The headline seems bizarre, but it's true -- Mexico is facing a serious insurgency and the central government no longer maintains a monopoly on the use of force.

Last Thursday in the city of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, a battle erupted between government forces and drug cartel gunmen after the Mexican military captured two sons of jailed drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The elder son, Ivan, was quickly freed by his men, who overpowered government forces and secured his release. Ivan then launched an all-out siege of the entire city in an effort to free his younger brother, Ovidio.

The ensuing scene could have been mistaken for Syria or Yemen. Footage posted on social media Thursday showed burning vehicles spewing black smoke, heavily armed gunmen blocking roads, dead bodies strewn in the streets, and residents fleeing for cover amid high-caliber gunfire.

Armed with military-grade weapons and driving custom-built armored vehicles, cartel henchmen targeted security forces throughout Culiacan, launching more than one dozen separate attacks on Mexican security forces. They captured and held hostage eight soldiers, then kidnapped their families. Amid the fighting, an unknown number of inmates escaped from a nearby prison. At least eight people were killed and more than a dozen were injured.

The eight-hour battle ended when government forces, outgunned and surrounded, without reinforcements or a way to retreat, received an order directly from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to release their prisoner and surrender. Lopez Obrador later defended this decision, insisting that his security strategy is working and saying, "Many people were at risk and it was decided to protect people's lives. I agreed with that, because we don't do massacres, that's over."

If the government isn't willing to fight and win decisive battles against the drug cartels -- and the people aren't willing to support and contribute to victory -- then the Mexican state has already collapsed for all intents and purposes. This will get worse before it gets better.

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