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Mexican Official Promises Crackdown Against Drug Traffickers


A top Mexican official says the new government plans to take action against the country's powerful drug cartels. Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos says the goal is to greatly reduce the power of the cartels by the end of the six-year term of President Felipe Calderon. James Blears spoke with Mr. Santiago Vasconcelos about the government's plan and filed this report from Mexico City.

Mexico's drug cartels are considered by many experts to be the most powerful, and deadly, in the Americas. More than 2,000 Mexicans died last year as a result of drug-related violence.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, installed in office in December, has already sent more than 30,000 federal police and troops to a number of areas, including his home state of Michocan in Western Mexico, to root out traffickers who are terrorizing local people there.

Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, who is in charge of combatting organized crime, says the drug cartels' power must be curbed by at least 70 percent by the end of Mr. Calderon's six-year term.

Mexico is an important transit point in the illegal drug trade of the Americas. Many of the drugs originate in Colombia and pass through Mexico on their way to customers in the United States. Sharing cross-border intelligence with the United States, Santiago Vasconcelos says, is key to defeating the cartels.

"The principal tool of the fight is cooperation and the interchange of intelligence. The intelligence is the circulatory system of the body of the state," he explained.

The deputy attorney general believes the forces dispatched by the Calderon government have already made important strides against the cartel, but he says it is essential that the pressure be maintained.

"It's very important to continue the efforts and continue the application of the law. It's very necessary," he added.

Santiago Vasconcelos concedes that many more Mexicans will die before the illegal drug trade is defeated, but he says the forces of law and order, and ordinary people, must be prepared to pay that price.

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