Mon, Nov 07, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Mexico inheriting Colombia's title as kingpin of drugs

BUSINESS BOOMING Drug cartels in the US' southern neighbor are becoming more powerful and are now responsible for supplying 92 percent of the US' cocaine

AP , MIGUEL ALEMAN, MEXICO

The Mexican government is trying to turn things around, but even Fox admits there's more to do.

On Sept. 21, Public Security Minister Martin Huerta, one of Fox's best friends, was flying to a news conference to announce new measures to clean up prisons when his helicopter crashed, killing him and eight others.

Officials have said the crash was an accident, but rumors of drug involvement persist.

US officials privately grumble that Mexico, unlike Colombia, has failed to extradite major drug lords to the US, where most would face long terms in high-security prisons.

Mexico argues the drug leaders must face justice here first. But attempts by Fox to clean up the justice system -- Mexico's most corrupt branch of government -- have stalled in a hostile Congress.

In Miguel Aleman, only 70 police patrol the streets and simply don't have the manpower to put up a fight against heavily armed opponents, city spokesman Ricardo Rodriguez said.

"Our job is to prevent crime, not to investigate drug trafficking. That's the federal government's responsibility," Rodriguez said.

He brushed aside claims that hit men with automatic weapons openly travel about.

"If they carry weapons or not, it is difficult for us to say," he said. "It's not like we have X-rays to see through their cars or clothes."

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