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The New York Times delved into the newly revived war on drugs in Mexico, looking at the motivations for newly elected President Felipe Calderon’s actions.

The story asks, politely, whether the federal army’s sweep into Tijuana is just window-dressing, the actions of a new president who is trying to flex his muscles. Or to at least create the appearance he is.

Reporter James C. McKinley Jr. writes:

The federal forces have burned marijuana crops, arrested suspected drug gang members and disarmed local police forces the authorities say are crippled by corruption.

“We will continue with the operations that let us re-establish the minimum conditions of security in some parts of the republic, so that little by little we can take back our streets, our parks, our schools,” Mr. Calderon said in a New Year’s message to the nation.

But some opposition politicians and experts on the drug trade wonder if the federal interventions are not more flash than substance, and question if they will have a lasting impact on the drug trade and police corruption, whose roots run deep.

Mr. Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, created an elite force to combat narcotics dealers and arrested dozens of drug cartel leaders during his six-year term. Rather than stanch the violence, however, the arrests led to a brutal war between the remaining traffickers for the smuggling routes and territory. …

Federal police commanders acknowledged their job would be difficult in [Tijuana], where most of them do not even know the street names, much less the workings of the criminal underworld. Still, several expressed confidence they would prevail.

ROB DAVIS

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