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Rising violence: Mexico needs help to defeat the drug cartels

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Mexican drug cartels haven't cornered the market on human cruelty, but they're working on it. Since the election of President Felipe Calderon three years ago, more than 15,000 people have died in drug-related violence.

Because the cartels thrive in a corrupt political environment, Mr. Calderon has made the prosecution of drug lords and the weeding out of dirty cops and politicians a top priority. On Dec. 16, members of Mexican special forces cornered Arturo Beltran Leyva, the so-called "boss of bosses," and several henchmen. During a pitched battle, the drug lord and his men were killed.

Navy Petty Officer Melquisedet Angulo Cordova lost his life in the assault, and his sacrifice on behalf of his country was extolled at his funeral. Last Monday, Mr. Cordova's mother was given the Mexican flag that covered his casket. On Tuesday, more than a dozen men from Leyva's gang burst into her home and murdered the grieving mother and several relatives.

It was an act to terrorize the people of Mexico and convince them that the government is helpless to prevent retaliation against military families. The killings declared that the rules of the game have changed. The families of soldiers and police are now targets.

The attorney general of Tabasco, the state where the murders took place, vowed to bring the killers to justice. It's a tall order, but not impossible for a determined military.

These are dark times for Mexico. The drug cartels and the Calderon government have reached a deadly impasse. The forces of barbarism are poised to use unthinkable tactics to continue profiting from the drug trade. President Calderon is fighting for the existence -- and integrity -- of the Mexican state.

The United States must do its part to help Mexico succeed. Americans' consumption of drugs fuels much of the violence. As Mexico's northern neighbor, this country has as much at stake as the Calderon government. Brave men like Ensign Cordova must not be allowed to die in vain.



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