Calderon asks Mexicans to help fight cartels

image captionDeadly gun battles have become almost a daily occurrence in Mexico

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made a nationwide appeal for public support as the government battles to control drug-related violence.

In a televised address, Mr Calderon urged Mexicans to report any criminals, saying Mexico's future was at stake.

Hours after he spoke, five police officers were abducted and murdered in the north-eastern city of Monterrey.

And schools in the western state of Nayarit have been closed to protect children from the violence.

About 23,000 people have died in Mexico since 2006 when Mr Calderon declared war on the cartels.

In the past week alone more than 160 people have been killed.

Icepicks in bodies

"This is a battle that is worth fighting because our future is at stake," Mr Calderon said in the 10-minute address on Tuesday night.

"It's a battle that, with all Mexicans united, we will win."

He added: "To recover our security won't be an easy or quick task but it's worth continuing. My government can't and won't let its guard down."

Critics of the president say his policy of using troops to fight the cartels has made the violence worse, without stopping the flow of drugs.

But Mr Calderon says the eruption of violence is partly the result of cartels regrouping after being hit by his administration's efforts against them.

In the latest violence, five police officers, one of them retired, were abducted from their homes and murdered in Monterrey, Mexico's third-largest city.

The bodies of the three men and two women were found in a plot of wasteland hours after they were taken.

All had been tortured and one was decapitated. Messages from a local drug gang were attached to the bodies with ice picks.

Schools shut early

The killings come a week after an alleged leader of the powerful Zetas drug cartel was arrested in Monterrey.

In the western state of Nayarit, schools have been closed three weeks early to protect children from drug-related violence.

Nayarit state governor Ney Fernandez said he had brought forward the start of summer holidays to keep children off the streets while the army and federal police confronted drug cartels.

"We don't want parents to suffer fear and anxiety that their children are on the streets while we enforce order," he said.

Mr Fernandez said he was also reacting to false rumours spread on internet social networking sites that gunmen planned to attack schools to target the children of rival gangs.

"Those who create rumours that make people leave their homes and workplaces to take their children out of school are as bad as the criminals we are trying to combat," he said.

Fifteen people were killed in Nayarit on the weekend, 14 of them in Tepic, the state capital.

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