Mexico fires thousands of police to combat corruption

* Nearly 10 percent of federal police force dismissed

* Drug violence rages as shootout kills eight

(Updates with shootout in Veracruz)

MEXICO CITY, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Authorities in Mexico have fired nearly 10 percent of the federal police force as President Felipe Calderon seeks to rein in powerful drug cartels and curb widespread corruption among Mexican police.

"Because they failed to carry out duties established in the federal police law, 3,200 policemen were fired," Deputy Police Chief Facundo Rosas said at a press conference on Monday.

Another 465 policemen, including a police chief in the violent northern city of Ciudad Juarez who was turned in for corruption by his own staff, will also be dismissed.

A federal police spokesman said some of those fired had failed drug, lie detector or vision tests or had been found to have assets that could not be accounted for by superiors.

He declined to comment on whether any were suspected of police corruption, a common complaint in Mexico, where police are known to solicit bribes and even work with the very drug cartels the government is trying to fight.

Before the dismissals, there were about 34,500 federal police officers.

When Calderon took office in late 2006, he deployed more than 50,000 troops and federal police because local police forces there had failed to stop rising violence.


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Factbox on political risks in Mexico [ID:nRISKMX]

Factbox on worst attacks: [ID:nN25127251]

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More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon launched his war on drugs, prompting fears that bloodshed could undermine tourism and investment as Mexico slowly recovers from its worst recession since 1932.

In another sign of mounting violence, a shootout that lasted over 12 hours paralyzed the town of Panuco in the Gulf state of Veracruz, killing six drug hitmen, one soldier and a civilian, Veracruz state prosecutor Salvador Mikel told local radio.

The firefight began when members of a drug cartel attacked a military checkpoint near the border between Veracruz and Tamaulipas state and then fled to a house in Panuco, he said.

The drawn-out gun battle terrified residents and shuttered banks and public buildings in the town. The army said six cartel members were captured.

Over the weekend, suspected drug hitmen killed the mayor of a small town in Tamaulipas state where two car bombs exploded and the bodies of 72 murdered migrant workers were found last week. The powerful Gulf cartel is fighting a bloody turf war in the region against a spinoff group, the Zetas, for dominance of drug trafficking and human smuggling routes. (Reporting by Cyntia Barrera, Anahi Rama and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; editing by Missy Ryan and Stacey Joyce)