Mexican police force on strike after grenade attack

Mon Feb 23, 2009 4:27pm EST

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MEXICO CITY Feb 23 (Reuters) - The entire local police force in a Mexican beach resort town walked off the job on Monday demanding better pay and benefits to compensate for the rising dangers they face from drug violence.

More than 300 municipal police officers in Zihuatanejo, a town on the Pacific coast north of Acapulco popular with foreign tourists, went on strike after grenades were lobbed at their offices over the weekend.

Some 6,000 people were killed last year in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces that have escalated since President Felipe Calderon deployed some 45,000 soldiers and federal police around Mexico to clamp down on cartels.

More than 500 of those killed in last year's drug violence were police.

On Saturday, gunmen threw two grenades at the main police station in Zihuatanejo. While no one was killed, police say they are not adequately covered if a future attack is fatal.

"We are seeing a lot things here that we have never seen before. It is our job to serve the citizens, but we need assurances that our families will be protected if one of us is killed," a member of Zihuatanejo's municipal police told Reuters.

The police want to have direct talks with Calderon to request improved benefits and an increase in their roughly $350 (5,200 pesos) per month salaries before they go back to work. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Todd Eastham)




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