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March 25, 2009

Mexico's drug war

In December of 2006, Mexico's new President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels, reversing earlier government passiveness. Since then, the government has made some gains, but at a heavy price - gun battles, assasinations, kidnappings, fights between rival cartels, and reprisals have resulted in over 9,500 deaths since December 2006 - over 5,300 killed last year alone. President Barack Obama recently announced extra agents were being deployed to the border and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Mexico today to pursue a broad diplomatic agenda - overshadowed now by spiraling drug violence and fears of greater cross-border spillover. Officials on both sides of the border are committed to stopping the violence, and stemming the flow of drugs heading north and guns and cash heading south. (34 photos total)

Seized ammunition is shown during a presentation of suspected members of the Pacifico drug cartel in Mexico city's airport on March 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez)

Baja California state police stand guard at a captured marijuana greenhouse in the basement of a ranch in Tecate, Mexico on March 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Jorge Duenes) #

Numbered plastic markers are set on the pavement to determine the location of bullet casings found at the scene of a shootout where unknown gunmen opened fire and killed four police officers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Feb. 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) #

A police officer walks on packages of cocaine in Buenaventura, Colombia's main seaport on the Pacific coast, Monday, March 23, 2009. Colombian police had seized 3.5 tons of cocaine in a container of vegetable grease bound for Mexico. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara) #

Yaneth Deyinara Garcia (center) and Sigifrido Najera (2nd from left), members of the drug Organization "Cardenas Guillen", are presented to the press at the headquarters of the Defense Secretary in Mexico City on March 20, 2009. (LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Suspected Mexican drug trafficker Vicente Zambada Niebla is presented to the media in Mexico City March 19, 2009. Zambada was arrested with five other suspected drug traffickers with weapons and money, police said. (REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar) #

Army soldiers guard a police station in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Monday, March 16, 2009. As retired and active-duty soldiers largely took over security in the violence-wracked city of 1.3 million, a retired Army officer took over as head of police Monday, whose previous law enforcement chief resigned earlier, after receiving threats. (AP Photo) #

Federal police officers sit aboard an aircraft while flying to the border city Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, Monday, March 2, 2009. The deployment is part of a troop increase of 5,000 men planned for this city which has been hit hard by organized crime related violence. (AP Photo/Miguel Tovar) #

A member of the Army watches the incineration of fourteen tons of drugs in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on December 2, 2008. (J. Guadalupe PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images) #

Police officers drive past a burning police vehicle in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009. Earlier, gunmen opened fire and hurled grenades at the patrol car in the Pacific resort town of Zihuatanejo, killing four officers. (AP Photo/Felipe Salinas) #

Members of the Mexican police examine a car with two persons killed inside after an alleged drug-related clash, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on November 25, 2008. (J. Guadalupe PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images) #

A body lies on a stainless steel table waiting for an autopsy at the morgue in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, Jan. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias) #

Federal police patrol the border city of Ciudad Juarez March 2, 2009. Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and convoys of federal police patrolled Ciudad Juarez on Monday amid a massive troop build up to try to restore order in Mexico's most violent city. (REUTERS/Tomas Bravo) #

A federal policeman stands guard during an operation at a nightclub in downtown Ciudad Juarez March 7, 2009. Across the border from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez recently received hundreds of heavily armed federal forces to take over anti-drug efforts from police tainted by corruption and links to drug traffickers. Picture taken March 7. (REUTERS/Tomas Bravo) #

Mexican soldiers check the identity of a man during an operation searching for drugs and weapons in Reynosa, on Mexico's northeastern border with the U.S., late Tuesday, March 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

A tourist leaves a hotel as a federal policeman stands guard during an operation following a bomb threat at a governmental finance office in the border city of Ciudad Juarez March 6, 2009. The threat prompted an operation by local police and federal forces to secure the site, local media said. (REUTERS/Tomas Bravo) #

Mexican soldiers check cars at the customs checkpoint in Miguel Aleman, on Mexico's northeastern border with the U.S., Wednesday, March 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

A Mexican soldier walks near a U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Friday, March 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Miguel Tovar) #

