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MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Mexico drug cartels thrive despite Calderon's offensive

Nearly four years after President Felipe Calderon launched a military-led crackdown, the cartels are smuggling more narcotics into the U.S., amassing bigger fortunes and extending dominion at home.

August 08, 2010|By Tracy Wilkinson and Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times

"My government is absolutely determined to continue fighting against criminality without quarter until we put a stop to this common enemy and obtain the Mexico we want," Calderon said in a paid, two-page message in Mexican newspapers in June.

More recently, officials have countered the idea of favoritism by pointing to the killing July 29 of Coronel, a top figure in the Sinaloa conglomerate.

For now, says Guillermo Valdes, head of the secretive national intelligence agency, Mexicans will have to accept that increasing violence is inevitable.

"We have made progress in deploying forces and in slowing down the operational capacity of organized crime," he said in a rare public appearance this month. "But we have not achieved the objective of restoring normal living conditions in regions affected by organized crime."

Officials and institutions remain under threat, particularly poorly protected small town mayors, city council members and

police chiefs in the provinces.

A day after Calderon published his defense of his crime strategy, residents in the west-central state of Nayarit were in a near panic. Recent gun battles had left more than 30 dead and rumors circulated on the Internet that schools would be targeted.

It is a threat that would once have sounded preposterous.

No longer. The governor, Ney Gonzalez Sanchez, called an end to the school year three weeks early to prevent what he called a public "psychosis."

wilkinson@latimes.com

ken.ellingwood

@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times' Mexico City Bureau contributed to this report.

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