Pubdate: Sun, 08 Mar 2009
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2009 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Antonio O. Garza


MEXICO CITY - Unfortunately, talk of Mexico in the United States
these days has turned increasingly to a debate over our neighbor's
viability as a nation. By doing so we are fueling a perception that
is neither accurate, nor constructive.

Failed states do not have functioning executive, legislative and
judicial branches. They do not boast the world's 12th-largest
economy, nor do they trade with the United States at a pace of more
than $1 billion a day. And, failed states do not demonstrate - as
President Felipe Calderon has done - the political will to take on
the transnational cartels that threaten the region's security and the
courage to sustain that fight until victory is secured.

President Obama should prioritize the U.S.-Mexico relationship and
place a premium on bolstering our already strong partnership with the
Mexican government and its people.

The United States must recognize the truism that our nation's own
security and economic strength is intrinsically tied to a stable and
prosperous Mexico.

These are difficult times in Mexico with transnational cartel
violence at unprecedented levels, but the commitment of President
Calderon to fight and win this war is unwavering, as should the
United States' own support of that fight.

Mexico is working aggressively to reassert control over areas hardest
hit by cartel violence and dominion, deploying over 25,000 troops to
more than a dozen Mexican states. The government has also
demonstrated its muscle with dramatic increases in spending to more 
than $2.5 billion in 2007 and to more than $4 billion in 2008 to
improve public security and counter the cartel-led violence. We've
also seen the Mexican government extradite a record number of cartel
leaders and criminals to the U.S. to stand trial.

There is an unfortunate reality in the Mexican government's increased
commitment to rid the nation of cartels, drugs and corruption. More
than 5,500 innocent lives were lost this past year alone in
cartel-related violence. And, our U.S. border states have seen the
war  spill into U.S. communities. We cannot shy away from the fight
because the level of violence is fast becoming tragic in its scope
and size, especially when we - as a nation - play a pivotal role in
the crisis Mexico is battling.

Mexico would not be the center of cartel activity or be experiencing
this level of violence, were the United States not the largest
consumer of illicit drugs and the main supplier of weapons to the
cartels. We have a responsibility to fight this war together, or we
will  fail together.

The Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion commitment by the United States
to Mexico, ushered in a new era of cooperation on security issues
between the two nations. This landmark bilateral initiative will
strengthen existing law enforcement cooperation, intelligence 
sharing, and provide new equipment for Mexican forces to use to
better confront the common threat of drug trafficking and other
transnational organized crime.

But, the Merida Initiative must be fully funded by Congress. And, at
a time when our own economic woes beg for action by the federal
government, we should not, nor cannot, cast aside the Merida
Initiative as a policy distraction or budget extravagance. To the 
contrary, the Merida Initiative is a necessity for the region. Our
leaders must provide full funding quickly and move law enforcement
tools into the field immediately to win this war.

Instead of buying into those in the United States who are quick to
suggest Mexico is a failed state, the President should forcefully
lead and imbue the relationship with his trademark hope and with
action  indicative of a partner in a war that we must fight and  win

Antonio O. Garza Jr. is the former United States ambassador to
Mexico. He also served as Texas railroad commissioner.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin