MEXICO CITY – At least 1,000 additional Mexican police officers entered the drug war in the western state of Michoacan on Thursday as the government dug in for a bigger fight against a violent crime syndicate suspected of killing 16 officers since Saturday.
Government authorities more than doubled their forces in the state by deploying the federal officers, along with three Black Hawk helicopters and several armored vehicles.
The move represented a show of resolve by President Felipe Calderon’s government amid some of the fiercest resistance it has faced since launching the drug war two and a half years ago.
“We want a Mexico without fear; we want a free Mexico,” Calderon said in a speech Thursday.
Michoacan, the president’s home state, has long been a major drug-smuggling corridor and is a key front in the drug war. The government’s move to deploy more forces there, which reportedly included shifting officers from violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez, seemed aimed at protecting the 600 officers already assigned to Michoacan, where stakes are high. One Mexican pundit compared the weekend attacks to 1968’s Tet offensive in Vietnam.
In recent days, Michoacan has been the site of exceptional violence that authorities say was unleashed by the locally based trafficking group known as La Familia.
The gang’s gunmen are believed responsible for more than a dozen attacks against federal police, including the slayings of 12 off-duty officers Monday.
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