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Calderon vows to push forward with Mexican offensive against cartels

By the CNN Wire Staff
Mexican President Felipe Calderon gives a speech during his fifth annual report in Mexico City, on September 2.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon gives a speech during his fifth annual report in Mexico City, on September 2.
  • President Felipe Calderon gave his state of the nation speech Friday
  • He dedicated most of it to the drug cartel wars
  • Mexico will continue to fight, he says
  • A poll says that nearly 30% of people say the government is losing ground

Mexico City (CNN) -- Mexico will accelerate the purge of corrupt elements within its federal attorney general's office, President Felipe Calderon said Friday, as he reaffirmed his conviction to fight the country's drug cartels with all the nation's might.

The attorney general's office, or PGR, was already undergoing an unprecedented shake-up with the July announcement that more than 400 police officers and investigators had been dismissed or where in the process of being dismissed.

Calderon made the announcement during his annual state of the nation speech, as an example of the seriousness with which his administration is tackling corruption.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that only 45% of Mexicans believe that the government is making progress in its fight against the drug cartels. A full 29% say that the government is losing ground. At the same time, more outspoken critics of Calderon's strategy against the cartels have come forward, including poet Javier Sicilia, who led massive marches against the drug war.

But Calderon said he is sticking with his offensive.

"The only way to beat this cancer is for this strategy to persevere," the president said.

The violence seen in Mexico is because of the expansion of the cartels, not because of the government's fight against them, he said.

"The armed forces are not part of the problem, but part of the solution," he said. "If we hadn't done anything, instead of the utopian country some think we would live in, we'd be overtaken by the cartels."

Mexican institutions at the local, state and federal level were not prepared for the increased drug trafficking operations in the country, which allowed for widespread corruption and expansion of criminal organizations from trafficking to extortion, Calderon said.

To shore up the strength of law enforcement and prosecuting institutions, Calderon said he wants to have all mid- to high-level police officers vetted through a system of confidence exams.

The president also called for a joint effort with the United States against the cartels, pointing out that their northern neighbor is the biggest consumer of drugs.

Reflecting the attention that the drug violence issue garners in Mexico, Calderon spent a whole 40 minutes of his state of the nation speech discussing the topic.

The president also boasted of Mexico's economic recovery. When it comes to places for doing business, Mexico ranks higher than the so-called BRIC nations -- Brazil, Russia, India and China, Calderon said.

During his government, there has been growth in the small and medium-sized enterprises, he said.

Despite the violence, which has hurt Mexico's image abroad, Calderon stated that by 2018, he wants Mexico to be a top-five tourist destination worldwide.