Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jan 2008
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2008 San Antonio Express-News
Bookmark: (Opinion)


If the term "war on drugs" is supposed to be a mere slogan, nobody 
told Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Mexico is at war with the drug cartels, and the president, raising 
the stakes in his bold assault against the criminals, has taken his 
fight to the U.S.-Mexico border.

 From Nuevo Laredo to Reynosa, soldiers patrolled the areas in 
armored cars, surrounding the very facilities dedicated to fighting 
the gangs -- the police stations

For brave, responsible officials like the president, the battle is 
complicated by a cruel phenomenon that has hindered law enforcement 
for decades: In Mexico, badges are often shields, providing 
protection for dirty cops who work for the drug lords.

That means the war against crime is also a war against officials who 
are supposed to fight crime -- a paradox that led the president to 
send thousands of soldiers and federal police to the border.

The deployment came on Tuesday, after federal agents arrested 11 
hit-men suspects in Mexico City, according to a report in the Express-News.

In Nuevo Laredo, a press officer said federal police are checking the 
equipment of every officer in the police station, trying to determine 
if any guns, radios or phones have been used for criminal activities.

Calderon should be commended for his unwavering commitment to 
battling the cartels, but he must proceed with as much caution as 
possible, making sure the deployment does not turn into de facto martial law.

If the president faces a huge task, however, he should not face it alone.

"They need assistance, and we need to engage them and help them," 
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, told the Express-News after a series of 
meetings with Mexican officials.

Cuellar is right. Problems do not stop at border checkpoints. 
Sometimes, they seep across, and sometimes they crash over the 
boundaries. The U.S. government must help before the crisis worsens.

Congress is considering a package that will do just that. The $1.4 
billion project, proposed by President Bush, will provide Mexico with 
crime fighting tools such as communications equipment and 
surveillance aircraft. The measure becomes more crucial with each passing day. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake