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.