Mexico has fired all 700 customs officers at airports and land crossings in a crackdown on corruption that lets tonnes of drugs and weapons flow across its borders, a spokesman for the customs service said on Sunday.
Reforma newspaper reported earlier than 1,100 customs agents had been let go after their contracts were allowed to expire on Saturday as part of a plan to modernize the customs service that includes cleaning up the workforce.
A new force of 1,470 agents is being sworn in to replace the fired workers, said Pedro Canabal, a spokesman for the customs authority, who confirmed that existing contracts had been allowed to expire.
"This change is part of our response to new demands in the fight against contraband," Canabal said.
Mexico has been working to improve its customs service with upgraded equipment to detect smuggling and improved training.
Soldiers took control of at least one border crossing at Ciudad Juarez across from Texas to assist with the transition, Reforma newspaper reported.
Canabal said there were no plans to militarize any customs posts.
Mexico's rival drug cartels are locked in a war for control over lucrative smuggling routes into the United States. More than 13,000 people, mostly drug gang members, police and soldiers, have died in the violence since President Felipe Calderon took office in Dec. 2006, pledging to crush the smugglers.
Calderon has sent tens of thousands of soldiers onto the streets to battle the cartels and while some major arrests have been made and large amounts of cocaine seized, the top drug barons remain at large and have been adding guns smuggled in from the United States to their already powerful arsenals.
Some of the fired customs workers will be permitted to reapply for their jobs in the new service but details on the alleged criminal ties of many former employees are being turned over to federal prosectors.
Last Mod: 17 Ağustos 2009, 15:37