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Drug cartels launch Mexico's 'Tet offensive'

Gunmen shot up police stations across the country in an apparent retaliation for the arrest of a suspected leader of La Familia drug cartel.

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Revenge is not a new current in Mexico's drug wars. Journalists who investigate too deeply are often killed, making Mexico one of the most dangerous places to report from. Prosecutors seeking justice often face the same fate.

But suspected members of the La Familia cartel in the state of Michoacán gave new meaning to the word over the weekend – even in hardened Mexico – after gunmen shot up police stations across the country, killing five officers and two soldiers by the time the revenge attacks were over on Saturday.

Mexican authorities say the series of assaults, among the most brazen since Mexican President Felipe Calderón launched an antidrug offensive in Mexico in December 2006, were a direct response to the arrest of one of their alleged leaders early Saturday.

Mexico's 'Tet offensive'?

It was characterized as a Mexican version of the "Tet offensive" by one columnist – a turning point in a nation's loss of faith that Mexico can come out from under the force of organized crime. And that questioning is perhaps no greater than in Michoacán, Mr. Calderón's home state, where his military effort began, and where a grenade was launched in a public plaza last year.

"This attack and [the grenade incident] are not just simply examples of gang violence. They have a much more profound impact on the public psyche," says Bruce Bagley, a Latin America drugs expert at the University of Miami. "They erode confidence in Calderón's strategy and the legitimacy of the state response."

Brutal retaliation

Authorities told the Associated Press that the attacks were a retaliatory response to the arrest of Arnoldo Rueda Medina, believed to be a head of the La Familia cartel, on Saturday morning in Morelia, the capital of Michoacán.

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