Much of South American cocaine passes through Mexico on its way to the lucrative US drug market. The country also produces marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin.

 

Surge in violence

   

On the last weekend of the year, masked gunmen sprayed bullets at a wedding in southern Mexico, killing seven guests, and police separately discovered five other bodies bearing the hallmarks of gang killings.

   

"We will not allow any state to be a hostage to drug trafficking, organised crime or common crime," Francisco Ramirez Acuna, the interior minister, said.

 

The Mexican president, who was sworn in on December 1, sent 7,000 troops to round up drug smugglers in his home state of Michoacan.

 

Calderon has announced the creation of an elite force made up of thousands of soldiers and federal police to chase down drug cartels, kidnappers and other organised crime rings.