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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In the Mexican border city of Tijuana, police and the military have announced an unprecedented campaign against drug cartels. They want to fight drug runners who've been fighting each other. Just last weekend, 13 people died in a bloody shootout on Tijuana's main streets. But a Mexican general has accused dozens of law enforcement officials of protecting the drug gangs.

Amy Isackson of member station KPBS has more.

(Soundbite of music)

AMY ISACKSON: Police drummers played outside Tijuana's city hall yesterday as more than a dozen high-ranking government and law enforcement officials saluted the Mexican flag. Local officials stood alongside some of Mexico's top political and military officials, who were flown in from the country's capital. It was a massive show of force after a brutal weekend shootout and an embarrassing letter that alleged law enforcement is rife with corruption.

General SERGIO APONTE (Mexican Armed Forces): (Spanish spoken)

ISACKSON: Mexican Armed Forces General Sergio Aponte told the crowd he'd work hard to wrestle the state from drug traffickers.

General APONTE: (Spanish spoken)

ISACKSON: Aponte oversees the federal forces in Tijuana that were sent two years ago to battle drug traffickers. But their success has been limited. Crime continues to plague the city. Bodies are found dumped in the streets almost daily. There've been dozens of kidnappings tied to drugs. Millions of tourists have stayed away, though U.S. citizens aren't targeted.

Saturday's shootout between rival drug gangs was one of the bloodiest in recent history. It left 13 dead and nine wounded. Fifteen hundred spent rounds littered city streets.

Attorney General ROMMEL MORENO (Baja, California): (Spanish spoken)

ISACKSON: Baja California's Attorney General Rommel Moreno says there's a war all along Mexico's northern border. The lucrative smuggling routes between Mexico and California have long been controlled by Tijuana's Arellano Felix drug cartel. However, recent arrests of high-ranking members have weakened the organization. Rival cells within the cartel now fight each other for control. Outside drug traffickers are also trying to move in.

But the resulting bloodshed, like last weekend's shootout, is actually a good sign. Or so say some experts like David Shirk, who directs the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute.

Mr. DAVID SHIRK (Director, University of San Diego Trans-Border Institute): Certainly the increased violence is a result of a stepped-up government effort to combat the drug traffickers. Drug traffickers are not being given quarter and, in some ways, a positive sign.

ISACKSON: However, the government has been tight lipped about its stepped-up effort and details of Saturday's shootout. That's caused public mistrust and fueled the belief that police could be covering up what's happened because they're corrupt.

Last week, General Aponte published a letter in the state's newspapers that name more than 40 law enforcement authorities who he says work with and protect organized crime.

It's not clear if that letter is tied to Saturday's shootout, but many fear the general's allegations could lead to more violence in the area. In the meantime, authorities have arrested eight people in connection with Saturday's gun battle. They've also linked dozens of the weapons to other high profile crimes in the region. One of those injured Saturday is a U.S. citizen. Two others have old drug charges in the U.S.

For NPR News, I'm Amy Isackson in San Diego.

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