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Signaling a sharp uptick in an already volatile war, Mexican troops this week poured into a city on the US border, the first of many such deployments expected in coming days.
Soldiers moved into Ciudad Juarez to try to regain control of a city in which more than 2,000 people have been murdered over the past year.
Officials say they intend to have 7,000 troops and police in position by the end of the week.
Rival gangs are battling for control of the city, which is a key entry point for drug smuggling into the US.
The influx of thousands of Mexican soldiers into Juárez is being credited for a sharp drop in the number of daily homicides while officials prepare for the military to take command of city police and other departments.
Three homicides occurred in the Juárez area in the first three days of March compared with 28 in the first three days of February, which ended with more than 200 people killed, according to information provided by Chihuahua state police.
But the El Paso Times adds that the move has drawn negative commentary as well.
The army surge, described by a columnist as the "green tsunami," is not without its critics, who contend that civil rights are being violated with unlawful searches of homes, detentions and torture. Military officials have denied abuse allegations.
The border city is in the throes of a vicious turf war between a local drug-smuggling organization and rivals from the northwestern state of Sinaloa. The feud, and the Mexican government's 2-year-old crackdown on organized crime, has sent killings soaring.
The violence has reached such a furious pitch that the Pentagon warned of the possibility that Mexico could become a failed state, as Time magazine reports.
The specter of U.S. troops fighting the cartel armies on Mexican soil is not simply a product of paranoia, however. The possibility was raised in a Pentagon policy document last December. The report by U.S. Joint Forces Command, entitled "Joint Operating Environment 2008", focuses on the challenges potentially facing the U.S. military over the next 25 years. It speculates that the Mexican state could face "a rapid and sudden collapse" from the onslaught of cartel paramilitary armies, and says the U.S. forces would have to respond to such a threat. "Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone," it says.
"Ciudad Juarez worries us deeply," [Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora] told Reuters in an interview....
However, he played down fears that Mexico is losing its war against a sprawling network of traffickers armed with guns often imported from the United States and showing unprecedented power just inches from U.S. soil.
"We think the Mexican state has much a greater power than any criminal group or any combination of criminal groups," Medina Mora said.
Reuters adds that, despite assurances from the Mexican government, "Texan Governor Rick Perry has suggested deploying 1,000 US troops or border patrol guards on his state's southern border."
Texas and the southern US region are not the only ones worried about Mexico's drug violence. Canadian police are also "drawing a direct link between a surge in gang violence in Canada and the bloody drug cartel wars in Mexico," according to Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail.
The United States is also trying to stamp out Mexican cartel operations within its borders.
These enforcement measures are curtailing the supply of cocaine, and that's bringing out the guns in Canada.
[The Royal Canadian Mounted Police] says the fight for a piece of the shrinking pie results in turf wars in places such as Vancouver.
Almost all the cocaine in Canada comes from Mexico, either directly or through the cartel's distributors in the United States. A spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency says Canadian gangs often trade ecstasy and marijuana for the cocaine.
As the violence continues, the Los Angeles Times reports that the drug violence in Mexico is creating a surge of applicants for asylum in the US.
A new breed of would-be refugees – business owners, law enforcement officers, journalists and other professionals – [is] on the run from Mexico's vicious drug wars. Increasingly, they are seeking safe haven in the U.S. by filing for asylum.
The number of asylum requests filed at U.S. border entries by Mexican nationals nearly doubled to almost 200 in the last fiscal year, and the pace has increased this year. Seventy Mexican asylum-seekers filed petitions in the first quarter, most of them in El Paso and San Diego. The figures are small compared with the vast scale of illegal immigration, but many fear explosive growth if the bloodshed worsens.