Mexico will deploy extra troops and federal police to Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from Texas where the police chief recently bowed to crime gang demands that he resign, the government said on Wednesday.
Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont did not say how many more soldiers and police would be sent to Ciudad Juarez but promised that the reinforcements “would be visible to the residents.” Gomez-Mont said the agents would be deployed in the coming weeks.
His comments came after a meeting with officials in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million inhabitants across the border from El Paso that has been battered by a wave of drug cartel-related violence.
More than 2,000 soldiers and 425 federal police are already operating in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located. The deployment is part of a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels that has grown to include more than 45,000 troops since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.
Drug violence has surged since the government launched the offensive, claiming 6,000 lives last year. Some 1,600 of those killings were in Ciudad Juarez.
Victor Valencia de los Santos, the state government representative to Ciudad Juarez, said he expected the federal government to send 5,000 more troops and 2,000 extra police to Chihuahua.
Last week, Ciudad Juarez police chief Roberto Orduna resigned after crime gangs threatened to kill at least one of his officers every 48 hours if he stayed on the job. Two days later, gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, killing one of his bodyguards.
Signs have appeared in Ciudad Juarez applauding Orduna’s resignation and threatening to behead the mayor and his family.
City and state police across Mexico complain of being outgunned by ruthless criminal gangs.
On Wednesday, gunmen wielding AK-47 rifles opened fire and hurled grenades at a patrol car in Pacific resort town of Zihuatanejo, killing four officers.
The car caught fire, and the bodies of the officers were found burned inside, the Guerrero state Public Safety office said in a statement.
An hour later, gunmen shot at a police station near the Zihuatanejo airport, but nobody was hurt. It was unclear if the same assailants were behind both attacks.
In a sign that Mexico’s violence is reaching across the border, US federal agents rounded up more than 750 suspects in a wide-ranging crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating inside the US.
At a press conference announcing the arrests, US Attorney General Eric Holder also suggested that re-instituting a US ban on the sale of assault weapons would help reduce the bloodshed in Mexico.