In its battle against drug traffickers, the Mexican army fights not just the cartels but also a lethal combination of corruption, power vacuums, and even geography. Desertion rates are high, salaries low, and the assignment difficult if not impossible. The LA Times visits Apatzingan, a drug-war hotspot whose police chief was shot in an ambush this week and promptly resigned.
Felipe Calderon has made the drug war a focus of his new administration, but critics worry that the deployment, which may not be legal, will stretch the army too thin and damage its good reputation. And many fear the power of a fat bribe. Says one observer: "The risk now is corrupting the last honest institution, the army."