By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer
MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican President Felipe Calderon said in an interview that crime gangs and drug cartels were “taking over Mexico” before he launched his offensive against them, and said the crackdown had achieved uneven results.
Calderon’s comments were taped prior to his statement Wednesday that reducing poverty is now “the first priority” for his administration. But in a previously-recorded interview with the news network Televisa, Calderon made it clear he wasn’t abandoning the war on drugs.
“Here the choice cannot be between combating organized crime, as we are doing, or watching it take over Mexico, the way it was taking over Mexico before we acted,” Calderon said.
“The only alternative is to combat and destroy” organized crime, he said, “and we are going to destroy it.”
But Calderon acknowledged uneven results. “There are zones of the country where we are clearly imposing the Mexican government’s law, like Tijuana, or Michoacan, for example … there are other areas where that isn’t happening, like Ciudad Juarez, for example, where the criminal organizations continue fighting each other with unheard of brutality.”
Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, is Mexico’s deadliest city. More than 2,200 people have been killed there this year in violence that authorities largely attribute to turf battles between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.
The city’s Mayor, Jose Reyes, said Wednesday that city residents will soon be able to report crime through an anonymous international tip line.
Reyes said officials teamed up with the international organization Crime Stoppers because residents do not trust local police. Telephone operators outside the country will start taking calls in December.
Mexico’s government acknowledges that police corruption is widespread with many officers on the payroll of drug cartels.
The Defense department reported on Wednesday that soldiers detained a 16-year-old youth on a border bridge carrying about 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of cocaine hidden in a DVD player.
The soldiers stopped the youth at a checkpoint on the bridge that leads into El Paso, Texas, early Wednesday and noticed there was a package inside.
The army said the suspect was from Juarez but had legal residence in El Paso and was turned over to civilian authorities. Also Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal challenging the country’s extradition laws. The justices rejected an appeal by a suspect facing extradition to the United States, saying there is no violation of due process because suspects have a right to hearing before a judge.
Finally, the army reported Wednesday that soldiers in the northeastern state of Nuevo Leon arrested two alleged Gulf Cartel gun runners smuggling rifles and ammunition bought in the United States.
An unspecified number of assault rifles and ammunition were seized at an army checkpoint in the town of Sabinas Hidalgo on Tuesday. According to tickets found on the rifle cases, the ammunition and weapons were bought in the state of Illinois.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)