Pubdate: Tue, 15 Jan 2008
Source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times (TX)
Copyright: 2008 Corpus Christi Caller-Times


Two wild shootouts last week involving Mexican federal agents and
soldiers and suspected drug traffickers just a few short minutes from
Lower Rio Grande Valley communities demonstrates how close to the
United States the drug war is raging. And the incidents shows how far
Mexico is from quelling the violence.

Mexican authorities have been waging a courageous fight against drug
traffickers and now President Felipe Calderon's administration is
taking the fight to the drug lords. Mexico needs American help in
clamping down on the flow of firearms south that gives the drug lords
the firepower of small armies.

Congress needs to move along the $500 million in aid to Mexico that
will provide the Mexican army the high-priced equipment, such as
helicopters, that will give them the edge over the drug

Mexican authorities last week seized grenade launchers, sniper rifles
and machine guns. Law enforcement officers and soldiers who on Jan. 7
cornered a group of suspects in a house in the small Mexican border
town of Rio Bravo found themselves facing fragmentation grenades. The
ensuing firefight took place just across the street from the town's
police station, underscoring the brazenness of the drug gangs.

Three suspected members of drug gangs were killed in the shootout. Two
federal agents were killed the following day in nearby Reynosa,
perhaps in retribution, in the second shootout.

The deeply disturbing point for South Texans is that the gunplay
occurred just a few minutes traveling time from Valley communities on
the American side of the border.

Laredo has already felt the disquieting effects of having its sister
Mexican city, Nuevo Laredo, in the grip of the drug wars. Tourism to
the Mexican border city has dwindled and that has impacted the Texas
side. The fear is that the crime wave has now moved south along the
river to infect another part of the Texas-Mexico border.

The United States has a stake in the fight being waged by the Calderon
administration. Having a neighboring country's government, courts and
police corrupted by drug money would pose a deep national security
problem for any nation -- more so when those countries have a long and
continuous relationship in trade, culture and tourism as the United
States and Mexico do.

And the United States is part of Mexico's problem because it is the
source of the demand for the illicit drugs. The drug gangs are waging
a deadly war between themselves to control the supply lines to the
lucrative American market. And they are waging that war with heavy
weapons obtained with relative ease through the sieve of American gun

Mexico has lost hundreds of law enforcement officers and soldiers in
the fight to bring the drug kingpins to justice. On Wednesday,
Calderon, along with police chiefs gathered from across Mexico,
observed a moment of silence for the fallen.

But Calderon's administration isn't backing down and is even taking
the initiative, targeting the army deserters called Zetas who have the
deadliest soldiers in the drug armies.

Congress should move that Mexican aid package as expeditiously as
possible because there's a shooting war going on, not overseas, but
practically within earshot of American communities.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake