Mexico on the brink


Felipe Calderón says drug cartels threaten Mexico's democracy. But his effort to crush them are damaging its society

Last month, President Felipe Calderón announced that Mexico was at a crossroads: the country's drug cartels had grown so powerful that they now posed a threat to future of Mexican democracy. As if to underscore his point, the country was last week gripped by a fresh wave of brutal violence, as heavily-armed gunmen laid siege to police stations across Calderón's home state, left a dozen federal agents dead by the side of a mountain highway and assassinated the mayor of a northern ranching town.

The cartels' brazen attacks point to their evolution from ragged criminal collectives into de facto military organisations. Better funded, better trained and far more heavily armed than the police officers attempting to contain them, they now more closely resemble Colombia's Farc rebels than any conventional street gang.

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