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Calderon touts successes in Mexico's war on drug cartels

By the CNN Wire Staff
Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers his state-of-the-nation address Thursday in Mexico City.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivers his state-of-the-nation address Thursday in Mexico City.
  • President Felipe Calderon lays out his record in state-of-the-nation speech
  • Three drug lords were captured or killed this year, the president says
  • Authorities also have arrested 125 cartel cell leaders or lieutenants, he says

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- Mexican authorities have had significant successes against drug traffickers, President Felipe Calderon said in his fourth annual state-of-the-nation speech Thursday, noting that three major kingpins have been captured or killed in the past year.

In addition, Calderon said, authorities have arrested 125 cartel cell leaders or lieutenants and captured 5,108 hit men since he took office in December 2006.

The war on organized crime he heightened after taking office also has led to the confiscation of $10 billion worth of drugs and the seizure of 34,000 motor vehicles, nearly 500 aircraft, 365 boats and 80,000 firearms, of which 50,000 were assault rifles, Calderon said.

Calderon's remarks came just days after the federal police captured Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, one of the country's most wanted drug traffickers. The arrest was viewed as a solid victory for Calderon's operation against the cartels. However, violence in some parts of the country, particularly near the border, continue unabated.

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Other victories for Calderon this year included the killing of another drug kingpin, Arturo Beltran Leyva in December, and the subsequent arrest of his brother, Carlos Beltran Leyva.

In January, authorities arrested Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental, another top trafficker. Garcia Simental was a top lieutenant of the Tijuana cartel until he defected to the rival Sinaloa cartel after a power struggle.

Another top leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, was killed in a raid in July.

According to the Mexican government, more than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Calderon intensified the government's fight against drug cartels and organized crime after taking office in December 2006.