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Mexican drug traffickers regain footing as big drug suppliers to United States

Mexico's big campaign against drug traffic has not significantly crimped the nation's illicit drug industry, Mexican officials say. A nine-year government campaign against narcotics toppled the country's standing as a major drug center in 1970s. But the drug industry has dramatically surged ahead recently, leaving both Mexican and United States officials concerned.

Mexican officials attribute the resurgence of drug trafficking to economic conditions and to the reorganization of dismantled drug rings.

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''The economic crisis makes drug trafficking very attractive, since dealers earn dollars,'' says Felipe Flores, a spokesman for the Mexican attorney general's office.

Today Mexico is the source of about 33 percent of the pure heroin seized in the US, and of more than 1,700 tons of marijuana, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

In addition, Mexico has become a link in the South American-US drug connection, especially in cocaine, officials say.

Mexican authorities say they remain determined to fight drug traffickers. Diplomatic sources here said that one of the problems in controlling drug trafficking has been corrupt police officials affiliated with drug rings.

Mr. Flores says the government is fighting corruption among government officials. Police officers now are more carefully selected and trained, he says.

''We're also rotating them more. They can't stay in a state more than one year.''

Officers are also better paid and their work conditions have been improved, Flores says.

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Figures released by the attorney general's office show government forces destroyed about twice as many drug plants - marijuana and opium poppies - from September 1983 to August 1984 than during the same period the previous year.

And almost weekly, Attorney General Sergio Garcia Ramirez's office announces yet another major seizure of illicit drugs.

President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado also spoke out on the drug issue recently, saying in his state-of-the-nation report that the administration will carry on its campaign against drug trafficking ''with all intensity and vigor.''

Measures taken recently by the attorney general's office seem to confirm the government's resolve.

Besides its effort to root out corruption among drug enforcement officials, the office has started a public relations campaign to encourage Mexican citizens to denounce drug traffickers.

In its attempt to crack down on drugs in the 1970s, authorities destroyed laboratories and fields of narcotic plants, and jailed thousands of traffickers. By 1980, Mexico had lost its importance as a drug center. Drug trafficking picked up again during the economic recession.

The US Drug Enforcement Agency has expressed satisfaction at Mexico's resolve to intensify its efforts against traffickers, but remains concerned.

While 198 kilograms of Mexican heroin were seized in the US in 1977, only five kilos of the same drug were seized in 1980. In 1983, however, the amount shot up to 101 kilos and is still climbing steadily, according to US figures.

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