Caulderon still has work to do in drug battle

Houston Chronicle:

President Felipe Calderon's deployment of more than 20,000 soldiers and federal police in the drug war has reduced rampant violence in the areas where they were sent. But the narco cartels' power remains virtually intact, and gangland-style killings have spiked in at least three states formerly immune from the menace, officials and drug experts say.

Since Calderon launched the first arm of the anti-drug offensive on Dec. 7 — just days after his inauguration — soldiers have arrested hundreds of suspected traffickers, seized tons of drugs and destroyed thousands of acres of marijuana and heroin poppy fields, according to the government.

But only 94 people have been indicted so far, none of them top-ranking cartel members. Meanwhile, gangland-style killings have spread to the states of Aguascalientes in central Mexico, Oaxaca in southern Mexico and Campeche in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Earlier this month, suspected cartel hitmen gunned down four municipal police officers in the city of Aguascalientes. And on Tuesday, police there discovered a body dumped in a plastic bag with the message: "This is for mistreating the Family."

It was the first sighting in the state of the shadowy gang blamed for more than a dozen beheadings in Michoacan, an agricultural state hundreds of miles to the south. In contrast, three drug homicides were reported in Aguascalientes in all of last year.

"These cartels have been advancing nationwide; they are present in each and every one of our states," Aguascalientes Gov. Luis Armando Reynosa said in pleading for federal aid.

Despite what the government has called an unprecedented military offensive in seven states, the country's main cartels remain virtually intact, according to an internal report from the Attorney General's office cited in El Universal newspaper. Two of the most powerful gangs, the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, have joined forces and forged "alliances that have increased their presence both nationally and internationally," the report concluded.

The reality is that Mexico is fighting a drug based insurgency. It is fighting for the rule of law and there is much work to do. At least Calderon is engaged in the battle, something his predecessors did not. As he catches they drug thugs he needs to send as many as possible for prosecution in the US to undermine their efforts at corruption of the Mexican judicial and penitentiary systems.


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