Mexico disbands port city's police force
All police officers laid off and marines deployed to patrol city of Veracruz in effort to break grip of drug cartels.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2011 10:37
Veracruz is a common route for drugs and migrants coming from the south [Al Jazeera]

A Mexican state plagued by drug violence has disbanded the entire police force in the major port city of Veracruz in an effort to stem corruption, with naval marines deployed in its place.

The Veracruz state government said Wednesday's decision was part of an effort to root out police corruption and start from zero in the state's largest city.

Gina Dominguez, the state spokeswoman, said 800 police officers and 300 administrative employees were laid-off.

At a press conference, she said those who had lost their jobs could reapply to join the state police force, but must meet stricter standards for an agency with officers "who are better trained and more committed and who can deliver under our current security circumstances".

Armed marines barricaded the police headquarters on Wednesday and navy helicopters were seen flying above the city where 35 bodies were dumped in September in one of the worst gang attacks of Mexico's drug war.

The change was agreed on Monday by Javier Duarte, the governor of Veracruz, and Alejandro Poire, the federal interior secretary.

Military takeover

Mexico's army has taken over police operations several times before, notably in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and the border state of Tamaulipas. 

But Veracruz becomes the first state to completely disband a large police department and use marines as law enforcers. There are about 2,400 marines in the state of Veracruz.

Click here for more of Al Jazeera's special coverage

Dominguez said the navy operations would last only until the state could train more of its own police. Duarte already had disbanded a police force in the state's capital of Xalapa, but in that case state agents immediately replaced city police.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has pushed an ambitious process for vetting all of Mexico's 460,000 police officers. His administration allocated $331m for 200 cities to train and re-equip municipal police forces.

However, governors have complained they lack the resources to ensure their police forces are clean.

Veracruz is a common route for drugs and migrants coming from the south. It was first dominated by the Gulf Cartel and then its former armed wing, the Zetas, took over after the two split.

The state saw an increase in crime this spring after a government offensive in neighbouring Tamaulipas scared drug criminals away to Veracruz.

But the dumping of the 35 bodies shocked Mexico as it turned the port into a battleground between the Zetas and a gang aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.