The Mexican Senate is working to bolster the armed forces' role in fighting organized crime groups while ensuring that "this is always done within the law," Sen. Fernando Yunes said.

It is essential to "work under legal regulations when (the armed forces) play a role in public safety matters," Yunes, chairman of the Senate Defense Committee, told Efe.

President Felipe Calderon, of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, deployed the armed forces nearly six years ago to fight Mexico's drug cartels.

A total of 57,449 people have died in the war on drugs since Calderon took office on Dec. 1, 2006, a tally published Thursday by the Milenio newspaper shows.

The idea is that the army and marine corps will "use all the force necessary" to protect Mexicans, but they "will always do so within the framework of respect for human rights and under existing legislation," Yunes, a member of the PAN, said. EFE