Mexico opened the new year with what could be its most dubious distinction yet in the 3-year-old battle against drug trafficking - 69 murders in one day.
The country resembled a grim, statistical dart board on Saturday as law enforcement and media reported the deaths from various regions, including 26 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, 13 in and around Mexico City and 10 in the northern city of Chihuahua.
More than 6,500 drug-related killings made 2009 the bloodiest year since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006 and deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight organised crime, according to death tallies by San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.
Two weeks into 2010, gang bloodshed is becoming more grotesque as drug lords ramp up their attempts at intimidation. Last week a victim's face was peeled from his skull and sewn onto a soccer ball.
Prosecutors in Culiacan identified on Monday the remains of 41-year-old former police officer divided into two separate ice chests.
"You wonder how this will end, and it seems impossible," said Daniel Vega, an architect in the northern city of Monterrey.
Though almost all of drug-violence victims are somehow involved with cartels, the impact is felt well beyond law enforcement and organised crime.