Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico's drug war: Number of dead passes 30,000

Relatives mourn a police officer killed in Ciudad Juarez on 4 December 2010
Image caption The fight against drugs is exacting a heavy toll

More than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago, the government says.

Almost 12,500 have been killed so far this year, a sharp increase on 2009.

Mexico's attorney-general said the number of deaths was "regrettable", but showed that the security forces were having success in their fight against the drugs gangs.

President Calderon has sent thousands of troops to battle the cartels.

The latest figures were announced by the attorney-general, Arturo Chavez.

He said 12,456 people had been registered killed in drug-related violence so far this year, compared to 9,600 in 2009, bringing the total to 30,196 since President Calderon took office in December 2006.

But he said the figures reflected the "desperation" of the cartels in the face of pressure from the security forces.

Mr Chavez said the government had seized record quantities of arms and drugs and captured or killed 10 of the 24 most wanted drug traffickers.

The Mexican government says many of the deaths are the result of fighting between rival gangs over territory and smuggling routes into the US.

Most of the killings are concentrated in certain regions, particularly the northern border states.

The border city of Ciudad Juarez alone has seen 3,000 killings so far this year, ten times more than in 2007.

Critics of Mr Calderon's policies say they have increased the level of violence without reducing the flow of cocaine and other drugs into the US.

Human rights groups have also raised concerns that using the military has exposed civilians to possible abuse.