White House Announces New Border Plan to Combat Drug Cartels
New America Media, News Report, Elena Shore Posted: Mar 24, 2009
The White House on Tuesday laid out its plan to combat Mexican drug cartels by increasing personnel at the Southwest border and working more closely with Mexican authorities.
The plan, which includes cracking down on the flows of arms and cash from the United States into Mexico, is an effort to increase federal, state and local coordination to defeat violent cartels on both sides of the border.
“The U.S. has a responsibility here,” said Dan Restrepo, director of Western Hemisphere affairs, National Security Council, to a group of media in a bilingual telephonic press conference today. “We are partners with the Mexican government. There is no relationship with the U.S. as important as Mexico.”
In what Restrepo called a “very courageous fight,” Mexican President Felipe Calderón has taken an increasing militaristic hard-line against drug cartels in Mexico, deploying Mexican soldiers to Mexico’s drug trafficking hot spots.
Concerned by the increased level of violence in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and fears of a spillover effect in the United States, the Obama administration plans to work more closely with Mexico in this fight.
“The Mexican government’s success against the cartels is important for Mexico and the United States,” said Restrepo. “Both Mexico and the United States need to succeed together in this.”
The plan was laid out on the eve of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Mexico Wednesday and Thursday to meet with Calderón. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Mexico in early April, and President Obama will visit Mexico April 16 and 17.
The steps include monitoring the allocation of the $700 million Congress approved through the Merida Initiative to support and enhance law enforcement in Mexico.
The Department of Homeland Security is re-allocating resources to the Southwest border. This includes doubling the Border Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST) teams that incorporate foreign, federal, state and local law enforcement and intelligence officers; tripling DHS intelligence analysts along the Southwest border; increasing ICE’s staff in Mexico; doubling the Southwest’s Violent Criminal Alien Teams; quadrupling the number of Border Liaison Officers working with Mexico; increasing inspections of southbound trains from the United States; and deploying more license plate readers at southbound ports.
The Justice Department will relocate 100 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in the next 45 days and redouble the efforts of Project Gunrunner to go after gunrunners and trace guns back to their origins in the United States.
The FBI is creating a Southwest Intelligence Group, a clearinghouse of information on Mexican drug cartel activity, to better coordinate efforts in the United States and Mexico.
The Department of Justice’s drug enforcement task force is increasing its own personnel to use intelligence-based prosecution to take out leaders and dismantle drug cartels.
The United States is also planning to work to reduce the consumption and distribution of drugs in the United States by investing $64 million in drug courts and treatment programs.
In addition to an increase in resources and personnel, Restrepo said that what makes the Obama administration’s plan different from past policies is its view of the problem as one that requires a real partnership with the Mexican government.
When asked what the new plan would mean for the border fence, Napolitano said Tuesday that the United States would complete the sectors of the border wall that had already begun. “But if you've ever worked on these cartel cases, as I have as prosecutor,” she said, “you know that a wall is not the best way to spend our dollars to prevent these drugs from coming into the United States and to be able to apprehend and prosecute the smugglers themselves.”
The United States has not decided whether it will ramp up its military presence along the border. Napolitano said the administration is considering dispatching the National Guard, and will meet with Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday about the possibility of deploying the troops along the Texas-Mexico border.
Ciudad Juarez Militarized
In War on Drugs, Mexico’s Success Is Our Misfortune
Drug Cartels Move North to California
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