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President: Mexico gang-related deaths fall by 15 percent in 2012

Violence, including the discovery of 49 mutilated bodies near the U.S. border, is reaching new levels in the ongoing drug war in Mexico. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

Mexican gang-related deaths fell by 15 percent and homicides by seven percent in the first half of the year, President Felipe Calderon said Thursday, according to local reports.

For the first time in several years the government has seen a reduction in homicide rates on a national level, Calderon told a national security meeting, newspaper El Universal (Link to Spanish-language site) reported.


Homicide is "one of the indicators that worries Mexicans. I am convinced that this trend will be more and more visible in the medium and long term," he added, according to El Universal. 

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Mexico is struggling to contain drug-related violence that has claimed more than 55,000 lives since Calderon launched an army-led offensive against the cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.

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Calderon, of the conservative PAN party, is nearing the end of his time in office and is due to hand over power to Enrique Pena Nieto, from the PRI, which held power for much of the 20th century. 

'Statistically irrelevant'
Hector Larios, the head of the Citizens' Security, Justice and Law Observatory, called the president's announcement "statistically irrelevant," according to Mexico's Cronica (Link to Spanish-language site).  

Mexican authorities say they have captured a man they believe is the son of Mexico's most wanted drugs lord, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. They say the 26-year-old belongs to the powerful Sinaloa drugs cartel. Carl Dinnen Britain's Channel Four reports.

The seven-percent reduction in homicides equals 80 fewer homicides less out of a total of 1,767 on average a month in 2012, he said, according to Cronica. 

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"Reported homicides have gone up by 80.52 percent since the first semester of 2006 to the first semester of 2012.  That fact is eloquent in itself," he told El Universal. 

"Mexico has turned into a much more violent country," he added.

Mexico's bloody drug cartels rely on assault rifles and other firearms from the United States to support their battles with rivals and army soldiers. 

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Calderon has repeatedly criticized loose gun laws in the United States, which he says contribute to the violence that plagues huge swathes of the country.

The United States, Mexico's neighbor to the north, is the world's largest consumer of illicit drugs. 

NBC News staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

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