Pubdate: Thu, 16 Aug 2007
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A15
Copyright: 2007 The Washington Post Company
Author: Roger F. Noriega
Note: The writer, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise 
Institute, was a senior official for Latin America policy in the Bush 
administration from 2001 to 2005. His law firm, Tew Cardenas LLP, 
represents American and foreign clients.
Alert: Just Say NO To 'Plan Mexico'
Bookmark: (Plan Mexico)
Bookmark: (Opinion)


How America and Mexico Can Defeat the Cartels

U.S. and Mexican authorities are nearing agreement on an aid package 
to support Mexico's courageous new offensive against the deadly drug 
syndicates that threaten both our nations. The stakes are high for 
the United States: We depend on Mexico as a cooperative neighbor and 
trade partner, and most of the marijuana and as much as 90 percent of 
the cocaine consumed in this country pours over our southern border. 
If Mexico cannot make significant headway against the bloodthirsty 
cartels, our security and our people will suffer the consequences.

Since President Felipe Calderon's victory last year, Mexican 
authorities have stepped up efforts to fight drug sales and have 
paved the way for increased cooperation with the United States. 
Calderon has subjected hundreds of senior-ranking police officials to 
polygraph testing and has dismissed thousands more suspected of 
corruption. After years of internal legal obstacles, Mexico has 
captured and extradited major traffickers to the United States in 
record-breaking numbers.

Conceding the corruption or weakness of some local police forces, 
Calderon has deployed 20,000 Mexican soldiers to help match the 
firepower of murderous drug gangs. Mexican officials -- as jealous of 
their national sovereignty as we are of ours -- have set aside 
historical sensitivities and welcomed unprecedented cooperation 
between law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Now is the time to 
forge a genuine partnership.

Certain elements of such a partnership are uncontroversial and are 
likely to win universal support. Surveillance and eavesdropping 
equipment, radar for aerial interdiction, aircraft for drug-tracking 
teams and assorted special training are reportedly already part of 
the agreement. Under the administration of Vicente Fox the two 
governments began working together, with U.S. aid directed at 
database improvements, law enforcement training and material support 
for border-crossing posts. Increased coordination in these areas 
should be part of the new agreement.

Other elements will prove to be more challenging to legislate or to 
implement. Congress and the Bush team will have to set aside feelings 
of distrust and polarization if they are to forge a deal that can win 
ample funding and long-term, bipartisan backing. U.S. lawmakers need 
to be brought into the negotiating process so that they can have 
confidence in the plan and will not seek to micromanage the fight 
against drugs in a way that will demoralize our Mexican friends. We 
must strike a balance between congressional meddling and the 
oversight necessary to sustain funding and political support. 
Moreover, waiting for the regular appropriations cycle means an 
eight-month delay. President Bush should move quickly to request 
urgent supplemental funds, and Congress should do its duty by acting 
with the urgency this task demands. Our government must reassure its 
Mexican counterparts that meaningful help is on the way.

Of course, Mexico is wary of U.S. activity on Mexican soil, and 
American law enforcement and intelligence officials have been 
skeptical of their counterparts. But the U.S. government can and 
should demonstrate its commitment to fostering rather than 
controlling the program. For their part, Mexican authorities must 
open themselves to the scrutiny that builds trust. Law enforcement 
cooperation will prove vital if we are to match the seamless 
integration with which our criminal enemies operate across our common border.

Both sides will be understandably reluctant to cede jurisdiction over 
their respective territories. The Europol model, which leaves 
enforcement responsibilities to national and local police while 
coordinating information exchange, threat analyses and technical 
support at a supranational level, may provide a template for 
successful cooperation.

No less important than a focus on security is aid for legal reform 
and judicial capacity-building. Now that the political will for 
serious reform exists, Mexico needs the funding and personnel to 
properly investigate and prosecute drug traffickers and the corrupt 
officials who abet them. Fortunately, Calderon's national development 
plan promotes a culture of accountability, transparency and respect 
for the rule of law that will strengthen Mexico's institutions 
against drug corruption.

Felipe Calderon has already demonstrated his commitment to rescuing 
his country from a criminal drug machine, and he welcomes increased 
U.S. support. There are few challenges more grave than those posed by 
the deadly cartels Mexico is fighting. And there are few 
opportunities more precious than helping our Mexican friends win the 
battle on our doorstep.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake