Municipal policemen in Veracruz walk past members of the Mexican navy after… (Felix Marquez, Associated…)
Reporting from Mexico City —
Authorities disbanded the police force in the port city of Veracruz on Wednesday and handed patrol duties to the military in a bid to clean up corruption.
The Mexican navy and state police took over enforcement after Veracruz state officials laid off 900 officers and 46 administrative workers. Veracruz becomes the latest city where the military is on patrol.
State spokeswoman Gina Dominguez said the move aimed to "create a new police model" that will demand officers who are better trained and "more committed to the public security function." The fired officers can apply to the new force but will face tougher standards, she said.
The coastal state of Veracruz has seen growing drug violence, especially around the port city. The state has been dominated by the Zetas, one of the country's most violent gangs.
In September, assassins dumped 35 bodies on a boulevard in the Boca del Rio suburb, a popular destination for Mexicans. The discovery was shocking even by the standards of the violence that has convulsed Mexico since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels after taking office in 2006.
A group called the Zeta-killers posted a video online saying the slayings were part of a campaign to rid the state of the Zetas. The video raised fears that death squads were emerging.
Under Calderon's crackdown, thousands of municipal police officers — in some cases, entire departments — have been dismissed in a bid to tackle extensive corruption. Poorly paid, undertrained officers often moonlight for criminal groups, and Calderon has proposed reforms to tighten screening.