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Mexico drug war death toll up 60 percent in 2010. Why?

The government on Wednesday announced that 15,273 people died in the Mexico drug war in 2010.

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Four years after Calderón took office, do Mexicans support his strategy?

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Mexicans are weary of the drug war. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed in a November poll by the consultancy Mitosfsky said the Calderón strategy was failing – a plurality seen for the first time. In various parts of the country, certain sectors have made their disapproval clear. Doctors in Juárez, for example, went on strike in December to protest the government's failure to keep them safe. Also that month, a coalition of 33 civic and business organizations took out a full-page advertisement in newspapers in Mexico saying: "We Mexicans see, with great frustration, that this year the authorities were not able, once again, to put the welfare of the country and safety of families above their political interests."

What's more, the Mexican military, the main force in the government's fight, is increasingly accused of human rights abuses.

What are signs of success and possible ways of quelling the violence in the year ahead?

It has been an incredibly successful year for Calderón in terms of main drug traffickers taken out of business – either killed in gunfire or arrested. Those arrested include “La Barbie,” Eduardo Teodoro García Simental (“El Teo”) of the Tijuana Cartel, and Sergio Enrique Villareal Barragán (“El Grande”) of the Beltran Leyva Organization. Those killed include Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén (“Tony Tormenta”) from the Gulf Cartel, Nazario Moreno González (“El Chayo”) of La Familia, and Ignacio Coronel Villareal (“Nacho Coronel”) of the Sinaloa group.

Overall, the government reported that it made more than 27,000 arrests related to the drug war in 2010. It also said it freed 1,184 victims of kidnappings last year. It has confiscated 2,172 tons of marijuana and 12.6 tons of methamphetamines. The most dramatic seizure, the largest confiscation of marijuana in a single operation, included 148 tons in Tijuana in October.

Calderón has attempted to end some of his reliance on the military, including handing over power to the federal police in places like Juárez. He is also pushing for a unified police command that puts local forces into the hands of each state. A primary goal is to continue replacing local police, largely seen as corrupt entities, with a new corps of well-trained and better compensated officers who can resist lucrative bribes and the drug organizations' powerful sway.

Mr. Poire, the federal security spokesman, said Wednesday the rate of killings began to decline in the last quarter of the year. At the same time, however, Calderón noted yesterday that "I do not rule out that it could go back up, but ... I think it is important."

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war


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