Mexico's Salinas Urges `Permanent' Attack on Cartels Amid Rising Deaths

Mexico’s former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari said the government must maintain a “permanent” attack against all drug cartels as violence related to trafficking is on pace for a record this year.

A plan to legalize drugs in Mexico in a bid to curtail cartels’ profits without other countries taking similar action would be a mistake, Salinas said in an interview in Mexico City. Former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo have voiced support for legalization.

“President Calderon’s strategy has been brave,” Salinas, who was president from 1988 until 1994, said in an interview in Mexico City. “Any government has to continue a decided and frontal attack against all cartels.”

President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of troops to areas where traffickers are battling over drug routes to the U.S. Opposition politicians and human rights groups have criticized the strategy as more than 28,000 people have been killed in violence related to organized crime since Calderon took office in December 2006.

Killings this year have included the assassination of a leading gubernatorial candidate and more than a dozen mayors, and the massacre of 73 migrants.

In the northern border states of Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, where violence is most acute, murders rose 35 percent in the first 10 months of 2010 to 1,796 compared with the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry data.

Pemex

Salinas urged Petroleos Mexicanos, Latin America’s largest oil producer, to take advantage of legal revisions approved by lawmakers in 2008 that allow Pemex to form partnerships with foreign companies with deep-water exploration experience and better technology for mature fields. The rules may attract new sources of investment. Pemex mostly relies on oil services companies for equipment or labor.

“Rather than talking about another energy reform, the one that was approved by congress needs to be reflected in reality,” Salinas said.

The ex-president said he would oppose any plan to privatize Pemex, as the Mexico City-based company is known.

During Salinas’ tenure, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada approved the North American Free Trade Agreement. His government also led a wave of privatizations of state companies, including Carlos Slim’s purchase of telephone company Telmex, which currently has 79 percent of the country’s land-line phone users.

Leading Polls

Salinas’ Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000, is leading in polls ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

The party’s Enrique Pena Nieto, governor of the State of Mexico, had 25 percent support of those surveyed compared with 6 percent for former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, his closest rival, according to a poll released June 14 by Mexico City-based Consulta Mitofsky.

“There is a lot of time left before that election,” Salinas said when asked if he thought the party would take back the presidency in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jens Erik Gould at Jgould9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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