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Americas

Hundreds block US border to protest army anti-drug operations

©

Latest update : 2009-02-18

Hundreds of protestors blocked roads between Monterrey and the US on Tuesday, in demonstrations against army anti-drug operations. Hundreds more shut highways in Veracruz. Mexico's spiralling drug war killed 6000 people last year.

REUTERS - Hundreds of Mexicans blocked roads and bridges
into the United States on Tuesday in a protest of army operations
against drug gangs that officials said was organized by drug
traffickers.

 

About 300 protesters, some with handkerchiefs tied over
their faces, carried signs saying "Army Get Out!" in front of
the town hall in the northern city of Monterrey, 130 miles (209
km) from the Texas border. It was the largest in a series of
anti-army protests this week.

 

In a growing challenge to the military across Mexico, small
groups of taxi drivers also blocked bridges that connect the
border cities of Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo with Texas, stopping
vehicles and pedestrians, police said.

 

Hundreds of miles away, another 300 people shut highways in
the Gulf city of Veracruz to pressure the military to go back
to their bases.

 

The demonstrations put fresh pressure on President Felipe
Calderon to defeat the cartels after two years of an
army-backed campaign and spiraling drug violence that killed
6,000 people last year.

 

Mexico's drug war has scared off investors and worried the
United States, which is giving $1.4 billion worth of equipment
and other aid to help Mexico and Central America fight
cartels.

 

Natividad Gonzalez, governor of Nuevo Leon state, blamed
Mexico's most violent drug gang, the Gulf cartel, and its armed
wing, The Zetas, for the protests.

 

"There are reasons to believe it has to do with the Gulf
cartel and the group known as The Zetas," he told a news
conference.

 

Ten people died in a gun battle between troops and drug
hitmen in Reynosa on Tuesday, police said, but added that the
violence was not related to the protests.

 

State police chief Aldo Fasci said last week that crime
organizations were paying people to protest against the army
and that gangs were handing out backpacks full of schoolbooks,
pens and paper to poor families who joined the demonstrations.


Rampant violence

 

Calderon said on Monday the rampant violence shows the drug
cartels are desperate, but drug trade experts say Mexico's
deepening economic slump and rising joblessness could attract
more recruits to the trade.

 

The northern states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, home to
Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, are the main trafficking
routes into Texas for the powerful Gulf Cartel.

 

One woman at the protest who declined to be named told
Reuters she came with a neighbor who had been paid to turn up.

 

Calderon has sent 45,000 troops and federal police across
Mexico to fight drug gangs since late 2006, a move widely
supported by Mexicans angry with years of inaction and the deep
corruption in the country's police forces.

 

Despite warnings from rights groups about soldiers using
excessive force in the drug fight, Calderon also has
Washington's support for using the army, which has made
historic drug seizures and is catching more gang leaders.

 

"Rising levels of unemployment in Mexico make it much
easier for Mexican drug traffickers to recruit youths to engage
in demonstrations like this, for relatively low pay,"
U.S.-based security consultancy Stratfor said in a report.

 

Date created : 2009-02-18

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