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Meth and murder: A new kind of drug war has made Tijuana one of the deadliest cities on Earth

It seemed like everyone in Christian Castillo’s life was getting killed or running from death.

Two neighbors on his block were gunned down, along with the taco vendor at the end of the street. Then came a childhood friend of Castillo’s mother who had started selling drugs and was shot dead with her husband. Soon their son was executed, too.

Castillo, who until a few years ago held a good job at a Tijuana insurance company, didn’t attend any of the funerals. He was too busy getting high and trying not to be killed next.

“It felt like death was following me,” he said.

Tijuana, a city of 1.8 million that not long ago was celebrating a major reduction in violence, is in the grip of an unprecedented homicide crisis.

A record 2,518 people were killed here in 2018 — nearly seven times the total in 2012. With 140 killings per 100,000 people, Tijuana is now one of the deadliest cities in the world.

Across the border in San Diego, there were 34 homicides last year, or just over 2 killings per 100,000 people.

The root cause of the bloodshed is fundamentally different from previous iterations of violence in Tijuana.

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