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Mexico Cracks Down on Drug Cartels

Mexico's federal police raided two mansions in the capital and arrested 11 alleged gunmen for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. At the same time, Mexican soldiers carried out operations to disarm local police in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders the U.S. state of Texas. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, these actions, along with the arrest of a major drug trafficking figure on Monday, are part of a major crackdown on organized crime.

Heavily armed Mexican federal police conducted the raids in Mexico City before sunrise, capturing eight men at one house and three at another.

Federal police commissioner Edgar Millan Gomez provided details on the results of the raids.

He said that the men arrested in the raids were all part of major drug trafficking organizations and that in the raids police had also seized large quantities of automatic weapons, grenades and other weapons that are illegal for private citizens to own in Mexico.

The raids followed the arrest on Monday of Alfredo Beltran Leyva, allegedly the key figure in the so-called Sinaloa cartel, which is considered the biggest and most powerful organized criminal group in Mexico. He was captured by the Mexican army in the state of Sinaloa, which is on Mexico's Pacific coast.

The arrest drew immediate praise from US Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza, who said that when Mexico takes such criminals off the streets it also benefits the United States.

US law enforcement officials say the Mexican drug trafficking organizations are responsible for most of the cocaine, marijuana and other illicit drugs that come into the United States. President Bush has asked the US Congress to provide Mexico with close to one and a half billion dollars in assistance to help fight the drug cartels.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon began a major offensive against the criminal organizations shortly after taking office in December 2006. The going has been tough for both the law enforcement groups and the general public as rival gangs fight the police and each other. Drug violence claimed more than 2,500 lives in Mexico last year. Most of the violence has been in the border region, where both drug and human smuggling gangs operate, often with the protection of local police.

In an effort to crack down on violence and police corruption, Mexican military units went into the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros Tuesday, disarming local police and carrying out investigations.

The Mexican army carried out operations last week on the western end of the border, in the city of Tijuana, where soldiers and federal police engaged in a three-hour gun battle last Thursday that ended with the death of one gunman and the wounding of four police officers. Police detained five alleged drug cartel gunmen in the raid.