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Growing Drug Violence Shakes Mexico, Threatens to Spill Into US

The Obama administration has to decide how to fight the flow of drugs north into the United States, and the flow of guns south into Mexico. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

More than six thousand people died last year in Mexico's drug wars. So far this year the violence has only gotten worse. More than one thousand people have already been killed.

Police have become common targets, especially in border cities in northern Mexico.

Criminal organizations are competing for control of drug trafficking into the United States. The American State Department has warned travelers about border areas. But there is some evidence that the violence is spreading to other parts of Mexico.

Last month, gunmen kidnapped a retired army general in Cancun, a beach city popular with American college students on spring break. Mauro Tello Quinones was tortured and killed just days after he arrived in the city to fight corruption in the local police.

Mexican organized crime groups not only sell in the United States. Those cartels also use some of the money to buy high-powered weapons in the United States and bring them back into Mexico.

Mexico is receiving money for training, equipment and other anti-drug activities under an agreement signed last year with the United States. President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of troops for anti-drug efforts since he took office in two thousand six.

United States officials say the growing violence shows progress by the Mexican government in fighting the drug trade. Its efforts, they say, have led cartels to battle each other for decreasing profits.

Concern is growing that the violence will spread into the United States. The situation along the southern border is being called a national security threat.

Congress held hearings this week. Lawmakers urged the Obama administration to increase efforts to help Mexico crush the drug cartels.

Representative Loretta Sanchez from California noted that Mexico has now deployed forty-five thousand troops -- around the same number as the United States has in Afghanistan.

LORETTA SANCHEZ: "The United States and this Congress cannot ignore our role in assisting our neighbor and our ally in this fight, and of course in preventing that violence from slipping into the United States."

President Obama said this week that he is not interested in "militarizing" the three thousand kilometer long border. He went on to say, though, that he has not decided yet about requests from border states to deploy additional National Guard troops.

He says the cartels have gained "extraordinary power." He expects to have what he called a comprehensive policy in place in the next few months.

American officials recently announced results from an operation aimed at Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, which also sends drugs to Canada. They announced hundreds of arrests in the United States and the seizure of twenty-three tons of drugs.

And, this week, President Obama nominated the police chief from Seattle as the new director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Gil Kerlikowske says reducing demand for drugs will depend not just on arrests but also on treatment for users.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.