MEXICO CITY — In unusually somber remarks, President Felipe Calderon told the Mexican people Wednesday that criminal organizations were seeking to topple the state, that violence was growing worse, kidnapping and extortion were rampant, and the government needs their help.
It was something that most Mexicans already knew.
"Their business is no longer just the trafficking of drugs," Calderon said. "Their business now is to dominate everyone else."
Calderon warned that criminal mafias were extorting citizens and businesses, demanding "war taxes" that allowed them to buy more powerful weapons to overwhelm government forces.
"The behavior of the criminals has changed and become a defiance to the state, an attempt to replace the state," Calderon said at the close of three days of public meetings that were remarkable for their blunt assessments.
The head of the national intelligence service, Guillermo Valdes, said 28,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon began his military-led, U.S.-backed fight against the drug cartels in December 2006. The number represents 3,000 more dead than the government reported in July.
Valdes said more than 84,000 weapons have been seized, many bought in the United States and smuggled across the southwest border. Valdes conceded that the Calderon administration has made little progress controlling money laundering and reforming corrupt police.
"We have an organized crime and a disorganized society," Calderon said, and pleaded with Mexicans to report "prosecutors, judges, police, mayors or governors" on the take. "I am interested to know. And I know that society knows," he said.
On Friday, Genero Garcia Luna, secretary of public security, revealed that criminal organizations were supplementing the salaries of 165,500 municipal police officers with $1.2 billion in payoffs each year.
About 200 federal police officers assigned to fighting organized crime in the border city of Ciudad Juarez detained one of their superiors at gunpoint Saturday to protest alleged corruption.
The protesters complained that the commander, identified as Inspector Salomon Alarcon Olvera, had ordered the detention of another officer who had criticized him. They accused Alarcon of having links to drug cartels and participating in kidnappings, killings and extortion.
The demonstration in front of a hotel that houses some federal police offices led to a confrontation with other policemen supporting the commander. Some blows were thrown, and one officer was taken away on a stretcher.
The federal police headquarters in Mexico City said officials from the agency were going to Ciudad Juarez to hear the protesters' complaints.