Aug. 22, 2008, 11:31PM
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A northern Mexican city's police chief was killed Friday just 24 hours after replacing a predecessor whose slaying had prompted the rest of the force to quit out of fear of drug gangs.
Jesus Blanco Cano's bullet-ridden body was found at a ranch near the town of Villa Ahumada in Chihuahua state, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of El Paso, Texas, said Alejandro Pariente, a spokesman for the regional deputy attorney general's office.
He had been beaten, blindfolded and his hands were tied behind his back. Twelve bullet casings were found at the scene.
Cano, 40, had been on the job for just a day. The previous police chief, two other officers and three residents were killed in May when 70 gunmen barged into Villa Ahumada, a town virtually taken over by drug gangs.
The rest of its 20-member police force quit in fear, forcing the Mexican military to take over. The town had slowly been recruiting new police and was without a police chief until Blanco took the job. The troops eventually left.
Mayor Fidel Chavez met Friday with state police, but nobody at this office could be reached for comment. Chavez had fled after the May attack, taking refuge in the state capital of Chihuahua City, but he returned after soldiers recovered the town.
Mexico's powerful drug cartels have stepped up attacks against police in response to a military and police crackdown, beheading some officers and killing others outside their homes. Several towns and cities, particularly in the north, have struggled to hold together their police forces.
The mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a town just north of Villa Ahumada, announced a plan this week to recruit soldiers to replenish its depleting police force. Many police in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, have been killed after their names appeared on hit lists left in public. Others whose names appeared on the lists have quit.
Since taking office in 2006, President Felipe Calderon has sent more than 25,000 troops and federal police to retake drug hotspots across the country.
But homicides, kidnappings and shootouts have only increased. In Chihuahua state — home base of the powerful Juarez drug cartel — more than 800 people have been killed this year, a surge from less than 400 during the first half of 2007.
Outraged Mexicans are planning mass street protests against crime for Saturday.