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Terrorism & Security

Kidnapping wave in Mexico linked to drug trade

To allay public outcry, the government announces anticrime reforms and solicits citizen involvement.

By David Montero / August 12, 2008

Trouble is brewing over the border in Mexico again, as the deaths of high-ranking policemen escalate the war for control of Mexico's lucrative drug trade. The deaths come as a public outcry over kidnappings – now believed to be linked to the drug trade – has resulted in the creation of antikidnapping squad.

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Reuters reports that two senior police officials, tasked with investigating growing violence among warring drug cartels, were killed within days.

Suspected drug hitmen killed a senior Mexican policeman in front of his 16-year-old son on Monday, sources from the attorney general's office in the state of Chihuahua said.
Pedro Aragones, in charge of the state's forensic investigations, was shot when his car stopped at a traffic light in the capital city of Chihuahua.
His son was not hurt but Aragones' bodyguard was badly wounded. The murder comes after the killing last week of another senior policeman in the state.
Police commander Vidal Barraza, who was investigating the 600 drug murders in the U.S.-Mexico border city of Ciudad Juarez this year, was shot as he stepped out of his house.

The violence puts a fresh spotlight on a conflict that has left 7,000 people dead in the past 2 1/2 years, including police officers and other public officials as well as an increasing number of innocent bystanders, according to The Washington Post.

At the root of the violence is a turf war between two drug cartels that want control of the illegal flow of drugs to the United States, estimated at roughly $14 billion each year. Pledging to stem that trade, President Felipe Calderon has deployed 40,000 army troops since taking office in 2006. If there is rising violence, some analysts say, it is a backlash signaling that the crackdown is working, reports The Dallas Morning News.

To U.S. law enforcement, the escalating violence is a perverse sign of success.
"These cartel leaders are starting to feel the pain, and the natural response is to up the ante in terms of violence," said a U.S. law-enforcement official who's close to the drug war and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Dallas Morning News also reports that the violence has prompted US officials to step up security efforts on the border. US and Mexican law-enforcement agencies recently unveiled a joint effort called Armas Cruzadas (Crossed Arms) to disrupt cross-border weapons smuggling through the sharing of databases and better monitoring of illicit sales at gun shops and gun shows.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, addressing the fifth annual border security conference at the University of Texas at El Paso, said his agency is concerned with the level of violence along the border and the drug and human smuggling and gang activity that generates it....
"We have two cartels fighting for control. President Calderón has taken the fight to them, but serious challenges still exist to border security that must be met with a joint effort," he said.

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