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On the road in Mexico: Day 4

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Robin Lustig | 14:22 UK time, Friday, 3 July 2009

OK, I admit it, I wasn't too surprised to find -- in a country battling against powerful and violent drugs cartels -- that there was tight security around the headquarters of the government public prosecutor's office.

You know the sort of thing: crash barriers to stop car bombs; armed guards in flak jackets to stop armed attackers; airport-style metal detectors and X-ray machines as soon as you get inside the door.

I didn't even raise an eye-brow when they took my photo, my electronic finger-print and a specimen signature on a digital pad.

But what did stop me in my tracks was when a stern woman in surgical gown and face-mask insisted on spraying my hands with some anti-swine flu stuff before I was allowed any further. Organised crime gangs are bad enough -- but drugs syndicates and swine flu ... that's a lot for any government to handle.

When I finally made it to the office of Adrián Franco, of the Attorney-General's Office, I found a dapper, quiet-spoken man in pink shirt and pale blue bow tie. He rebutted any suggestion that Mexico might be losing its war against the drugs cartels.adrian.franco.jpg

Quite the contrary, in fact. The violence is increasing, he said, precisely because the government strategy is working. (Last month there were 769 murders in Mexico, a record number.)

Look at the figures: in the 30 months since President Felipe Calderón took office, 44,300 weapons seized; 5.2 million rounds of ammunition; and 80.6 tons of cocaine, which is equivalent to more than 244 million hits. The cartels are under pressure, says Mr Franco - that's why the violence is increasing.

As for using the army in the fight against the narcos, which is controversial but popular here, there's no alternative, he says. The police just don't have the fire power, and too many of them are corrupt.

You can hear our interview, and a live discussion of the issues raised, in tonight's edition of The World Tonight.


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