March 31, 2009 - Houston Chronicle Blog Post On Texas/U.S. Response to Mexican Drug War

Apr 1, 2009

Read the original post at the Houston Chronicle.

U.S. must be more proactive in battling cartels

Since taking office in 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken a courageous stand against his country's drug cartels, and we need to be equally proactive and resolute as we support our neighbor in this battle.

U.S. cooperation is urgently needed to help Mexico overcome the drug gangs and to ensure that violence doesn't spill across our border, as it has already begun to do. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out last week, the border is a two-way street: drugs and criminals flow north, while cash from American drug users and illegal guns flow south.

We are addressing what Secretary Clinton called our "co-responsibility" for the border violence through a number of measures.

First, I am pleased to see that this administration has launched a coordinated effort to secure our border. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano last week announced that we would increase the number of federal agents on the border, which will help prevent drug-related violence from moving into the U.S.

I believe those additional federal agents should be supplemented by National Guard troops, as Gov. Rick Perry has suggested. Adding 1,000 Guard troops to the border would help to relieve the strain on local law enforcement.

Also, the Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion program that was instituted by Presidents Bush and Calderon two years ago, continues to provide Mexico with funding for needed military and law enforcement training and equipment, as well as for judicial reform and human-rights issues.

Congress has already funded five Bell helicopters for the Mexican police to help them combat cartels that control wide swaths of remote areas across Mexico. The Mexican government also asked for Black Hawk helicopters and Secretary Clinton has pledged $80 million to pay for them. Congress should approve that funding without delay.

In many ways, the situation in Mexico mirrors that of Colombia in the previous decade. U.S. support played a key role there in the form of Plan Colombia, a multinational effort that began during the Clinton Administration and expanded under Bush's leadership.

Like the Merida Initiative, Plan Colombia helped boost the country's air mobility and police presence. It also relied on strong leadership in President Alvaro Uribe. Since he took office in 2002, homicides in Colombia have dropped by 40 percent, kidnapping by 83 percent, and terrorist attacks by 76 percent. Colombian gangs are producing a third less cocaine than in 2002.

Mexico's fate in its war against the cartels will depend heavily on our cooperation, and I hope we continue to act to give our neighbor the support it needs.