Mexican pres touts drug fight successes in report

September 1, 2011 - 11:25 PM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered his annual national report to Congress on Thursday, saying he has strengthened the rule of law and fought against drug gangs like never before.

The report also said Mexico preserved economic stability while extending coverage of social programs.

It came a week after 52 people were killed presumably by the Zetas drug cartel in a casino arson, which was one of the country's worst drug-related attacks on civilians. After the fire, the president said the country was "facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits."

Calderon planned to deliver an address based on the report Friday.

The report said efforts made in the fifth year of Calderon's administration yielded "tangible results that show significant progress, but are still not enough."

Calderon launched an armed offensive against drug traffickers when he took office in December 2006 and has made the battle his top priority.

Of the 37 most wanted criminals, 21 have been killed or captured, the report said. And the government has weakened criminal organizations by confiscating $12.7 billion in assets from drug gangs, it said.

Authorities have confiscated more than 9,300 metric tons of marijuana since 2006, more than 100 metric tons of cocaine and other narcotics, the report said. Also, they seized nearly 120,000 weapons and more than 10,100 grenades.

According to an official count, more than 35,000 people have died in drug-cartel violence. Other groups say the death toll is closer to 40,000.

The report is Calderon's last before next July's presidential election, where polls show the once-dominant opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party regaining the presidency it lost in 2000 after 71 years of rule.

A survey released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center said 55 percent of Mexicans had a favorable opinion of Calderon, but a nearly equal percentage said the government is either losing ground to the cartels or hasn't improved or worsened the situation.