PRI's 'The World': Mexico's War

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"The World's" Lorne Matalon reports on Mexico's fighting an escalating drug war against cartels that have grown in strength and scope ever since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and reduced that country's production of heroin. To Fight this war, Mexico's government is bypassing local police and using its military.

The Air Force is ferrying soldiers to the mountain sides and valleys where fields of poppy and marijuana are easily seen from the sky. Heroin is made from the opium produced by poppy plants. Once identified, soldiers spend weeks roaming the countryside destroying those fields. Mexico was once merely a transit point for U.S. bound drugs, a half-way stop between Colombia, Peru and the United States. Now it is a production center. Heroin production in Mexico soared after the U-S invaded Afghanistan, the world’s number one heroin producer.

President Calderón has sent 30,000 soldiers into the field since taking office in December, 2006. Most people here acknowledge police corruption, but some people still maintain the police, and not the Army, should be fighting this war.

One intelligence Officer says the work is complicated. He says, "You start identifying the lower ranks, then middle management and finally the top people. I try to get people to switch from their side to ours, he says, 'but it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years. But it is working," he says.

PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More "The World."