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Mexican leader claims progress in fifth year of drug war

03 september 2011, 17:59
President Felipe Calderon said that his administration had taken down more than half of Mexico's most wanted drug traffickers, AFP reports, citing his fifth annual report handed to Congress late Thursday.

The report came a week after one of the most devastating attacks blamed on drug gangs since Calderon took power -- in which 52 people died in an arson assault on a casino in the northern city of Monterrey -- and a day after a survey showed fewer than half of Mexicans saw progress in the president's crackdown on organized crime.

In August 2011, 21 out of the 37 most dangerous criminal leaders in Mexico had been arrested or killed, including five in the last 12 months, according to the annual document.

It also reported seizures of more than 100,000 kilos of cocaine, 9,000 metric tons of marijuana, more than 12.7 million weapons and 10,000 grenades since December 2006, when Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime.

Some 185 laboratories to produce synthetic drugs were dismantled between September 2010 and July 2011 alone, it added.

Calderon has received criticism for his failure to reduce the impunity that still reigns in Mexico and the slow speed of his attempts to reform the police and judicial system.

Rights groups have criticized his strategy of deploying some 50,000 military forces across the country for failing to stem growing violence, including more than 35,000 deaths blamed on the drug war since 2006.

A deadly arson attack on a casino in Monterrey last week, blamed on the Zetas drug gang, shocked a nation inured to beheadings, mass graves and shootouts in recent years.

A report by the US-based Pew Research Center on Wednesday showed that only 45% of Mexicans saw progress in the government's fight against organized crime, although 83% still supported the use of the military to fight drug traffickers.

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