Mexico Boosts Troop Presence As Drug War Rages A mass buildup of troops, a roundup of mayors charged with corruption — even frozen sharks stuffed with cocaine. In the past few days, NPR's Jason Beaubien tells host Guy Raz, the deadly narco-wars in Mexico have taken several unexpected turns.
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Mexico Boosts Troop Presence As Drug War Rages

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Mexico Boosts Troop Presence As Drug War Rages

Mexico Boosts Troop Presence As Drug War Rages

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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

The Mexican government is sending 1,500 more troops into Ciudad Juarez. Tomorrow, those soldiers will begin patrolling the streets of that city where drug murders have been surging. The move comes a week after a federal roundup of dozens of local officials, including 10 mayors in western Mexico, accused of helping the cartels.

To top it off, authorities seized frozen sharks stuffed with one ton of cocaine.

NPR's Mexico City bureau chief Jason Beaubien is with us now. And Jason, let's start with Ciudad Juarez. Why does the government feel it needs to send so many more troops in?

JASON BEAUBIEN: Basically because what they have been doing hasn't been working. They sent in an additional 7,000 troops and federal police to basically take over Ciudad Juarez after the drug cartels threatened to execute a police officer every 48 hours unless the police chief quit, and so the police chief quit back in March, and then the army took over.

At first, it looked like the strategy was working. But then over time, the killings sort of came back, the assassinations. And they got up to the point where they're having, again, nine or 10 every day, and it just looked like they needed to do something else. And so that's what's happening now. They're sending in these additional troops to see whether that can get control of the situation.

RAZ: And Jason, what can you tell us about the arrest of all those mayors in western Mexico?

BEAUBIEN: This happened in Michoacan. The federal government went in with the federal police and with soldiers and arrested 10 mayors, a whole bunch of prosecutors, one of the top aides to the governor. And this was the first time in President Calderon's drug war, which began about 2.5 years ago, where he has really gone after the traditional political apparatus that has been assumed by most people to be protecting these drug cartels because that's how it always worked in Mexico.

In the past, drug lords had one particular territory. They made a deal with the local officials, and they were allowed to operate. So this was an interesting move.

There was a lot of criticism, saying that it's only in Michoacan. At the same time, however, you did have the federal police going into Monterey, which is up in the north, and they actually had a standoff between federal police with arms, their guns draw on local police, who also had their guns drawn, to disarm what was assumed to be an incredibly corrupt group of police officers in that northern city.

So it looks like, at this point, there is this shift to try to go after more of the politicians, the corrupt institutional elements that have been aiding the drug cartels.

RAZ: And Jason finally, a major drug bust in Mexico this week, cocaine hidden in a fairly creative way.

BEAUBIEN: Yes, this - by any standard, this was a really remarkable drug bust that happened in the port city of Progresso, which is out on the Yucatan facing the Gulf of Mexico. They found two shipping containers that had come in from Costa Rica, and they were carrying frozen shark, entire carcasses of shark, and they were stuffed with almost a ton of cocaine.

It sort of shows that the efforts that are being made are having an effect and that they're not just sending in boxes of cocaine anymore. They're not just picking up suitcases at the airport. The drug cartels had to refocus how they do this, and they're doing such things as stuffing sharks with cocaine.

RAZ: That's NPR's Mexico City bureau chief Jason Beaubien. Jason, thanks very much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome.

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