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The fight against the "cynical impunity" of organized crime is weakening drug cartels, even though it has caused greater violence and unease in the country, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Thursday.
Just hours after handing to Congress in writing Wednesday his annual State of the Union address, Calderon focused on the issue of organized-crime violence, which has claimed more than 28,000 lives since he became president in December 2006.
"The fight against organized crime has been hard and it has demanded time, economic resources and unfortunately also human lives," Calderon said. "However, we have to keep going until we achieve the Mexico we want."
He spoke at the National Palace, the seat of government in central Mexico City, before an audience of Cabinet members, top legislators, governors, and representatives of the country's business community and its trade unions, among others.
Calderon said that in the close to four years since he took office, 125 drug bosses or top aides have been arrested along with more than 5,100 of drug gang foot soldiers. This year, he stressed, three top drug lords have been killed or arrested: Arturo Beltran Leyva, Ignacio Coronel and Edgar Valdez Villarreal, better known as "Barbie."
He also noted that since late 2006, thousands of weapons have been seized, along with drugs with a market value of 10 billion dollars.
Calderon admitted that the fight against the "social cancer" of drug trafficking has had side effects, however.
"Over this past year the problem of violence has got worse," he said.
Around 8,000 people have died in Mexico since January in incidents linked to organized crime, according to official figures.
"I know this is the problem that worries and hurts Mexicans the most," Calderon said.
He gave his condolences to the families of innocent victims of this violence, and he referred specifically to 72 migrants killed last week at a ranch in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, allegedly by the criminal gang Los Zetas.
Calderon said that such gangs are no longer just active in drug trafficking but have expanded to other criminal activities, like kidnappings and extortion.
"The barbarity that was committed against migrants a few days ago is an expression of that criminal diversification," he said.
An Ecuadorian teenager who survived the killings said the migrants were shot because they refused to work for Los Zetas, the former armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, which is now working independently.