Mexicans back drug fight but doubt effectiveness, poll shows


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MEXICO CITY — Mexicans remain torn over the nation’s drug war: They overwhelmingly support their government’s military-led offensive against traffickers but seem unconvinced it’s doing any good, according to the results of a new poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The poll found continued high levels of public support -- 80% -- for President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown, launched in late 2006 when he began sending thousands of troops into the streets to attack drug gangs. The figure is virtually unchanged from a Pew poll in 2009.


But fewer than half of respondents believe the campaign is yielding progress against traffickers, while nearly a third say the government is losing ground, the poll found. About 1 in 5 said they saw little change in either direction.

The survey also found many Mexicans queasy over human rights abuses by the military and police, with about three-fourths of respondents saying such violations are a big problem. Nonetheless, Mexicans listed drug-related crime as a pressing issue, alongside rights abuses.

The survey found that most residents — 61% — say the United States and Mexico share responsibility for the drug violence, a higher figure than felt that way in the 2009 poll. Since Calderon launched the offensive, more than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence, mostly because of fighting between rival traffickers.

During that time, Mexicans have been subjected to displays of unprecedented savagery, including beheaded or mutilated bodies dumped in the street or hanged from highway overpasses.

Calderon is nearing the end of his term and is barred by law from seeking reelection. Former Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto of the once-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is heavily favored to win the July 1 presidential election.


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-- Ken Ellingwood