Pubdate: Mon, 04 Nov 2002
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Austin American-Statesman
Author: Traci Carl, Associated Press


MEXICO CITY -- President Vicente Fox pledged Monday to launch an all-out 
war on the drug trade, saying his administration would go beyond nabbing 
drug lords and take on drug consumption and production in Mexico.

Mexico has long been a haven for drug smugglers moving their goods into the 
United States. But since Fox took office two years ago, his administration 
has arrested several high-profile cartel leaders--including one of the 
country's most-wanted criminals, Benjamin Arellano Felix.

The president said Monday that officials must do more to halt the growing 
problem of drug abuse and cultivation in Mexico.

"This is a war that we have to fight on all fronts," he said. "It's not 
enough to attack the supply. We must also stop the growth of demand."

Fox said his Cabinet members would spend the next four years _ the 
remainder of his term--working to stop smuggling at all levels, including 
arresting drug lords and preventing children from becoming consumers.

Authorities are targeting all drug cartels--not just one region or one 
group, Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha said. In the past, 
corrupt officials have focused on combatting one group while taking bribes 
from others.

Macedo added that Mexico would work toward even greater cooperation with 
drug-enforcement agencies from the United States and other countries that 
suffer from the drug trade. U.S. officials have praised Fox's efforts to 
fight the drug trade.

Both Fox and members of his Cabinet promised to continue to purge corrupt 
officials from the government's ranks, arresting anyone caught helping the 
drug trade and forcing them to face justice.

On Friday, a military court convicted Gen. Francisco Quiros and Brig. Gen. 
Arturo Acosta of helping move cocaine and marijuana through Mexico. Fox 
called the convictions "without precedent in the history of our country."

"Never before has a military court convicted such high-ranking officials of 
drug smuggling," he said. "With actions such as this, the army is 
demonstrating once again it is an institution of unquestionable integrity 
that is committed to transparency."

For years, Mexican officials let the drug trade thrive, with the money it 
generated supporting everyone from the poor farmers who grew marijuana to 
cartel leaders who smuggled planeloads of cocaine into the United States.

Mexico's new war includes a focus on helping Mexicans who have long had 
little choice but to participate in the drug trade _ either for financial 
reasons or because of pressure from drug lords. Officials want to improve 
education and create jobs to lure people away from drugs or prevent their 
use, Social Development Secretary Josefina Vazquez said.

"We must make sure that real opportunities exist and we must strengthen the 
social fabric, the autonomy and the dignity of people," she said.

While Mexico has long battled drug smugglers, drug abuse has also grown. 
The national program outlined Monday offered the first comprehensive effort 
at battling consumption--something Mexico usually says the United States 
must do. Officials promised to do more to help addicts.

Macedo said he would continue efforts at extraditing drug lords to the 
United States, while sharing information on the drug trade with authorities 
all over the world.

The fight is important not just to halt the drug trade, he said, but also 
to stop the underworld of terrorists and other illegal activity it creates.

"Never again will we be hostages to criminal organizations," Macedo said. 
"United we will triumph.
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