HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html U.S. May Send Mexico $1.4 Billion in Drug War
Pubdate: Tue, 02 Oct 2007
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Alfredo Corchdado, The Dallas Morning News
Note: Staff writer Todd J. Gillman in Washington contributed to this report.
Bookmark: (Mexico)
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


Money in Pentagon Budget Targets Training, High-Tech Tools

MEXICO CITY - Tucked in the Pentagon's massive budget request is at 
least $1.4 billion in U.S. aid to Mexico for its fight against 
increasingly violent drug kingpins - including better training and 
high-tech tools.

Negotiators for the two countries have agreed on the package now 
awaiting U.S. congressional approval, officials familiar with the 
proposal said Monday.

Both U.S. and Mexican officials have said the package is needed to 
fight a common threat - one that has leeched over the border and into 
North Texas.

"We either win together or we lose together," said Attorney General 
Eduardo Medina Mora in interviews with The News in September.

But some have criticized the package as money down the drain until 
Mexico weeds out endemic police corruption.

It was unclear whether the Mexican aid package is contained in the 
$460 billion 2008 defense authorization bill, which the U.S. Senate 
approved 92-3 Monday night, or in a pending $193 billion supplemental 
Iraq war budget.

One Senate Republican aide familiar with details of the bill said the 
money is in the measure approved Monday night, but neither U.S. nor 
Mexican officials could confirm that.

In any case, the defense bill still needs to be finalized by House 
and Senate negotiators before going to President Bush for his 
signature - and the legislative process is still weeks from completion.

A U.S. official familiar with the aid package said it probably will 
come up for debate in the coming days and weeks as details of the 
bill become public. The official requested anonymity.

Beyond the two-year duration of the aid arrangement, the governments 
would probably form a permanent cooperation agreement that must be 
agreed upon by the next U.S. administration following the 2008 
presidential election, officials said.

In general, the plan calls for the U.S. to take on a bigger role in 
the fight against Mexican drug traffickers - and it represents a 
significant increase from the estimated $40 million Mexico currently 
receives annually from the U.S. government.

Though details remain murky, Mexican officials stressed in interviews 
with The News last month that the agreement does not call for the 
U.S. military to play any role in Mexico - unlike Plan Colombia. 
Under that plan, the South American nation has received about $5 
billion in U.S. assistance over the last six years to fight rebel 
groups and the illicit drug trade. That plan also included U.S. 
training of Colombian military in that country.

Mr. Medina Mora stressed in interviews with The News that the 
initiative is aimed at bolstering Mexico's telecommunications 
capabilities - and its ability to monitor its airspace and coastal 
waters, where about 85 percent of all smuggling takes place.

Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said any agreement with the United 
States would require approval by the Mexican Congress, which is 
unlikely to put up much resistance given the breakdown in Mexican 
security and the increasing violence of drug cartels.

With more than 2,000 execution-style killings this year, Mexico is on 
pace to set a record for drug murders, surpassing the 1,900 last year.

Plan Given Chance

The proposed aid package is likely to generate much criticism among 
some members of the U.S. Congress.

But analysts in Washington said that given the clamor in the U.S. for 
increased border security, the plan stands a chance.

"There's a willingness to look at cooperative efforts between the 
United States, Mexico and Central America, especially if it involves 
training, judicial reform, police reform," said Andrew Seele, 
director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Mexico Institute.

"That is likely to get a better reception than if it's strictly a 
counternarcotics proposal," he said.

Some said the proposal underscores Washington's concerns about 
Mexico's war with the powerful drug cartels whose reach has been felt 
in U.S. cities like Laredo and McAllen and as far north as Dallas.

Local and federal authorities in North Texas have documented crimes 
committed by elements of the Zetas - drug enforcers for the Gulf cartel.

Nonetheless, analysts cautioned that final congressional approval 
remains an uphill battle.

"The odds are good, given Washington's preoccupation with border 
security," said Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, president of a firm 
dedicated to U.S.-Mexico issues - the newly formed Peschard-Sverdrup 
& Associates. "There is a strong interest in curtailing the drug flow 
into the U.S. and ... supporting President [Felipe] Calderon's bold 
leadership on the issue. But this is still a difficult process."

Phil Jordan, former head of the regional Drug Enforcement 
Administration office in Dallas, is skeptical.

"Until you reduce U.S. demand for drugs and weed out the immense 
corruption among Mexico's law enforcement, pouring more U.S. money 
into Mexico won't necessarily solve the problem," he said.

Tackling Corruption

The increased financial assistance is designed to enable Mexican law 
enforcement to take on drug traffickers who possess advanced weapons, 
electronic monitoring systems and aircraft, Mr. Medina Mora and 
Public Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna told The News last month.

The aid package may also strengthen programs aimed at training 
Mexico's police and periodically testing them to weed out corrupt elements.

For now, both sides continue to stress the importance of increased 
cooperation on issues such as drug demand and gun control in the 
United States and terrorist cells and transnational criminal 
organizations such as the paramilitary cartel enforcers the Zetas and 
the Central American gang the Mara Salvatruchas.

"The U.S government needs to do more in reducing the drug 
consumption, and it needs to do its part in the equation of stopping 
the flow of cash and weapons," said Mr. Medina Mora in a recent 
interview. "The U.S. law is too flexible, too permissive when it 
comes to gun possession, and unfortunately many of those guns, 
particularly high-power assault weapons, too often end up in the 
hands of ruthless drug cartels."
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