More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since late 2006.

Conviction rates

Calderon did not offer any specific figures on the conviction rate, but figures obtained by The Associated Press news agency indicate that only about 15 per cent of drug suspects detained between December 2006 and September 2009 have been convicted or acquitted.

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Guillermo Ortiz, the chief justice of Mexico's supreme court, said that while some charges are dismissed for lack of evidence, 85 per cent of people formally held for trial on crimes in general are convicted.

But officials also acknowledged that a highly touted legal reform allowing the government to seize alleged drug traffickers' property before they are convicted has been of little use since it was enacted in May 2009.

Ortiz said less than 10 cases had been brought under the property seizure law, saying it had "been of little use."

Arturo Chavez, the attorney general, said the law has been hampered because it requires prosecutors to reveal evidence from criminal cases to prove they have grounds for the seizures.

Criminal cases are usually kept sealed in Mexico.