February 19, 2011 / 6:00 PM / 7 years ago

Mexican army to increase border presence: president

REYNOSA, Mexico (Reuters) - The Mexican army will strengthen its presence on the northern border used by drug smugglers, President Felipe Calderon said on Saturday during a ceremony to honor the armed forces.

“I have ordered four additional army battalions to this region with the aim of backing up the work of the armed forces,” Calderon said during an address on ‘army day’ at a base in the northern state of Tamaulipas.

The northern border region has become a bloody battleground between security forces and drug cartels trying to control lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

Violent skirmishes typically involve the smugglers and uniformed security forces, but kidnapping, extortion and other violent crimes have increased along the border and created misery for many local residents.

“We know the difficult circumstances facing the people of the northeast border of the country and this entire region devastated by criminals without remorse,” Calderon said.

Calderon did not say how many soldiers would be deployed to the border region or what function they would serve.

More than 34,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon initiated his army-led crackdown in December 2006.

Widows of fallen soldiers will receive greater benefits and several army ranks will receive a pay boost, Calderon said.

Reporting by Manuel Carrillo and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Vicki Allen

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