Mexico is at war, with 40,000 soldiers and 5,000 federal police officers deployed by President Felipe Calderon to secure large swaths of the country against entrenched drug traffickers, the Los Angeles Times reports. In the year and a half since Calderon launched the crackdown against drug gangs, about 4,100 people have died, the government says. At least 1,400 have been killed so far this year, including 170 in Tijuana, about 400 in Ciudad Juarez, and 270 more in the western state of Sinaloa. Many of the dead were gang members killed by rivals or by the government. Others have been bystanders. But at least 450 police officers and soldiers also have been killed. “It is a real fight,” Calderon says. “It is a war.”
The president asserts that the level of violence is one measure of success. He says the cartels have been hurt badly, and that they are now lashing out at the government and battling one another for control of territory. For now, the bulwark of his strategy is the army, which says it has made more than 5,800 arrests and intercepted 2,900 tons of marijuana and 24 tons of cocaine. One commentator calculated that overall, drug seizures have cost traffickers as much as $20 billion. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported in November that street prices of cocaine and methamphetamine had risen, and purity levels had fallen — signs interdiction was working. Still, many doubt that Calderon is winning the war. A poll in the Reforma daily on Sunday said 53 percent of Mexicans believe drug gangs have the upper hand. The killing of Mexico’s top drug cop in his Mexico City home last month by traffickers with keys to the house shows infiltration at the highest level.