Mexico sending hundreds of soldiers to battle drug cartels in northern region

Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 12:00 am

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's government is sending hundreds of soldiers and federal police to a northern region where drug cartel violence has been on the rise and a prominent businessman was recently killed, authorities announced Friday.

The forces are going to the Comarca Lagunera region area that straddles Coahuila and Durango states, the Interior Department said.

The announcement came three days after Interior Secretary Francisco Blake met with the governors of the two states. He discussed the possibility of sending federal forces to the region but also urged the governors to step up efforts to root out corruption in state and municipal police forces.

The troops and federal police are being deployed because of "weak local governments and a rise in crime including kidnapping, extortion and homicide," the statement said.

Amid relentless cartel violence, President Felipe Calderón's government has increasingly criticized state governments for failing to clean up their own police forces. State government officials routinely insist organized crime is a federal offense and say state and municipal police forces are ill-equipped to confront the cartels' heavily armed gunmen.

The statement did not say how many soldiers and police are being deployed, but an Interior Department official said it will be hundreds.

Local businessmen demanded stepped up security in the region after a prominent rancher with ties to the Lala dairy company was killed.

The region is a stronghold of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which is fighting the Zetas cartel there. ... 926eb.html