Mexico Extends Anti-Drug Operations

Monday, February 19th 2007, 6:21 am
By: News On 6

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ The Mexican government will expand its anti-drug raids to two states across the border from Texas, deploying more than 3,000 soldiers, sailors and federal police, officials said Sunday.

The raids will cover Nuevo Laredo, a town across the border from Laredo, Texas, that has been bloodied by turf wars between drug gangs in recent years.

Officials also said that in the two months since intensive raids began in central and western Mexico, they have destroyed almost as many opium fields as plots of marijuana, long Mexico's principal drug crop.

``We have begun a frontal struggle against organized crime that has no precedent in the country's history,'' said Interior Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna. ``We are recovering territory for our children.''

The raids began Dec. 8 in the western state of Michoacan, and have since been expanded to several other states.

Starting over the weekend, 2,035 soldiers, 750 navy personnel and 516 federal police were dispatched to Tamaulipas _ home to the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros _ and the state of Nuevo Leon, where shootings of police have become more common.

The federal government said the operation came at the request of the governors of those two states.

The raids in the two border states will focus on key points in the main trafficking routes, Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan told a news conference. In the past, that policy has meant setting up highway checkpoints to search cars and trucks.

Although marijuana typically accounts for a much greater percentage of illicit crop production, opium may be catching up in some states. Soldiers have destroyed 9,566 acres of marijuana, and 8,210 acres of opium poppies during the operations.

Officials did not say what accounted for the relatively high portion of opium, but local media suggested fumigation declined because the necessary aircraft was scarce.

Poppy plantations in Mexico often are well-hidden and heavily defended by traffickers, making them harder to eradicate.

Authorities also said they have seized hand grenades and clandestine drug labs.

In Pacific resort city of Acapulco, meanwhile, 500 people marched to demand an end to a wave of violent crimes and executions there, many blamed on turf battles between drug gangs. There have been at least 250 homicides in Acapulco over the past 14 months.

Mostly dressed in white, families with children, businesspeople and community activists marched through Acapulco's hotel zone, 10 days after gunmen burst into two local police stations and shot to death five police officers and two secretaries.

``Here we all live in fear ... even people who can hire private security services,'' said Sari Enriquez, one of the organizers of the march.

Enriquez said tourism was suffering because of the violence. A Canadian citizen died in January under disputed circumstances _ authorities say he was hit by a car but relatives say he was beaten at a night club _ and two other Canadians were wounded by gunfire in earlier this month.