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A Small Town Cop, Out-Gunned by Traffickers

Ascension, Mexico -- The violence got so scary that hundreds of citizens occupied the town hall in May to demand that the Mexican army come protect them. Soldiers now rumble through a couple of times a week. Then they leave.

Jaime Antonio Chacón was on the beat here just three months when the rookie police officer stumbled upon an assassination in progress.

A couple of hitmen, known as sicarios in Mexico, were going after a local hoodlum when Chacón in his municipal police truck rolled into the middle of a gunfight last month. One of the sicarios took aim at Chacón’s forehead and squeezed off a single round.

In the video above, Chacón talks about how it feels to be a small town cop seriously out-gunned by drug-trafficking heavies with superior weapons and good aim.

There are more than 400,000 police officers in Mexico and the vast majority are municipal cops like Chacón. They are low paid, poorly trained, badly equipped. In Ascension, the police lack the working radios, bullet-proof vests and machine guns they want. Lousy morale creates ideal conditions for corruption, which is rampant in municipal forces.

Mexican cops also pay a heavy price. Since President Felipe Calderón declared war against the cartels in December 2006, more than 900 police and soldiers have been killed.

“This is dangerous work these days,” says Javier Muñoz Chavez, a veteran on the force.

“After the sun goes down,” Chacón says, “the shooting starts.”

We asked Chacón if he is afraid.

Not so much now, Chacón says, who was assigned to bicycle patrol. “Because I work during the day.”

By Travis Fox and William Booth  |  June 19, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
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We have sent Mexico arms and equipment to fight the drug cartels. We see some who are arrested paraded in front of the cameras and then never seen again - what happens to them? Many are released without being charged - some escape with the help of prison guards - so what good is our tax money doing in Mexico?

However, Mexico is spending a lot of money to encourage tourism. I can see the ads now - "Get your exercise dodging bullets! Get limber learning how to hide in small spaces! Want fireworks? We've got the real deal in Mexico." This is becoming a total fiasco and we still have not seen real progress in the "war on drugs".

Posted by: Utahreb | June 19, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Illegals come here for work; if the work runs out, they steal. They walk about our neighborhood, looking for goods and communicating with their comrades in the van by cell phone--noting which goods are to be had at which address. When they have finished that phase, they go about the streets, jack up cars, and remove the wheels, bumpers, whatever they can sell.
Mexico has a culture that is out of synch with American culture. That's why we need to enforce immigration law.

Posted by: IIntgrty | June 19, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

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