Hundreds of soldiers and federal police deployed on Saturday ahead of a North American leaders summit in western Mexico, which has been the scene of some of the country’s most vicious drug-related attacks in recent weeks.
US President Barack Obama was scheduled to arrive yesterday to take part in his first two-day summit with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, in the city of Guadalajara.
In the run up to the summit, key issues — including trade and protectionism in the battered economy, climate change and swine flu, have been overshadowed by Mexico’s battle with its powerful drug cartels — which have spread their influence as far as Canada and beyond.
Dozens have died in suspected drug attacks in Mexico in recent days, including a soccer team hostess who was tortured and beheaded in the northern border city of Tijuana and at least 12 killed in a clash between suspected cartel members and police in central Mexico.
As many as 1,200 federal police officers were due to be deployed in security operations for the two-day summit starting yesterday, as well as about 1,000 Mexican presidential guards and other Mexican troops, officials said, declining to be named.
Thousands of extra troops were deployed to the neighboring western state of Michoacan last month in response to a wave of attacks on police by the powerful La Familia drug gang.
With the death toll from suspected drug attacks approaching 10,000 since the start of last year, Calderon is under pressure to demonstrate success amid growing criticism of alleged abuses committed by some of the tens of thousands of troops deployed in his nationwide crackdown on organized crime.
In Guadalajara, local advocacy groups planned demonstrations yesterday to raise awareness of issues including human rights and the environment.
In a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, Greenpeace activists climbed one of the city’s main fountains to push for concrete commitments on alternative energy use in the three giant nations ahead of a key climate change summit in December.
Some activists who were detained during a police crackdown on demonstrations during an international summit in Guadalajara five years ago remain in prison without trial, Mexican non-governmental organizations said.