April 23, 2009 / 3:54 AM / 11 years ago

Mexico president seeks tougher crime laws: report

Mexican soldiers stand guard in front of packages of marijuana before the drugs were incinerated at a military base in the border city of Ciudad Juarez April 7, 2009. REUTERS/Alejandro Bringas

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Caleron has asked Congress to toughen sanctions on violent crime to help his government’s fight against drug cartels, news media reported on Wednesday.

Calderon is seeking stiffer penalties for military deserters who join organized crime groups and an enhanced security role for the domestic intelligence agency, among other changes, the reports said.

The reforms also call for a crackdown on intimidation of politicians ahead of this summer’s mid-term congressional elections.

A spokesman for the president could not confirm the reports.

Some 6,300 people were killed last year as rival drug cartels battled each other and security forces. The violence has stoked concern among ordinary citizens, prompting some politicians to call for the imposition of the death penalty.

The United States is also increasingly worried that the violence could spill across its southern border.

Washington is giving hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Mexico’s security forces and the fight against the cartels was a major theme of President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico City earlier this month.

Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to quell the violence and replace corrupt police. A senior government security official said this week that troops could remain in the streets of many Mexican towns for another four years while new police forces are trained.

Reporting by Robert Campbell; Editing by John O'Callaghan

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