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Poll: Mexicans support Felipe Calderon’s military campaign against cartels

Despite fatigue from a bloody war against crime gangs, Mexicans give high levels of support to President Felipe Calderon and even higher backing to his deployment of the military against drug-trafficking cartels, according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project survey released Wednesday.

At the same time, though, the public sees little progress in the fights and considers human rights violations by the military and police to be a “big problem,” the survey found.

Mexicans will elect a new president July 1 for a six-year term to succeed Calderon, who’ll remain in office until Dec. 1.

Favorable opinions of Calderon have eroded somewhat since they hit a high of 68 percent in 2009 but they remain at 58 percent, the poll found.

That means that Calderon enjoys greater support than any of the four candidates who are seeking to replace him, barely edging out Enrique Pena Nieto, the strong front-runner from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, who garnered a 56 percent approval rating.

Calderon recently told The Wall Street Journal that the pace of killings in his country is slowing, dropping 12 percent during the first five months of this year. He declined to provide a death toll from the drug war, however. Outside experts say carnage during his term has taken more than 55,000 lives, making the bloodshed his indelible legacy.

Mexicans strongly support Calderon’s decision to deploy the military to combat organized crime, with eight in 10 saying it was right, even as the poll found that they aren’t confident that the government is winning the war against gangsters.

Just 47 percent said security forces were making progress against drug traffickers, while 30 percent saw the nation as losing ground and 19 percent viewed the situation as unchanged.

The poll, using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 Mexicans, is part of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, which measures public opinion in key nations around the world each year. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points.

Safety is an overwhelming concern of Mexicans. The poll found that 56 percent of people said they’d be afraid to walk alone at night in areas within a kilometer of their homes – about half a mile – which was up from 50 percent in 2007.

A majority of Mexicans also view compatriots who’ve gone to live in the United States as having better lives there. Only 14 percent thought they had worse lives.

Asked whether they, too, would go to the United States if they had the means and opportunity, 38 percent said yes and 61 percent said no. Those results indicate that despite a sharp drop in illegal migration northward, many Mexicans still desire to uproot and move to the United States.

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