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Mexican president: Judge my anti-crime strategy later

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Pena Nieto, with a gruesome one-day toll of 29 suspected organized crime-related deaths in his country, said on Wednesday that Mexicans should give his anti-crime strategy about a year before judging whether it is working.

The violence reported on Tuesday in 13 states included the slayings of two members of the federal police in Ciudad Juarez.

“In a year, we will be able to take stock, to take measure ... and I think that we will be able to see favorable results, a noticeable reduction,” Pena Nieto said.

“That doesn't mean that in a year, we'll achieve the objectives laid out by this administration,” he said. “But I think that yes, in one year is the moment to take stock of how this strategy is going.”

Pena Nieto, who took office on Dec. 1, inherited a bloody war against Mexican drug cartels that claimed at least 70,000 lives in the previous six-year administration and resulted in the disappearance of thousands. The new president has adjusted the strategy of his predecessor, promising to focus more on the crimes that affect ordinary people.

He plans to form a “gendarmerie,” or paramilitary police force, to patrol the most dangerous parts of the country.

But that new force will not be operational for months, at least, and the Mexican military remains deployed within its own borders in an effort to keep the peace and help the country's often-hapless police forces combat the cartels.

The death toll showed, once again, that the criminals will not wait. The violence reported in 13 states included the troubled state of Mexico, which rings the nation's capital. There, a clash between an armed group of civilians believed to be tied to drug cartels and police and military forces left 10 of the alleged criminals dead.

According to the state government, the police and military patrol was attacked while on patrol in a mountainous area near the municipality of Otzoloapan.

In Ciudad Juarez, on the Texas border, the two Mexican federal police officers were fatally shot by assailants assumed to be part of the cartels.

Farther east, in the border state of Coahuila, a number of shootouts were reported between the army and presumed criminal groups, causing state officials to activate a “Code Red” in the city of Monclova.

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