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Mexico touts progress in drug war, but death toll rises to 30,197

A Mexican mother protesting for justice in her daughter's unsolved death was killed last night, adding to what was already the deadliest year in Mexico's drug war.

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"What is very clear is that there is an important weakening of criminal structures," attorney general Arturo Chávez Chávez said Thursday. "There is no criminal organization that can be even remotely superior to the force of the state."

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Criticism of government's upbeat assessment

Aldo Muñoz, a political scientist at Mexico State's Autonomous University, is critical of the government's upbeat assessment of the drug war. While the number of top leaders taken down is one indicator of success, he says, so is the mounting death toll and the number of drug consumers in the country.

“Maybe our concept of ‘winning’ is different [from that of the government],” he adds.

Moreover, what if the government itself is part of the problem? Police, judiciary, and elected officials throughout Mexico are alleged to have ties to drug traffickers. A case in point: Julio César Godoy Toscano.

Parliament takes action against lawmaker linked to drugs

Mr. Godoy Toscano in 2009 was both elected to parliament and also accused of ties to La Familia, the drug trafficking organization from Michoacán. A warrant was issued for his arrest, which he avoided for 15 months before sneaking past police outside the legislative chamber and being sworn in – effectively awarding him immunity from prosecution, as lawmakers are granted in Mexico.

But this week, congressional members overwhelmingly voted to strip him of his protection, weeks after a radio station broadcast a phone call between Godoy Toscano and an alleged member of La Familia. He has declared his innocence but now is on the lam again.

Many in Mexico hailed the congressional decision, as it sends a message to the political class that accusations of collusion will be taken seriously. Mexico’s attorney general even said the country is enlisting the help of Interpol to track down Godoy Toscano.

“It sets limits for politicians,” says Professor Muñoz. “They will have to take more care with who they have relationships with.”

Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb amid gruesome events like last night's killing. As the year closes, he says, “it is very difficult to characterize [the results] as positive or negative.”

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

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