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In Mexico, Violence Accelerates Ahead of Elections

July 2, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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JEFFREY BROWN: Next: more drug war violence in Mexico.

Ray Suarez has our update.

RAY SUAREZ: The violence and killings in Mexico’s drug war have accelerated in recent days in the run-up to local and state elections. Twenty-one people died yesterday in a gun battle between rival gangs just a dozen miles from the Arizona border.

The firefight broke out along a known trafficking route for drugs and illegal immigrants. Last Monday, gunmen assassinated Rodolfo Torre, the leading candidate for governor in the border state of Tamaulipas. He had campaigned on an anti-violence platform. Mexican leaders blamed drug gang members for his killing and for the earlier murder of a mayoral candidate.

FERNANDO GOMEZ MONT, Mexican interior secretary (through translator): We as a society and a government cannot permit these kinds of acts that threaten the lives, peace and security of all Mexicans.

RAY SUAREZ: The violence has also claimed Mexican singer Sergio Vega, shot and killed last weekend near the city of Los Mochis. He was known for his narcocorridos, ballads about drug traffickers.

As mourners attended the funeral for Rodolfo Torre this week, President Felipe Calderon appealed for a unified response.

FELIPE CALDERON, Mexican president (through translator): It is essential that the national political forces and the different authorities of the state meet in an urgent way for dialogue, and give a unique and efficient answer, a serene and determined answer that shows a common front from all of us who represent the citizens.

RAY SUAREZ: In late 2006, Calderon deployed thousands of troops and federal police to drug hot spots across Mexico. Since then, an estimated 23,000 people have been killed.

They include three people tied to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez shot dead last March. Today, Mexican federal police arrested a number of suspects, including an alleged drug gang leader accused of ordering the attack.

As for Sunday’s elections, the government is urging citizens to stand up to the drug cartels by turning out to vote.