As Mexico’s U.S.-funded drug war reaches new levels of violence, President Felipe Calderón’s government has launched a $1 billion drive to train and equip local police forces that, historically, focused on rounding up town drunks or dishing out traffic violations, reports USA Today. The goal is to produce competent and non-corrupt local police forces that can fight alongside the federal police and army, which have done most of the heavy lifting in the anti-drug fight.
More than 11,500 people have died in drug-related violence nationwide, including hundreds of police, since Calderón took office in 2006. Despite his vow to destroy the cartels, they still control most of the cocaine that flows into the U.S., and some violence from their turf wars has spilled into Georgia, Arizona, and other states. Improving Mexico’s police will require not just more money, but a change of culture. A USA Today reporter spent several days riding with police in the city of Uruapan, near a major drug-smuggling route. As they chased suspicious vehicles and hunted for drug labs, officers said they had seen some progress but still voiced frustrations about low salaries and their bad public reputation.