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Mexico Sends Troops to US Border Areas to Fight Crime


Mexico's President Felipe Calderon is sending more than 3,000 troops to two states on the U.S. border, across from the U.S. state of Texas. The military deployment is part of the anti-organized crime effort he began shortly after taking office on December 1 of last year. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Houston.

In all 3,300 Mexican soldiers, sailors and federal police agents are on their way to the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, on the eastern end of the border formed by the Rio Grande river between Mexico and Texas. Included in this area are the border towns of Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, which have been the scene of numerous killings and shootouts between drug smuggling gangs.

Speaking in Mexico City Monday, President Calderon announced a salary boost for the armed forces and hailed the service they are performing in the fight against organized crime.

He says his administration together with the Mexican military will fight the nation's enemies throughout the country and defeat them. He says this hard work will be crowned with victory.

Mexican government officials say the use of army troops in other parts of Mexico has produced results. Shortly after taking office two and half months ago, President Calderon sent troops to the states of Michoacan and Guerrero, where they patrolled roads and destroyed thousands of hectares of marijuana and opium poppy crops.

The deployment of troops to Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas came at the request of the governors of those two states, where criminal activity has increased dramatically in recent years.

In Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, across the border from Laredo, Texas, local police have abandoned efforts to stop drug smugglers after numerous murders of police officers. In one case, a city chief of police was sworn into office in the morning and murdered in the afternoon of that same day. Criminal gangs have used automatic weapons, explosives and bazookas in fights with each other in Nuevo Laredo and police have been unable to stop them.

Earlier this month in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexican soldiers seized a tractor-trailer full of military style weapons believed to have been smuggled across the border from the United States. Included in the shipment were M-16 assault rifles, grenade launchers, thousands of rounds of ammunition, body armor and an armored pickup truck with bullet-proof glass.

Crime has also spiked in the industrial city of Monterrery, in Nuevo Leon state. Monterrey officials were shocked by a number of killings and other drug-related incidents in recent months that marred the image of a city that prided itself on being more industrious and orderly than other Mexican cities.

The Mexican military units sent to the border states are expected to patrol highways and set up checkpoints to search vehicles suspected of transporting drugs or weapons. The troops may also carry out raids on buildings where gang members are hiding or places where they have hidden their drugs and weapons.

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