Peña Nieto: Wait a year to judge strategy against cartel violence

2013-03-21T00:00:00Z Peña Nieto: Wait a year to judge strategy against cartel violenceCecilia Sanchez and Richard Fausset Los Angeles Times Arizona Daily Star

MEXICO CITY - President Enrique Peña Nieto, faced with a gruesome one-day toll of 29 suspected organized-crime-related deaths in his country, told reporters Wednesday that Mexicans should give his anti-crime strategy about a year before judging whether it is working.

The violence reported Tuesday in 13 states included the slayings of two members of the federal police in Ciudad Juarez.

"In a year, we will be able to take stock, to take measure, … and I think that we will be able to see favorable results, a noticeable reduction," said Peña Nieto, who was visiting Italy for the inauguration Tuesday of Pope Francis.

"That doesn't mean that in a year, we'll achieve the objectives laid out by this administration," he said. "But I think that yes, in one year is the moment to take stock of how this strategy is going."

Peña Nieto, who took office Dec. 1, inherited a bloody war against Mexican drug cartels that claimed at least 70,000 lives in the previous six-year administration and resulted in the disappearance of thousands more.

The new president has adjusted the strategy of his predecessor, promising to focus more on the crimes that affect ordinary people. He also plans to create a new "gendarmerie," or paramilitary police force, to patrol the most dangerous parts of the country.

But that new force will not be operational for a number of months, at least, and the Mexican military remains deployed within its own borders in an effort to keep the peace and help the country's often-hapless police forces combat the cartels.

The death toll Tuesday showed, once again, that the criminals will not wait. The violence reported in 13 states included the troubled state of Mexico, which rings the nation's capital. There, a clash between an armed group of civilians believed to be tied to drug cartels and police and military forces left 10 of the alleged criminals dead.

According to the state government, the police and the military patrol were attacked while on patrol in a mountainous area near the municipality of Otzoloapan.

In Ciudad Juarez, on the Texas border, the two Mexican federal police officers were fatally shot by unknown assailants also believed to be part of the cartels.

Farther east, in the border state of Coahuila, a number of shootouts were reported between the Army and presumed criminal groups, causing state officials to activate a "Code Red" in the city of Monclova.

Residents were asked not to leave their houses, and classes at schools were suspended. Social-network users claimed that a number of people had been killed, assertions that the local authorities rejected.

In the southwestern state of Michoacan, the former president of the city of Apatzingan, Jose Guadalupe Valladares, was shot by attackers as he was leaving his house. He is reportedly hospitalized in grave condition.

Among other events, clashes between rival groups were reported in the states of Sinaloa, Guerrero, Jalisco, Veracruz and Nuevo Leon.

"In a year, we will be able to take stock, to take measure, … and I think that we will be able to see favorable results, a noticeable reduction."

President Enrique Peña Nieto, on violence in Mexico

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