Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 09:53 UK

Mexico to combat rising violence

Miranda Wallace uses a billboard in Mexico City to appeal for help to find her son Hugo Wallace abducted three years ago
A billboard displays a mother's appeal to find her kidnapped son

Mexican leaders have agreed a series of tough measures to tackle rising kidnap and murder rates, which has sparked public outrage in recent months.

The measures include sacking corrupt police officers, two new prisons for kidnappers and strategies to combat money laundering and drug trafficking.

The national security pact was signed by prosecutors and leaders from across the political and regional spectrum.

The country has overtaken Colombia and Iraq for the number of kidnappings.

Governors from Mexico's 21 states and the federal district of Mexico City, mayors, judges, prosecutors and senior police and security officials were at the meeting hosted by President Felipe Calderon at the National Palace.

Also there was the father of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old boy whose kidnapping and murder was a key impetus behind the meeting.

The boy's father, Alejandro Marti, a prominent businessman, called on politicians to act or resign. He said Mexico had to recover confidence in its institutions, state and country.

The decomposed body of the boy, who was kidnapped in June, was found in the boot of a car in Mexico City even though his family had reportedly paid a ransom.

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Mexico City said the boy's death genuinely shocked millions of people. He was young and came from a rich prominent family that was supposed to be able to protect itself from the gangs who have kidnapped more than 300 people this year.

The increased violence has sparked public outrage. Anti-kidnap marches are planned for 30 August, a sign of the growing public fury.

Special prisons

The 80-point national security pact pledged to root out corruption in the police forces, combat money laundering and drug-trafficking, as well as create an independent public body to monitor the governments efforts to tackle insecurity.

There are also plans to build two new maximum security prisons to house kidnappers. There are concerns that new gangs are formed in low security jails and that certain convicts should be kept separate from others.

But our correspondent says the country has been here before.

Similar increases in kidnappings in 1997 and in 2004 also prompted widespread public anger and government promises to crack down. The numbers fell for a while but rose again.

The government insists this time it will produce results to restore confidence in the rule of law.

Mr Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers across the country since 2007, in an effort to combat drug trafficking and drug-related violence.

Mexico launches anti-kidnap squad
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Country profile: Mexico
01 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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