Sat, Aug 08, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Obama to visit Mexico as violence rages

‘NO QUICK SOLUTION’: More than 850 people were killed in drug violence in Mexico last month alone, the deadliest month in the country’s army assault on the illicit trade

REUTERS , CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO

Mexican drug gangs are killing rivals in record numbers in a major setback for the government, which will seek more support from US President Barack Obama when he visits the country this weekend.

Severed heads, burned bodies, daylight shootouts and dead children are daily fare from Mexico’s Caribbean to its desert border with the US, even as army generals pour soldiers and elite police onto city streets.

Last month was the deadliest month of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s nearly three-year army assault on powerful cartels across Mexico with 850 deaths, according to media tallies.

The death rate so far this year stands at about 4,000, about a third higher than in the same period last year despite a brief lull earlier in the year.

Mexico has managed to disrupt cocaine supplies and make some major arrests but top barons are still at large and more than 13,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon took office in Dec. 2006.

“We’re in a very decisive, very intense phase. There is no quick solution,” said Hector Garcia, the top federal prosecutor in Chihuahua state bordering Texas and home to more than a third of the killings in Mexico this year.

US anti-drug aid is slow in coming and the drugs war is scaring off foreign investment just as Mexico suffers a deep economic recession.

Police found nine tortured bodies in two blood-smeared SUVs in Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday. Most residents in the city once famed for its night life are too scared to go out and swarms of US tourists no longer cross the border to go to local bars.

“This is an unprecedented situation but I don’t believe our operations are a failure,” Garcia told Reuters in the city, Mexico’s deadliest front in the drug war, where 10,000 troops and police have been unable to stop tit-for-tat killings.

Obama will fly to the western city of Guadalajara for his first North American leaders’ summit with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tomorrow.

Obama pledged full support to Calderon in the drugs war during a visit in April but Mexico complains that US anti-drug equipment and training promised by the administration of former US president George W. Bush in a US$1.4 billion plan is taking too long.

Calderon is likely to ask Obama about the possible delay of US$100 million in the anti-narcotics aid after a senior Democratic senator said this week that Mexico has not met human rights requirements needed for the money to be released.

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