Mexican president encourages anti-drug operations
MEXICO CITY – Donning a green army cap and jacket, President Felipe Calderon paid a visit Wednesday to federal officials conducting large-scale operations against drug traffickers in central Mexico, pledging to extend the battle to other regions of the country hard-hit by crime.In a breakfast with the authorities, the recently sworn-in Calderon reiterated his campaign promise to build “a Mexico in which peace, liberty, order and respect for the law prevail.”Calderon sent 7,000 military troops and federal police officers to his home state of Michoacan immediately after taking office on Dec. 1 and on Tuesday announced that he is sending 3,300 soldiers and federal police officers to fight drug gangs in the crime-plagued border city of Tijuana.Drug organizations were behind more than 2,000 killings across Mexico in 2006 and have left a particularly long trail of violence and deaths in the central state of Michoacan state and the city of Tijuana, located across the border from San Diego, California, in the northern state of Baja California.Michoacan has been plagued by execution-style killings and beheadings as rival drug gangs fight over marijuana plantations and smuggling routes. In Tijuana, which has become a major smuggling route for cocaine and methamphetamine entering the United States, more than 300 people were slain last year.In both states, the drug gangs’ signature of late has been to decapitate their victims, leaving their heads in front of government buildings, on public beaches, and in one particularly gruesome case in Michoacan, rolling them out into the middle of a night club’s dance floor.The troops in Michoacan thus far have arrested more than 50 people, including several suspected leaders of the feuding cartels, and seized large quantities of gold, bulletproof vests, military equipment and shirts with federal and municipal police logos.”You’ve shown that joint, coordinated action of the forces of order produces good results for society,” Calderon said, adding, “We are dedicated to recuperating security not only in Michoacan or Baja California, but in every region of Mexico that is threatened by organized crime.”Accompanied by generals from various regions, Calderon, who increased spending for public safety in his 2007 budget, had breakfast with about 200 officials at a military base in the Michoacan city of Apatzingan, where the state’s operation is being coordinated.Opposition politicians and residents alike have expressed doubt about how much of an impact the president’s highly publicized actions will have. President Vicente Fox sent thousands of soldiers and federal police to drug-embattled towns and arrested several major drug kingpins during his six-year term, but the actions appeared to spark more violence, as the criminals still at large battled to take over the smuggling routes of those killed or detained.”This is not an easy task nor will it be fast,” Calderon said Wednesday. “It will take a long time, imply using enormous resources and even unfortunately the loss of human lives.”But, the president added, “if we continue working as we have been until now, our cities and our land will not remain in the hands of criminals, but in that of honest people who work to help their families get ahead.”
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