REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- President Felipe Calderon acknowledged Sunday that despite five years of battling drug cartels, criminals today pose "an open threat" to Mexico's democratic order (link in Spanish).
In a candid speech marking the start of his sixth and last year in the presidency (link in Spanish), Calderon said interference in elections by drug gangs "is a new fact, a worrisome fact." "It is a threat to everyone," he said.
He was apparently alluding to last month's local elections in Michoacan, Calderon's home state, where traffickers and their henchmen intimidated voters and told people whom to vote for. Those events have led to fears about further meddling in July's presidential vote.
Calderon defended his decision to deploy the military to fight the cartels and scolded "political forces" that don't have the "vision" to support the struggle.
"This is a problem, friends, that has been developing for decades and that is showing us its true face, a face of violence, a face of evil," Calderon said. Violence and insecurity, he added, "are one of the greatest challenges Mexico has faced in modern history."
Since Calderon took office in December 2006, more than 40,000 people have been killed in fighting with and among drug gangs, and thousands of Mexicans have gone missing or been forced to flee hometowns.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Mexican President Felipe Calderon addresses a summit in Merida, Mexico, Dec. 4, 2011. Credit: Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters