HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Mexico Plan Adds Police to Take on Drug Cartels
Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jul 2008
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Page: A08
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Post Company
Author: Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign Service
Bookmark: (Mexico)
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


Military's Role Lessened; Local Corruption Targeted

MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican government plans to nearly double the size
of its federal police force in order to reduce the role of the
military in combating drug trafficking, under a confidential
anti-narcotics strategy that officials made available Thursday.

The plan, known as the Comprehensive Strategy Against Drug
Trafficking, also involves purging local police forces of corrupt
officers and initiating social measures -- such as improving safety in
public spaces -- designed to improve public confidence in government
agencies tainted by corruption.

Elements of the plan have already been set in motion, including a
massive police recruiting and training effort intended to reduce the
country's dependence in the drug war on the military, which has been
accused of numerous human rights violations. Other aspects are still
in formative stages, such as fortifying poorly staffed border
checkpoints to stifle the smuggling of arms and money into Mexico from
the United States.

The written strategy amounts to the most complete picture of Mexico's
anti-narcotics game plan in a violent struggle over the past year and
a half between the federal government and cartels that control the
bulk of cocaine, marijuana and heroin smuggling into the United
States. More than 2,000 people have been killed in drug-related
violence this year, and Mexicans are horrified by almost daily reports
of decapitations, shootouts and assassinations of police and municipal

"Currently, drug trafficking -- a criminal and socioeconomic
phenomenon of enormous complexity -- is the biggest threat to national
security," the document states.

A key element of the strategy centers on disrupting cartel logistical
operations. A new rule that forces all private planes to stop for
inspection at either the Cozumel airport on the Caribbean coast or
Tapachula on the Guatemala border is credited, in part, for leading to
confiscations of more than 270 planes in the past 1 1/2 years.

The strategy builds on Mexico's renewed commitment to greater
cooperation with foreign law enforcement officials after years of
suspicion and insularity. Last month, President Bush signed a $400
million package to help Mexico fight cartels. The measure, known as
the Merida Initiative, was pushed through in large part by lawmakers
who said they were impressed by Mexican President Felipe Calderon's
commitment to working more closely with U.S. law enforcement.

The internal Mexican strategy formalizes the Calderon administration's
multinational approach by strengthening information exchanges with
South American cocaine-producing nations and with Central American
nations that are key transit points.

The cooperative endeavor is a major step forward for nations that
have, at times, had strained relations. As part of the initiative,
Mexico is already receiving information about suspicious ships leaving
ports in Colombia and Ecuador. 
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