Mexico President Says Future of Democracy at Stake

MEXICO CITY (AP) - President Felipe Calderon said Wednesday the
future of Mexican democracy is at stake in the government's fight
against official corruption and organized crime, and he criticized
politicians who he said want to return to the era when gangs were
tolerated.

Calderon also called for making legislators more accountable to
the public, including reducing the number of Congress members while
allowing them to serve more than one term and face voters' judgment
in re-election bids.

Speaking at a conference on security, the president gave a
scathing appraisal on how far corruption has reached into Mexican
government circles ahead of the July 5 midterm elections.

"What is at stake today is not just the result of an election,
but rather the future of democracy, of representative
institutions," he said. "For years ... crime was allowed to grow
expand and penetrate. Perhaps people thought it was a manageable
thing."

Calderon said the country, which has seen more than 10,800
deaths in organized crime violence since he took office in December
2006, "is at a historical crossroads."

"To turn one's head, to act as if you don't see the crime in
front of you, as some politicians want to do, is no option for
Mexico," he said.

He painted a grim picture of the security situation in some of
the most violent parts of the country, noting that crime gangs and
drug cartels are carrying out "an interminable recruitment of
young people without hope, family, opportunities, future, beliefs
or convictions.

"They turn up dead in some morgue and nobody claims their
bodies, as happens with more than 30 percent of the bodies in the
most violent cities, like Ciudad Juarez," across the border from
El Paso, Texas.

In Ciudad Juarez, authorities said Wednesday that gunmen in a
passing car killed an American teenager and his Mexican cousin as
they stood at a corner. Officials didn't release any information
about a possible motive, and no arrests were made.

The victims were identified by a relative as Raymundo Perez, 15,
a student at El Dorado High School in Socorro, Texas, southeast of
El Paso, and his cousin Alan Perez, 18, of Ciudad Juarez. Raymundo
Perez lived in Socorro with his grandmother and aunt but spent
vacation in Ciudad Juarez, where his parents live.

Earlier in the day, unidentified assailants in Ciudad Juarez
tossed gasoline bombs into a billiard hall and a money exchange
office. In 2008, more than 30 businesses were burned in the city,
where threats of arson are often used by extortionists linked to
drug gangs.

In the Pacific coast state of Guerrero, investigators on
Wednesday found the bodies of two local police officers who had
been shot to death, the state's public safety department said in a
statement. It said the officers were kidnapped earlier Wednesday a
block away from city hall in the town of La Union.

Calderon repeated calls he made earlier in his political career
as a congressman for reducing the number of federal legislators,
now 500 seats in the Congress and 128 in the Senate. He didn't
offer any specific numbers, but argues that having fewer lawmakers
would make it easier to hold them accountable for how well they
work.

He also said letting legislators run for re-election would make
them accountable to their constituents. In the current system,
politicians from president to congressmen to town officials can
serve in a specific post for only a single term, generally three or
six years.

Hours after Calderon warned about corruption, federal agents and
soldiers arrested at least 50 local and state police officers in
the central state of Hidalgo, an area control by the Zetas, a gang
of hit men tied to the Gulf cartel.


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