MEXICO UNDER SIEGE: Mexico to send up to 5,000 more troops to Ciudad Juarez

The increase would triple the law enforcement presence in the border city, which has been racked by drug violence. Its police chief quit recently and its mayor has received threats as well.

Reporting from Mexico City — Amid growing alarm over drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico will deploy up to 5,000 more troops to the border city, officials said today.

The increase would triple the number of troops and federal police officers operating there as part of President Felipe Calderon’s offensive against drug traffickers.

Related article: Napolitano On The War In Mexico (CBS News):
Acknowledging that the violent drug cartels of Mexico are now operating in many U.S. cities, America’s Homeland Security secretary says every American has a stake in Mexico’s war against the murderous gangs.

Jose Reyes Ferriz, the mayor of Ciudad Juarez, said the added troops would give the military a higher profile by taking control of police functions, including street patrols. Currently, soldiers tend highway checkpoints, guard crime scenes and take part in special operations, such as house searches.

The city is without a police chief since Roberto Orduña Cruz quit last week after several officers were slain and someone posted threats saying more would be killed unless he stepped down.

On Wednesday, top Mexican security officials traveled to Ciudad Juarez to reassure local leaders and vowed to significantly boost the federal presence. Army spokesman Enrique Torres said the officials discussed adding as many as 5,000 soldiers.

Now, slightly more than 2,000 soldiers and 425 federal police officers are assigned to Juarez in addition to local police, Torres said. He said the reinforcements could begin to arrive in two weeks.

The move would represent a continuation of Calderon’s strategy of relying on the army and federal police to counter drug-trafficking gangs in the country’s most important smuggling corridors. He already had deployed 45,000 soldiers and 5,000 police officers across the nation as part of the crackdown, launched two years ago.

The offensive has sparked shootouts between soldiers and gunmen and triggered vicious fighting between rival drug gangs that has propelled the country’s fast-climbing death toll. More than 6,000 people were slain in 2008, and the figure has exceeded 900 so far this year, according to unofficial tallies by the Mexican media.

Ciudad Juarez, which had more than 1,350 killings last year, has been on edge over the police chief’s resignation and threats that appeared over the weekend against the mayor.

Reyes and other officials have described the police slayings and threats as “acts of terrorism.”

In a radio interview today, he said the city’s 1,600-member force was too small even before officers were ordered to double up in patrol cars after the recent threats. A beefed-up military contingent will help combat other crimes, such as robberies, kidnappings and extortion, the mayor said.

Reyes has vowed to continue trying to clean up the city’s corruption-laden police force, which, like many in Mexico, has been infiltrated by drug smugglers.

By Ken Ellingwood
February 27, 2009

Source: Los Angeles Times

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