Mexican leader meets anti-crime march organizers

MEXICO CITY - August 31, 2008 Among the measures are the creation of a citizens' panel to monitor government progress in fighting crime, better police recruiting and oversight systems and equipping officers with more powerful weapons, Mexico's conservative president said.

Calderon acknowledged that Mexicans are desperate to see results two years after he took office and began an aggressive battle against drug traffickers and other criminal gangs.

The government "shares the demands and the indignation of the people," Calderon said after meeting with 14 civic leaders who staged Saturday night's candlelight protests in the capital and cities across the country. "We know the biggest problem in Mexico is public insecurity."

Abductions and homicides — including grisly decapitation killings — have surged despite the deployment of more than 25,000 soldiers and federal police to hotspots across Mexico, and the arrest of several top drug lords.

Hours before Saturday's protests, the severed heads of two women were found near the attorney general's offices in northwestern city of Durango, according to local media reports citing the same agency. No motive was given, but drug gangs in Mexico often behead their rivals.

Calderon offered few details about the proposed panel, but members of the 14 civic groups told reporters the president promised a concrete plan within a month.

"We're going to keep demanding: What's happening, what's happening, what's happening?" said Laura Elena Herrejon, of the civic group Pro-Neighbor. "Everyone who is listening to us must keep up the pressure."

Calderon said he had already included many of the other ideas in a 74-point anti-crime agreement drawn up last month during a national security meeting with governors and mayors.

Drug cartels have responded to the government's offensive with daily attacks against police, gunning them down at their homes, checkpoints and headquarters.

The rise in violence "is a consequence of the gradual and growing disintegration of public and governmental institutions," Calderon said, acknowledging that "in many places authorities have been overwhelmed by delinquency and crime."

Also Sunday a man's head was found in an icebox in front of the home of Rogaciano Alba, a powerful rancher and former mayor of the Pacific coast town of Petatlan, according to Public Safety officials in the drug-plagued state of Guerrero.

Alba went into hiding in May after gunmen killed 17 of his associates and relatives, including two sons. Officials said the severed head belonged to a friend of his.


Associated Press writer Natalia Parra contributed to this story from Acapulco, Mexico.

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