Violence Reaches New Peak In Mexican Drug War Over the past two weeks, hundreds of people have been gunned down in Mexico as drug violence continues to escalate. The surge in killings comes as President Felipe Calderon is ramping up efforts to win more public support for his drug war.
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Violence Reaches New Peak In Mexican Drug War

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Violence Reaches New Peak In Mexican Drug War

Violence Reaches New Peak In Mexican Drug War

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Tepic, in the Pacific Coast state of Nayarit.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The Plaza Cigarrera in Tepic looks like a rather boring strip mall. But a few days ago, it was the scene of an intense firefight between cartel gunmen, the police and the Mexican military.

(SOUNDBITE OF A WHISTLE)

BEAUBIEN: Jose Garcia works at the taxi stand out front, hailing cabs and helping people with their shopping bags.

NORRIS: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Garcia says people heard the shots and started running. People were yelling: They're shooting, they're shooting. The gun battle went on for at least 20 minutes. Garcia, along with dozens of other people, took refuge in a low-end clothing store, where people can buy $10 soccer jerseys on credit.

NORRIS: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Ulyses Ramirez, who's a cook at the fast-food outlet, says eight windows shattered, but no customers were hurt.

NORRIS: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: After 30 people were gunned down last weekend, the governor seized control of the local police, called on President Calderon to send in more federal cops, and shut the public schools statewide.

NORRIS: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: This violence is happening all across Mexico. According to the national newspaper El Universal, 96 people were assassinated in drug-related violence on Monday alone, the highest daily death toll since President Calderon declared war on the cartels in December of 2006.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

BEAUBIEN: As frustration with the drug war grows, President Felipe Calderon this week tried to rally the Mexican people behind the effort. On Monday, he published a 5,000-word defense of the strategy in several newspapers. Then on Tuesday, he gave a passionate televised address to the nation, calling on Mexicans to join in the fight against organized crime - although he acknowledged that this fight will not be easy.

P: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: It's worth the effort to continue on with this fight, Calderon said. It's worthwhile in order to build a free and safe country. And he said: To give up in the drug war would be to abandon Mexico, and leave it in the hands of organized criminals.

NORRIS: Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tepic, Nayarit.

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