Friday, April 03, 2009

in mexico the army is the law

Washington Post | President Felipe Calderón is rapidly escalating the Mexican army's role in the war against drug traffickers, deploying nearly 50 percent of its combat-ready troops along the U.S.-Mexico border and throughout the country, while retired army officers take command of local police forces and the military supplies civilian authorities with automatic weapons and grenades.

U.S. and Mexican officials describe the drug cartels as a widening narco-insurgency. The four major drug states average a total of 12 murders a day, characterized by ambushes, gun battles, executions and decapitated bodies left by the side of the road. In the villages and cities where the traffickers hold sway, daily life now takes place against a martial backdrop of round-the-clock patrols, pre-dawn raids and roadblocks manned by masked young soldiers.

Calderón's deployment of about 45,000 troops to fight the cartels represents a historic change. Previous administrations relied on Mexico's traditionally weak police agencies to combat the traffickers, who funnel 90 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States. The cartels corrupted local authorities and reached tacit agreements with the national government, limiting the violence while the drugs continued to flow.

After Calderón became president in December 2006, he told Mexicans that the use of the military against the cartels would be limited and brief. But it is now the centerpiece of his anti-narcotics strategy, according to interviews with senior U.S. and Mexican officials and dozens of people on the front lines of the war.