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David Virgil Dafinoiu, Kidnapping, South America

More than 12,000 killed in Mexican drug war this year, officials say

More than 12,000 people have died this year in Mexico’s drug war, officials said Thursday, making it the deadliest year since President Felipe Calderon launched a government crackdown against traffickers in 2006.

The federal attorney general’s office said 12,456 people were killed through Nov. 30.

The overall death toll since the launch of the drug war stands at 30,196, according to figures given to reporters during a year-end breakfast session with Atty. Gen. Arturo Chavez Chavez.

But that figure appeared to underestimate the toll. Federal officials announced in August that 28,228 had been killed in the war, meaning the death rate would have to have slowed considerably since then. But there has been no sign of easing violence as cartels have remained locked in fierce turf battles that have most contributed to the rising toll.

Estimates by Mexican intelligence put the death count at about 32,000.

The rising toll represents a political drag on Calderon, who has sought to assure a jittery public that the crackdown is depleting the cartels’ power as they lose bosses to death and arrest.

Although the administration has contended that the vast majority of those killed are drug gang henchmen, the bloodletting has left many Mexicans convinced that the government has lost control of entire regions, such as the crime-ridden northern border state of Tamaulipas.

30,000 killed in Mexico’s drug violence since 2006

Mexico said Thursday that more than 30,000 people have been killed in drug violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against cartels in late 2006.

The government said the violent La Familia cartel in western Mexico has been “systematically weakened” by recent arrests and deaths of leading members of the gang.

Attorney General Arturo Chavez Chavez told reporters that about 12,500 people were killed between January and November, compared to 9,600 for all of 2009. That was an increase from the last official report of deaths in the drug war, in August, when the country’s intelligence agency director said 28,000 had died.

In a joint statement later Thursday, Chavez Chavez’s office, the army, federal police and navy said the La Familia cartel was reeling from the recent deaths or arrests of some of it leaders. It said the cartel had begun to pursue false propaganda campaigns depicting itself as a protector of inhabitants of the western state of Michoacan.

“The systematic weakening of this criminal group due to the actions of the federal government has forced some of its members to adopt false rhetoric about helping the people of Michoacan, when in fact their operational methods are to terrorize and rob them,” according to the statement.

That was an apparent reference to a Dec. 9 recording by La Familia leader Servando Gomez, who urged cartel supporters over a radio frequency to continue fighting, hours after the death of the group’s leader, Nazario Moreno, nicknamed “The Craziest One” or “The Doctor.”

“God is with us, onward to victory!” Gomez is heard saying in the tape, in which he urged cartel supporters to join recent demonstrations calling for the withdrawal of federal police and the army. Gomez is also heard complaining that the government had not accepted the cartel’s offer to declare a temporary truce.

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