Experts say Calderon is not doing enough to go after the money that funds the cartels [EPA]

Drug-related deaths in Mexico have so far claimed more than 4,500 lives in 2008, double the number of those killed in 2007, El Universal, one of the country's leading newspapers, has reported.

The deaths soared despite the vow of Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, to take on the cartels, spending almost $7bn on the offensive and deploying more than 25,000 troops in the past two years.

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Mexico's 'backfiring' drug offensive

The crackdown triggered the cartels to fight back, with frequent grenade attacks, decapitated bodies and innocent people killed in the crossfire, making 2008 the bloodiest year on record.

The government's crackdown ended with the arrest of scores of cartel members and the seizing of millions of dollars in weapons and drugs.

But experts say the Mexican president is not doing enough to go after what fuels the drug wars - money.

Chasing the money

Ernesto Lopez Portillo, a Mexican security analyst, said: "The president has to fight against organised crime by going after the money because it's the most important resource they have to buy people, guns and drugs."

Recent polls indicate that most Mexicans doubt that their president is winning his war against drugs.

Gloria Hernandez, a Mexico City resident, said: "It's not going well. Look how many people they've killed. Every day brings terrible news."

Another resident told Al Jazeera: "I don't think it's working because government employees are involved in organised crime."

Drug traffickers have become more brazen in their attacks, with widespread speculation that they were behind the November plane crash that killed Juan Camilo Mourino, Mexico's interior minister and a Calderon ally.

Then came revelations that drug cartels paid off some of Mexico's most important police officials, including an agent who worked with Interpol, the international police organisation, and several members of the country's leading anti-organised crime unit.

The drug industry in Mexico brings in between $25bn and $40bn a year [EPA] 
Documents published in new book allege that members of the president's cabinet, including Genaro Garcia Luna, his secretary of public security, are also taking money from criminals.

Anabel Hernandez, an author and investigative journalist, said: "President Calderon got off on the wrong foot.

"If the very team he is surrounded by is infiltrated by corruption and organised crime, how could this end well?

"The results of the last two years reflect the profile of the terrible team he chose."

According the US state department, the Mexican president's problems with the drug underworld are spreading north. Mexico's most powerful drug organisations now operate in all but two US states.

But while the demand for cocaine, heroine and marijuana maintains a $25bn- to $40bn-a-year drug industry in Mexico, drug traffickers have a cause to keep fighting back. 

Source: Al Jazeera