Pubdate: Tue, 11 Aug 2009
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2009 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press


GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- The Mounties will play a role in Mexico's fight
against violent drug cartels, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced

He made the announcement as he arrived for a Three Amigos summit in a
country sideswiped by war between rival gangs.

The RCMP will offer a variety of training programs to hundreds of
Mexican federal police, ranging from rookie recruits to senior officers.

The program size is modest -- just $400,000 from a $15-million-a-year
fund created in the 2009 budget to fight crime in the Americas.

But the Harper government says it's responding to specific demands
from Mexico, and is prepared to do more.

"We've received these requests from Mexico," said one government
official. "This is sort of a first phase. We'll continue to work with
them to see what other requests we have."

The gesture comes at a low point in Canada-Mexico relations, with
Mexicans angered by new travel rules Canada imposed on them.

Harper was to discuss the pledge in a meeting with Mexican President
Felipe Calderon later Sunday. The two leaders then planned to have
supper with U.S. President Barack Obama to kick off the two-day
summit. The Mounties will offer tips on interviewing techniques for
entry-level police; mid-level officers will learn about
money-laundering, undercover tactics, and child exploitation; and
senior officers will hear about crisis management, public relations
and dealing with civilian leaders.

The announcement comes as Mexico conducts a major overhaul of its
justice system, switching from an inquisitorial system dominated by
paper submissions to an adversarial one like Canada's, where the
prosecution and defence square off in a courtroom.

The shift will force police to change the way they gather evidence and
prepare for trials. It is designed to help police cope with an
escalating drug war.

An estimated 6,000 people died last year in a conflict that has seen
scores of civilians, police and civic leaders murdered by drug cartels.

The Prime Minister's Office announced the move in a press release it
distributed on the flight to Guadalajara.

The government is eager to move past a dispute that has soured the
normally harmonious ties between the countries. Mexicans were incensed
last month when Canada announced it would bar visitors from that
country unless they had tourist visas. The move was seen as an
insulting slight from a neighbour and major trading partner.

It has also caused anxiety among Mexican travellers -- especially
those outside Mexico City who worry about mailing their passport to
the Canadian embassy and getting it back on time. 
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