MEXICO CITY – President Felipe Calderon ordered the creation of four new army battalions in northeastern Mexico, a region that has experienced a surge in drug-related violence in the past few years.
“We know the difficult situation that people in the northeast border of the country are dealing with,” Calderon said Saturday in Reynosa, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
“In light of the irresponsible actions of the criminals from different groups,” orders have been given “to establish, in this region, four additional battalions with the goal of supporting with sufficient numbers and instruments the work of the armed forces,” Calderon said during a Day of the Army event.
“It will be made even clearer yet that here in Mexico there is no other force and no greater force than the armed forces,” Calderon said.
Northeastern Mexico has been ground zero since March 2010 of a turf war between the Gulf drug cartel and its former armed wing, Los Zetas.
The violence has affected cities such as Monterrey, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo.
Calderon deployed army troops across Mexico shortly after taking office in December 2006 in an effort to fight the drug cartels because state and municipal police were not up to the task.
“The army will continue working in all the country as long as necessary to offer protection to Mexican families,” the president said.
Calderon called for “accelerating the process of cleaning out and strengthening police institutions at the state level” so the army can turn over the anti-drug effort to civilian agencies.
Each of Mexico’s 32 states must develop procedures for rooting out corruption and establish efficient anti-kidnapping units, the president said.
The army “arrested or killed in combat a dozen leaders of the main criminal organizations operating in the country” in the past few months, Calderon said.
Army troops also arrested “thousands of people linked to criminal activities” and prevented “more than 1 billion doses (of drugs) from reaching young Mexicans,” the president said.
Mexican soldiers have seized 100,000 arms since 2006, helping reduce “the firepower and operational capabilities of criminal groups,” Calderon said.