Pubdate: Fri, 6 Jun 2008
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2008 El Paso Times
Author: Chris Roberts, El Paso Times
Bookmark: (Mexico)


Escalating violence in Mexico's border cities reflects the growing 
desperation of that country's drug cartels, three top-ranking 
counter-drug U.S. officials said Thursday.

They also heaped praise on Mexican President Felipe Calderon's 
anti-drug efforts at their El Paso news conference.

"President Calderon has been required to make some very tough 
decisions with respect to fighting these ruthless cartels," said 
Michael Braun, Drug Enforcement Administration chief of operations. 
"We respect these decisions. We respect those who are taking the 
fight to these very ruthless and vicious thugs. The president 
understands clearly the corrupting influence of these syndicates, and 
the time for action is now."

With the same sense of urgency, the officials, who spoke at the El 
Paso Intelligence Center, said Congress must pass the Merida 
Initiative, a three-year, $1.4 billion plan proposed by the Bush 
administration to provide equipment and training for the Mexican 
military and law enforcement personnel.

"The escalating violence in Mexico is an issue that requires the 
cooperation and assistance of the United States," U.S. Rep. Silvestre 
Reyes, D-Texas, said Thursday from Washington, D.C. "The Merida 
Initiative is an opportunity to work in partnership with 
Advertisement Mexico to make El Paso, the border region and our two 
nations safe from drug-related crime."

However, human-rights provisions inserted into the plan by Congress 
have drawn criticism from Mexican officials sensitive to sovereignty 
issues. South of the border, the problem has been characterized as 
being driven by the U.S. demand for illegal drugs and fueled by a 
steady flow of weapons from the U.S.

Cooperative efforts with Mexico are, in part, responsible for a 
decline in the availability of cocaine and methamphetamine on the 
nation's streets, said John P. Walters, director of the Office of 
National Drug Control Policy.

"Mexico's making tremendous progress in standing up against some of 
the most violent groups in the world," Walters said.

He said Calderon "is reforming institutions of justice, institutions 
of security, seeking to better finance and improve their ability to 
counter this dangerous threat to their country and obviously to the 
United States as well."

Walters said "unreasonable conditions imposed by the Senate will 
serve only to provide excuses for not coming to the aid of a 
longstanding ally and friend at this critical time."

In May, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the U.S. has a right to 
insist that "taxpayer dollars not be given to corrupt, abusive police 
or military forces in a country whose justice system has serious 
flaws and rarely punishes official misconduct."

The two governments have been exchanging sensitive information 
without negative consequence, Braun said.

"On not one occasion have we experienced a compromise in our 
investigations or in a compromise of the safety of our personnel," he said. 
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