Protest march in Mexico City against drug war

Demonstrators marching against violence in Mexico City The protesters want the army off the streets

More than 1,000 people have joined a protest in Mexico City against the government's strategy in the fight against drug gangs.

Carrying banners and pictures of dead relatives, the activists marched in silence to the presidential palace to demand peace.

The protest was led by the poet turned activist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed earlier this year.

He wants President Felipe Calderon to pull the army off the streets.

The activists are also demanding changes to a national security law reform being considered by Mexico's Congress, to give citizens more protection from the security forces.

'Failed state'

More than 35,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug related violence since President Calderon began deploying troops to fight the drugs cartels in December 2006.

But Mr Calderon insists there is no viable alternative to his strategy of using the military to confront the gangs.

At the start of the protest, Mr Sicilia declared that Mexico was a failed state.

"We have to renew it, it has been turned into an authoritarian state, instead of a tolerant and democratic state," he said.

He also condemned the proposed reforms to the national security law, saying it was aimed at legitimising the use of the army for internal security.

Critics of Mr Sicilia's Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity say it is wrongly focusing its anger on the government instead of on the criminal gangs responsible for the violence.

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