Mexico has sent police and military reinforcements to patrol a suburb of Mexico City for the first time to combat a rise in drug-related violence that is beginning to encroach on the country’s capital.
A combined force of around 1,000 soldiers, federal police and local police took to the streets of Nezahualcoyotl from Wednesday this week.
The city of 1.1 million people to Mexico City’s east has suffered from a dispute between two rival drug cartels.
President Felipe Calderon’s fight against drug gangs has overshadowed his administration, and the deployment in Nezahualcoyotl brings the conflict into the home state of his successor Enrique Pena Nieto, who takes office in December.
Calderon has already deployed 50,000 troops across the country to combat violent drug cartels.
The local government’s request for troops in the sprawling Nezahualcoyotl municipality follows the murder there this weekend of Jaime Serrano, a local state congressman and member of Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Rumours of clashes
Rumours of clashes between gangs sowed panic in the suburb last week, causing businesses to close and people to stay off the streets.
Authorities later denied that any violence had taken place.
Gerardo, a local resident, welcomed the presence of police reinforcements and soldiers in the region.
“It was time that they did it. There is too much insecurity. We aren’t safe in our own home or in our cars. It was fair to do this and now we will see if it really is a solution or will make it worse as we have seen in a large part of the country“
– Geraldo, a Nezahualcoyotl resident
“It was time that they did it,” he said.
“There is too much insecurity. We aren’t safe in our own home or in our cars. It was fair to do this and now we will see if it really is a solution or will make it worse as we have seen in a large part of the country.”
Another resident said he hoped the added security measures would be enforced throughout the area.
“More surveillance, surveillance in all streets because sometimes they are just in avenues and not in the streets,” local resident Rafael said.
Security experts say at the heart of the violence in Nezahualcoyotl is a fight for control of a growing market for narcotics and illegal goods between the Zetas and La Familia cartels.
Mexico City and its immediate surroundings have been among the areas least affected by the bloody turf wars between drug gangs and their clashes with security forces, which have killed around 60,000 people over the past six years.
Although the city is not on a major drug smuggling route, Nezahualcoyotl is worth millions of dollars to criminal organisations operating illegal markets. And many say it will be difficult for the military to root out the gangs.