MEXICO CITY (AP) — Former President Vicente Fox suggested Friday that Mexican authorities consider calling on drug cartels for a truce and offering them amnesty, speaking out a day after an apparent cartel attack on a casino killed 52 people.
Fox, who served from 2000 to 2006, has since advocated legalizing drugs as a way to reduce violence. At least 35,000 and as many as 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006.
"I want to start a public debate on the following ideas ... call on the violent groups for a truce" and "evaluate the advisability of an amnesty law," Fox said in a speech at an anti-crime event.
Last week, the attorney general of the violence-wracked southern state of Guerrero, Alberto Lopez Rosas, drew criticism when he called on cartels to establish a truce among themselves to prevent civilian casualties in their bloody turf battles.
Federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire rejected that idea this week, saying the gangs must be arrested and disbanded.
"Regarding calls by authorities for the criminals to change their behavior, I think it couldn't be clearer that peace is not going to be achieved by asking the criminals for something," Poire said.
"Peace is going to be achieved by bringing the criminals to justice ... that their thinking will not be influenced by appealing to their interests by calling on them to change their ways, but by giving them no choice but to submit to the law and stop their crimes."
Also Friday, one of Mexico's newest drug cartels posted wanted banners for members of a rival cartel, asking the public for help in capturing "kidnappers and traitors to the nation" and promising punishment.
The banners were put up by the Knights Templar, which formed around March. The cartel is an offshoot of La Familia, a pseudo-religious gang based in the western state of Michoacan. Both cartels are now feuding.
The banners showed five mugshots and listed the names of six men thought to have worked for La Familia. The banners claimed the men now are with the Zetas, another cartel that has operations throughout Mexico.
Rewards for the whereabouts of the men ranged from $100,000 to $500,000. The banner listed a phone number, which rang busy when tried by The Associated Press.
Mexican authorities took down the banners.
And on Friday, authorities in a luxurious western suburb of Mexico City found the headless body of a man and a handwritten message in which the violent Hand With Eyes drug gang took credit for the killing.
City prosecutors said the body was found in the ritzy Santa Fe neighborhood.
In the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, state police reported they found the body of a man who had had been shot, bound and beaten, and hung by the neck from a pedestrian bridge with a piece of chain. The chain broke and the man's body fell into the roadway.
Hanging bodies from bridges has become a hallmark of drug gangs in northern Mexico, and the tactic has begun to spread to southern states like Guerrero, where Acapulco is located.
In the wake of the attack on the casino in Monterrey, the U.S. consulate in that city issued an emergency message for U.S. citizens, noting earlier, less deadly attacks on casinos in neighboring Tamaulipas state.
While no American citizens have been reported killed in the attacks, the consulate said that "levels of violence in Monterrey's consular district have risen dramatically." Consular employees and their families have been told "to avoid frequenting casinos, adult clubs, and similar gathering places that have been targets for violence by transnational criminal organizations."
The consular statement said "U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to parts of Northern Mexico."