updated 6/2/2008 2:54:30 AM ET 2008-06-02T06:54:30

A majority of Mexicans believe the government is losing its escalating battle against drug gangs, according to a poll published Sunday.

Some 53 percent of Mexicans surveyed by the Mexico City newspaper Reforma said cartels are defeating security forces engaged in a nationwide crackdown. Only 24 percent said the government is winning, and 23 percent had no opinion.

Reforma interviewed 1,515 people across Mexico on May 23-25. The poll had margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

Mexico has seen violence soar despite the deployment of more than 25,000 troops to drug trafficking hotspots since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.

The attorney general last month said organized crime-related homicides had jumped 47 percent this year: 1,378 deaths compared with 940 in the same period of 2006.

Calderon acknowledges that violence has increased in the northern cities of Culiacan and Ciudad Juarez, but notes that security has improved in some southern states. He said gangs also are fighting among themselves as their leadership weakens.

"It does not gratify us that the fight to regain lost Mexican territory necessarily means periods of violent confrontation," Calderon said in a speech Sunday. "But that is our strategy, and it's the right strategy."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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