to Guzman’s capture by turning the city into a war zone.

Gunbattles between authorities and criminals erupted city-wide. Armed with high-caliber rifles and automatic weapons, including what appeared in one video to be a truck-mounted machine gun, cartel members overwhelmed government forces with sheer firepower. Seven people – including one civilian, a law enforcement officer and five so-called “aggressors” – were killed, government officials said.

Outmanned and outgunned, authorities were forced to release Guzman, a stunning admission of defeat.

Two years after Mexico extradited El Chapo to the United States, the cartel he left behind made a dramatic statement: that it, not the government, is in charge in Sinaloa.

Taken together, the incidents illustrate Mexico’s daily reality of unprecedented death and destruction – and a government’s inability to change that.

A government claim to fix the problem

When President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office last December, he became the latest Mexican leader forced to confront skyrocketing violence fueled by drug cartel activities around the country.

But AMLO, as he is often referred to, promised to do things differently. Whereas his predecessors “fought fire with fire,” AMLO would take a new tack.

His administration promised to address what it called the root causes of violence, namely economic insecurity. The approach would feature less armed conflict with cartels and try to solve the problem in a long-term way.

On his first day in office, he created a new national guard force tasked with ensuring short-term peace and security for beleaguered citizens.

And in the wake of another wave of violent incidents this week, the President continues to insist his strategy will work.
“The strategies that were applied before turned our country into a cemetery and we don’t want that anymore. I have said it a thousand times, nothing by force,” he declared at a Friday morning news conference.

López Obrador made similar comments after the shootings in Guerrero and Michoacán.

Numbers don’t lie

As the death toll continues to mount, maintaining support for arguments detailing long-term solutions becomes more tenuous.

Critics argue that it’s all well and good to want to tackle the problem of violence in a fundamental, systemic way. But not at the cost of essentially ignoring the fact that scores of people are dying every day.

“I do believe that the López Obrador administration has a lot of good will to turn things around,” said Falko Ernst, a Mexico security analyst for the Crisis Group. “But they’re so far completely missing the short-term component in their strategy. So we’re looking at a patchy strategy that cannot work because it denies that force needs to play a role.”

Ernst also argues that drug cartels, already sensing a longer leash from the López Obrador administration, could take the government’s capitulation in Culiacán as a sign of immense weakness.

“It sets a dangerous precedent,” said Ernst. “The Mexican state has been successfully forced into submission and this could trigger repetition by other armed groups.”

López Obrador argued that releasing Guzmán López was the right thing to do.

“The capture of a criminal cannot be worth more than the lives of the people,” he said, citing the threat to innocent civilians during the shootout.

López Obrador was elected last year in a landslide and still enjoys broad popular support.

But more than 33,000 people were murdered in Mexico in 2018. That number will likely be eclipsed this year.

In the face of such death, how long will the public continue to support López Obrador’s game plan to stop it?

It’s not clear. But as Mexicans wait for an answer, more people are dying in the drug-fueled violence that continues unabated.