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Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Sunday, 31 August 2008 10:36 UK

Mass anti-crime rallies in Mexico

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Mexico march against killings

Hundreds of thousands of people have marched throughout Mexico to protest against a continuing wave of killings and kidnappings in the country.

The rallies were held in all of Mexico's 32 states, with more than 150,000 people gathering at Zocalo square in the capital, Mexico City.

They were mainly dressed in white, and marched in silence, holding candles.

At least 2,700 people have been killed and 300 kidnapped so far this year, mostly in drugs-related violence.

Earlier this week, a dozen headless bodies were found in the Yucatan Peninsula.

The marches also come a week after President Felipe Calderon announced new measures to deal with the violence.

'No more impunity'

Dressed in white, tens of thousands of Mexicans walked in silence along the capital's main boulevard, holding candles and lanterns, to show that they had had enough of the murders and kidnappings plaguing their country.

Many Mexicans say the government is unable to curb the violence

Many carried national flags - a sign that they want a unified country in the fight against crime.

Others carried banners bearing slogans such as "No more impunity" and "No more revoking sentences". Others carried pictures of their children who had been kidnapped.

"The most frustrating thing has been the indolence of many of the authorities, their insensitivity," said the father of Monica Alejandrina Ramirez, who was kidnapped in 2004 and has not been heard of since.

"I have often asked myself, why? Why me? Why my daughter?"

Once everyone had arrived at Zocalo square and the sun had set, they sang the national anthem, and put out their candles together.

There were similar co-ordinated scenes in dozens of towns and cities across Mexico as thousands of others staged "Iluminemos Mexico", or "Let's Illuminate Mexico", silent marches.

The organisers hoped to emulate a similar march in 2004, when almost half a million people protested against violence, forcing the government to target police corruption and introduce reforms.

Emergency programme

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Mexico City says the marches are a visible sign of how anxious people continue to be about the violence, and their frustration at the government's inability to reduce it.

Women marching in Mexico City, 30 August 2008
Many protesters blame the government for the high crime rate

"The message is: Get to work or we'll hold you accountable," said Eduardo Gallo, whose 25-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 2000. "We are angry."

Last week the country's political and security leaders drew up an emergency, 74-point plan to try to combat the wave of violence.

Measures include sacking corrupt police officers, equipping security forces with more powerful weapons, new prisons for kidnappers and strategies to combat money-laundering and drug-trafficking.

President Calderon has already deployed more than 25,000 troops across the country to combat the powerful drug cartels.

Washington is also pumping in hundreds of millions of dollars to help.

But the cartels and kidnappers are well organised and often have the acquiescence of corrupt police officers, our correspondent says.

The organisers of this march know restoring a sense of calm and order will need wholesale changes in Mexican society, something one march on one day cannot achieve, he adds.


SEE ALSO
Headless corpses found in Mexico
29 Aug 08 |  Americas
Mexico launches anti-kidnap squad
12 Aug 08 |  Americas
Mexican fury grows at kidnappings
11 Aug 08 |  Americas
Mexican navy seizes cocaine sub
18 Jul 08 |  Americas
Mexico-US states hold crime talks
29 May 08 |  Americas
Mexico extends army's drugs fight
28 May 08 |  Americas
Mexico drug-related killings soar
24 May 08 |  Americas
Gunmen kill top Mexican policemen
11 May 08 |  Americas
Country profile: Mexico
01 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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