ABC News, January 3, 2007
Mexico Jan 3, 2007 (AP)— Mexico is sending some
3,300 soldiers and federal police officers to fight drug
gangs in the crime-plagued border city of Tijuana, which
has become a major smuggling route for cocaine and
methamphetamine entering the United States.
The offensive expands a crackdown on organized crime by
President Felipe Calderon, who sent 7,000 troops to his
home state of Michoacan immediately after taking office on
"We will carry out all the necessary actions to retake
every region of national territory," Mexican Interior
Secretary Francisco Ramirez Acuna said in a news
conference Tuesday. "We will not allow any state to be a
hostage of drug traffickers or organized crime."
The Tijuana force consists of 2,620 soldiers, 162
marines and 510 federal police, and will be backed by 28
boats, 21 planes and nine helicopters, Ramirez Acuna said.
The force will hunt down suspected traffickers, patrol
the coast and man checkpoints in a city that lies across
the border from San Diego and is one of the world's
busiest border crossings. It is a transshipment point for
cocaine heading north from Colombia, as well as locally
produced methamphetamine and marijuana.
Several hundred body armor-clad federal police were
seen driving in convoys into the city on Tuesday. The rest
of the force was expected to arrive in the coming days.
Tijuana has been plagued by fighting between rival drug
gangs. Last year, there were more than 300 killings in the
city. In one of the most gruesome crimes, assailants in
June abducted three policemen and a civilian in the nearby
town of Rosarito, killing them and dumping their severed
heads on a Tijuana beach.
Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon welcomed the soldiers,
saying he would like them to work hand- in-hand with city
police who are establishing random security checkpoints.
"I hope this will make Tijuana a safer place," he said.
However, he said the deployment did not mean the city
was being militarized.
Calderon was elected on a law-and-order platform.
Last month, he sent 7,000 soldiers and federal police
to the western state of Michoacan, which has been plagued
by execution-style killings and beheadings as rival drug
gangs fight over marijuana plantations and smuggling
The troops have arrested more than 50 people, including
several suspected leaders of the feuding cartels, and
seized large quantities of gold, bulletproof vests,
military equipment and shirts with federal and municipal
Calderon is scheduled to make his first visit to the
troops on Wednesday at a military base.
"The operations will allow us to re-establish the
minimal security conditions in different points of Mexico
so we can recover little by little our streets, our parks
and our schools," Calderon said in a New Year's message on
Calderon's predecessor, Vicente Fox, promised the
"mother of all battles" against organized crime, sending
in thousands of soldiers and federal police to some
drug-embattled towns and arresting several major drug
But the arrests appeared to spark more violence as
gangsters battled to take over the smuggling routes of
those killed or arrested.
Associated Press writer Ioan Grillo in Mexico City
contributed to this report.