Soldiers patrol near the town of Miguel Aleman, on Mexico's northeastern border with U.S., Thursday, March 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

Shoes used for smuggling marijuana are displayed in the Drug Museum at the headquarters of the Mexican Ministry of Defense in Mexico City March 9, 2009. High precision rifles, a diamond and gold encrusted mobile phone, clandestine laboratories for drug processing and many more items that once belonged to drug traffickers are displayed in this private museum used by the military to show the soldiers the lifestyle of the Mexican drug lords. (REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez) #

Texas Armoring Corp. President and CEO Trent Kimball examines a bullet proof windshield after it was shot at their facility in San Antonio, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009. Due to increased drug-cartel violence in northern Mexico, American companies say they're seeing increases in the number of cars they're asked to outfit with armor plating, bulletproof glass and defensive gadgets like push-button smoke screens and electrified door handles. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) #

A farm canal is seen at sunrise March 12, 2009 near El Centro, California. El Centro is suffering the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 22.6 percent, nearly as high as rates during the Great Depression, with Latinos especially being hit hard. The people of the Imperial Valley, an important food producing region in the desert north of the U.S.-Mexico border and east of San Diego, are plagued with a devastating combination of drought, a construction-idling housing bust, and a plummeting peso, which undercuts the buying power of Mexicans who shop on the U.S. side of the border. (David McNew/Getty Images) #

Central American migrants being held in captivity react as Mexican Army soldiers, unseen, enter to liberate them in Reynosa, Mexico, late Tuesday, March 17, 2009. More than 50 migrants were being kept in captivity by a kidnapping gang in order to extort their families in exchange for their freedom, according to Mexico's Army. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

Forensic workers remove one of nine bodies found at a plot on the outskirts of the border city of Ciudad Juarez March 14, 2009. An anonymous call led police to a site where at least nine bodies were found in a shallow grave local media reported. (REUTERS/Alejandro Bringas) #

A man is seen on his kness after being arrested by soldiers in a home where Central American migrants were being held hostage by a kidnapping gang in Reynosa, Mexico, late Tuesday, March 17, 2009. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

A forensic investigator in Tijuana examines a vertebra and other bone fragments that were all that remained of a human body recovered from a barrel of acid. The gruesome discovery in the Otay Mesa part of the city is consistent with a signature killing style of "El Teo", Tijuana's most wanted cartel kingpin. (Los Angeles Times photo by Don Bartletti) #

A border patrol vehicle drags the sand to make any new footprints of border crossers more visible along a recently constructed section of the controversial US-Mexico border fence expansion on previously pristine desert sands on March 14, 2009 between Yuma, Arizona and Calexico, California. (David McNew/Getty Images) #

A recently constructed section of the controversial US-Mexico border fence expansion project crosses previously pristine desert sands at sunrise on March 14, 2009 between Yuma, Arizona and Calexico, California. The new barrier between the US and Mexico stands 15 feet tall and sits on top of the sand so it can lifted by a machine and repositioned whenever the migrating desert dunes begin to bury it. The almost seven miles of floating fence cost about $6 million per mile to build. (David McNew/Getty Images) #

Numbered boxes containing evidence gathered during autopsies are stacked against a wall at the morgue in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Feb. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) #

Bodies awaiting autopsies crowd a walk-in refrigerator at the morgue in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) #

With a .50-caliber rifle in the foreground, the U.S. House National Security and Foreign Affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on U.S.-Mexico border violence, Thursday, March 12, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

Soldiers escort drug kingpin Hector Huerta Rios at the air force base in Salinas Victoria, on the outskirts of Monterrey, northern Mexico March 24, 2009. Soldiers on Tuesday captured Huerta Rios of the Beltran Leyva cartel who is accused of the killing of a police chief in this industrial city. Huerta Rios was seized along with five persons, weapons and money at his car dealership. (REUTERS/Tomas Bravo) #

A man lies dead after being shot in the head by unidentified assailants as police officers stand around him in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Wednesday, March 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Miguel Tovar) #

A federal police officer searches for guns in a field after a shooting in Tijuana, Mexico, Monday, March 9, 2009. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias) #