Organized crime-related homicides in Mexico down 18 pct

Mexico City, May 11 (EFE).- Mexican authorities said organized crime-related homicides fell by 18 percent in the first five months of President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration, relative to the final five months of his predecessor's six-year term.

Based on preliminary figures from a security report released Friday, 5,296 homicides attributed to organized crime gangs occurred between December 2012 and April 2013 in Mexico, compared with 6,432 between July-November 2012, when Felipe Calderon was in office.

Homicides were down 14.4 percent relative to the December 2011-April 2012 period, when 6,187 organized crime-related murders were committed.

Mexican authorities define "organized crime" as the activities of drug cartels and gangs dedicated to kidnapping, extortion and other crimes.

The preliminary data was compiled by the federal Attorney General's Office's National Center for Analysis, Planning and Intelligence Against Organized Crime, in coordination with the National Public Safety System's National Information Center.

The statistics showed that 218 police and soldiers were killed in the first five months of Peña Nieto's administration, down from 244 in the July-November 2012 period.

The war on drugs launched by Calderon, who was inaugurated in 2006, left about 70,000 people dead - or an average of 32 per day - in Mexico, officials say.

Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, deployed thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to fight drug cartels.

Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has continued the strategy implemented by Calderon of taking on the cartels, but he has also called for bolstering intelligence capabilities and attacking criminal organizations' entire structures, not just kingpins.