Mexican drugs war reaches new heights

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Mexico’s bloody drugs war on Monday reached new heights after 10 federal police officers were killed in a single attack and 28 inmates died following a clash of suspected rival drug gangs in a prison.

In the western state of Michoacán, where the La Familia cartel has been waging a war to secure smuggling routes and local markets, unidentified gunmen ambushed a convoy of federal police officers just before noon.

State authorities said that the gunmen blocked off a road in the municipality of Zitácuaro before opening fire on the group of police officers. A further 15 officers, and a still-unconfirmed number of gunmen were injured.

In a separate incident in the northern state of Sinaloa, a gunfight between rival gang members broke out in a prison, leaving 28 dead, according to local media reports. Most of them are understood to have died from gunfire.

The wave of killings comes just a few days after the country’s El Universal newspaper reported that last Friday had been the bloodiest day yet in Mexico’s three-and-a-half-year war against organised crime, with 85 people killed over 24 hours.

The centre-right administration of President Felipe Calderón has argued such violence is a sign of weakness among the various cartels, as the government crackdown on their illicit businesses takes its toll.

But with no sign of respite in the bloodshed, many Mexicans are beginning to question whether authorities are going about combating the illegal groups in the right way.

As the country prepares for important gubernatorial and municipal elections in the first week of July, there is also a growing concern that the violence could ratchet up as part of an intimidation campaign by the various cartels.

Already, two candidates have bowed out of elections in the state of Chihuahua, which until now has borne the brunt of the country’s drugs-related violence, after local groups threatened them. In May, a candidate for Mr Calderón’s National Action party (PAN) was murdered after speaking out against the cartels.

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