Politics

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El Paso Times, Debra Gulbas/AP
An El Paso County sheriff officer shows off some of the 2,000 pounds of marijuana found in
a van in El Paso, Texas, in a 2006 file photo.

Mexican Drug War Spills Over US Border Amid Government Inaction

April 02, 2009 04:25 PM
by Shannon Firth
After Mexican drug cartels slipped across the U.S. border and are wreaking terror in its cities, America gets serious about security.

The New War on Drugs

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News of drug-related violence from Mexico creeping into U.S cities like Phoenix, El Paso, and Birmingham has residents and lawmakers worried. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is partly to blame.

According to a 2009 report, the National Drug Intelligence Center says that Mexico now controls the drug trade in over 230 U.S. Cities.

In Arizona, which shares a nearly 400-mile border with Mexico—much of it desert—the city of Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of America. Newsweek reported that 368 kidnappings occurred in 2008, more than triple the estimate reported in 2000.

After a police invasion of a suspected “drop house” in Avondale, outside Phoenix, a neighbor told Newsweek: “It’s been hell. I have five kids. I’ve been sleeping with two machine guns under my bed for two years.” He says plans to leave the area and foreclose on his house.

El Paso, Texas, which calls itself the third-safest city in America, is located just across the border from Juarez Mexico, where 1,600 people were murdered last year. Threats to Juarez’s current mayor and his family were so grave that they moved to El Paso—he commutes daily.

Yet even El Paso is under threat. An American law enforcement official, who asked not to be named, told the Dallas Morning News, that gangs from Juárez have abducted “dozens” of El Pasoans.

While both the El Paso police department and the County Attorney José Rodríguez said they had not received and reports of abuctions, Rodriguez conceded, “That doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

Jay J. Armes, a private investigator, said he has investigated 70 cases this year, seven of which happened in El Paso. The victims were then taken to Juárez.

According to Newsweek, in August 2008, the corpses of five Mexican men were found in Birmingham, Ala. The men had been gagged and electrocuted. Police suspect the murders were ordered by the cartels.

The Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center recently is calling Mexican drug cartels “the greatest organized crime threat to the United States,” and former CIA director Michael Hayden says in terms of danger to national security, Mexico is second only to Iran, MSN reported.

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Merida Initiative; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

What strategies has the government planned to confront the problem? In June, the Bush administration signed the Merida Initiative, pledging 1.4 billion in U.S. aid over a three-year period for equipment and training for police and government forces in Mexico. The plan calls for strengthening the judicial system in Mexico.

On March 25, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of America having a “co-responsibilty” to Mexico: “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.”

Clinton added that many of the guns used to kill civilians and government forces in Mexico have been smuggled from the United States.

She has pledged $80 million in Black Hawk helicopters to target drug gangs and protect the border.

Background: History of the War on Drugs; Mexico’s drug war

According to Time magazine, the term “War on Drugs” became prevalent during President Nixon’s term, when he formed the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Although initially the struggle focused on U.S. soldiers in Vietnam, by 1975 the primary target was the cocaine trade in Colombia.

According to the BBC, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon now has 40,000 soldiers fighting the War on Drugs.

The Mexican government views the increased violence as a sign that the “‘monster’ has been wounded” and their aggressive tactics are working.

Critics say the cartels basically govern parts of Mexico, and that the violence is merely a by-product of “gang law.”

There are four primary drug cartels in Mexico: the Sinaloa cartel operates on the Pacific coast and is led by Mexico’s most-wanted man, called “El Chapo” Guzman; the Tijuana cartel borders California; the Gulf cartel includes the Los Zetas; and the Carrillo Fuentes organization is based in Mexico’s most dangerous area, Ciudad Juarez.

A map posted on the BBC’s Web sites highlights the different regions of organized crime.

Video: Obama discusses Iraq strategy, Mexican Violence

In a Face the Nation discussion, President Obama, asked if the Mexican drug war was a threat to the United States, told anchor Bob Schieffer, “This is a two-way street … As Secretary Clinton indicated we’ve got to reduce demand for drugs [and] we’ve got to do our part in reducing the flow of cash and guns south.”

Opinion & Analysis: The Merida Initiative

Regarding the Merida Initiative, the 2008 Council on Foreign Relations Latin America Task Force reported that 41 percent of funding was spent on air surveillance. The CFR believes more “technical and financial assistance” should be granted to Mexico’s police force.

Some researchers cite another failing—a loophole in border state laws that lets consumers buy guns without a background check.

Reference: Drugs wars in Colombia and Mexico

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