Pubdate: Wed, 14 Apr 2010
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Page: AA2
Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Times
Author: Ken Ellingwood, Reporting from Mexico City

Mexico Under Siege


The Tally, Based on Official Mexican Figures, Is Higher Than 
Previously Reported

The death toll from the Mexican government's three-year war on drug 
cartels is far higher than previously reported -- more than 22,000, 
according to news reports published Tuesday that cited confidential 
government figures.

The figure is significantly higher than tallies assembled by Mexican 
media. They estimate that more than 18,000 people have died since 
President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against 
drug-trafficking groups after taking office in December 2006.

The unofficial media tallies have often been cited by foreign news 
outlets, including The Times.

The government has seldom released official counts of those killed in 
the skyrocketing violence, which stems largely from fighting between 
rival drug-trafficking groups.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that it was preparing to make its 
count public, but it had not issued its report by the evening.

The daily Reforma newspaper first published the toll number, which it 
said was contained in a confidential file that top security officials 
gave federal senators during a hearing Monday. The Associated Press, 
which said it had gained access to the report, said the total given was 22,700.

The figures present a starker picture than previously known of the 
violence that has buffeted the country, especially along the U.S. 
border and in drug-smuggling corridors.

Last year was the deadliest since the Calderon anti-crime offensive 
began, with 8,928people killed, according to Reforma. So far this 
year, 2,904people have died, the newspaper said. The AP said the 
report put the toll at 9,635 last year and 3,365 in January through 
March this year. It was unclear why there were discrepancies in the 
report's figures.

Calderon has dispatched more than 48,000 soldiers and several 
thousand federal police officers along the U.S. border and in other 
drug-smuggling hot spots across the country.

The clampdown has brought down some leading drug figures, including 
suspected kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva, killed during a raid in the 
city of Cuernavaca in December. A succession struggle for control of 
his cartel has sparked violence recently in the central state of 
Morelos, where six bodies were found Tuesday under a highway overpass.

But critics say the army-led strategy has failed to reduce violence 
in cities such as Ciudad Juarez, the nation's deadliest. Juarez is 
part of Chihuahua, the state with the most killings. Next on the list 
are the states of Sinaloa, Guerrero, Baja California and Michoacan, 
according to Reforma. 
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