Mexico to send troops to other states in drug war
15 Dec 2006 02:29:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
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By Monica Medel

MEXICO CITY, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Mexico announced plans on Thursday to broaden its fight against feuding drug gangs, saying it would dispatch soldiers to other areas after sending 7,000 troops and police to one violence-plagued state this week.

"We started in Michoacan, where there was a more intense situation of violence, but the same will be applied in other states," Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora told reporters.

More than 500 hundred people have died since January in drug-related violence in Michoacan, the home state of new President Felipe Calderon, part of a power struggle between rival cartels across Mexico that has killed about 3,000 people in the last two years.

Calderon's government this week sent soldiers, federal police and Navy forces to Michoacan to try to recapture areas controlled by the gangs and destroy opium and marijuana plantations. The gangs are fighting for control of lucrative drug routes and plantations.

At least one suspected trafficker was killed in a battle with troops in the western state on Wednesday, the government said.

The violence in Mexico stems from a feud between groups linked to two drug gangs, the Gulf Cartel from the country's northeast and an alliance of traffickers from the western state of Sinaloa.

The Sinaloa gang is led by Mexico's most wanted man, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who escaped from a high-security prison in 2001, just weeks after Calderon's predecessor President Vicente Fox took office.

Fox, whose term ended last month, later announced the "mother of all battles" against narcotics smugglers but did not extensively use the military to fight the traffickers. Despite some high-profile arrests, Fox failed to stop a surge in the killings.

The ruthlessness of the gangs, who in one infamous attack rolled five severed heads onto the dance floor of a nightclub in Michoacan in September, has shocked even crime-hardened Mexico.

The violence has spread from northern border states where marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine are smuggled into the United States, to Pacific coastal regions like Michoacan and tourist resort Acapulco, in the state of Guerrero.

Medina Mora denied any link between the offensive and the murder of the cousin of Mexico's first lady, who was found shot dead in his car on Tuesday, the day after security forces moved into Michoacan.