- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

TIJUANA, Mexico

Police in Tijuana suspended their patrols in the violent border city Friday after soldiers sent by President Felipe Calderon to crack down on drug gangs and corruption seized most of their guns.

Tijuana Public Safety Secretary Luis Javier Algorri said that without weapons, it was too dangerous for the force of 2,000 police to patrol the streets of the city, where 13 officers were fatally shot last year.

“This is an unfortunate situation, because it leaves agents defenseless and does not allow them to serve the community,” Mr. Algorri said at a press conference.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Calderon sent 3,300 soldiers and federal police to Tijuana to hunt down drug gangs. The soldiers swept police stations on Thursday and took away officers’ guns for inspection after federal investigators reported that a corrupt network of officers supports smugglers who traffic drugs into the United States.

On Friday, soldiers monitored those leaving and entering Tijuana, while federal and state police manned checkpoints within the city limits.

Dubbed Operation Tijuana, the mobilization is the second major military offensive against drug gangs by Mr. Calderon, who took office Dec. 1 promising to crack down on organized crime.

Last month, Mr. Calderon sent 7,000 troops to Michoacan, his native state in western Mexico, plagued by execution-style killings and beheadings as rival gangs fight over marijuana plantations and smuggling routes.

Drug gangs are blamed for more than 2,000 killings nationwide last year and have left a particularly bloody trail in Michoacan and Tijuana, where more than 300 people were slain last year.

On Friday, state officials said they had found nine bodies in a shallow grave in the city of Uruapan, in Michoacan state.

An anonymous call sent police to an abandoned warehouse Thursday in Uruapan, about 180 miles west of Mexico City. There, officials removed a loose section of flooring and discovered the mass grave, said Magdalena Guzman, a spokeswoman for the state prosecutor’s office.

Officials found the bodies of three men and one woman late Thursday. Their feet and hands were tied together, and their mouths were covered with tape. The bodies of five other men were uncovered on Friday. All were in advanced stages of decomposition, indicating the victims were killed some time ago. No suspects were in custody.

Uruapan has been the site of some of Mexico’s most brutal slayings, including a Sept. 6 attack in which gunmen dumped five severed heads onto the dance floor at a bar.

Opposition politicians and residents have expressed doubt that Mr. Calderon’s highly publicized drug crackdown will have much of an effect.

His predecessor, Vicente Fox, also designated thousands of agents to fight drug trafficking, arresting several purported top kingpins during his six-year term. Those actions appeared to provoke more violence, as other traffickers battled to take over the smuggling routes of those killed or detained.

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