Battered state vows to solve Mexican security woes

MONTERREY, Mexico,  (Reuters) – Despite suffering one  of the worst attacks on civilians in Mexico for years, the  state of Nuevo Leon is undaunted because it believes a radical  police overhaul will soon start winning the drug war.

President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning  after at least 52 people died on Thursday in an arson attack on  a casino in Nuevo Leon’s capital Monterrey, a wealthy city that  increasingly has fallen prey to the ravages of drug cartels.

Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration outside government buildings in Monterrey yesterday, calling on  governor Rodrigo Medina to resign.

In an interview with Reuters, Nuevo Leon Interior Minister  Javier Trevino said the state had a plan to beat organized  crime — starting with getting rid of half the police force,  much of which had been corrupted by money from cartels.

“There are some municipalities here that used to have 800  (police officers) and now they have 80. Why? Because we started  cleaning up and firing people and putting them in jail,”  Trevino said late on Saturday. “Then we started from scratch.”

In 2009, when Medina became governor of Nuevo Leon, one of  Mexico’s richest states, the municipal and state police  numbered around 8,000, said Trevino.    Today that total has fallen to around 3,500, but Nuevo Leon  aims to rebuild the force and raise the number of officers to  14,000 by the time Medina’s term ends in 2015.

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