United States ready to step-up military presence in Mexico
Mexico's drug wars are costing both its people and its country, and the crisis has become a national security concern for the United States who plans to offer military assistance to the United Mexican government.
With the death toll at 5,300 last year and Mexican cartels armed with automatic weapons and billions in cash, the crisis has become a full-blown national security concern for the United States.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was due in Mexico later this week as the United States signalled it was ready to step up military and other assistance to tackle the heavily armed drug rings ravaging the country's north.
"The cartels are retaliating," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told NBC on Sunday. "It clearly is a serious problem."
But he said Mexico has dropped its traditional reluctance to cultivate ties with the US military.
"I think we are beginning to be in a position to help the Mexicans more than we have in the past," Gates said. "Some of the old biases against cooperation between our militaries and so on, I think, are being satisfied."
The United States started sharing intelligence with Mexico in November and under a new program plans to provide helicopters, maritime surveillance aircraft and other equipment, Pentagon spokesman Commander Jeffrey Gordon said.
The two countries have been cooperating for some time, but last year the effort intensified with the US Merida Initiative that gives Mexico 1.4 billion dollars over three years and 200 million to Central America and the Caribbean.
The initiative has nabbed some top drug barons and shipments, but the cartels remain defiant. In Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, they have threatened to decapitate the mayor and his entire family.
Experts say military cooperation will not be enough and that corruption in Mexico as well as growing demand for drugs on the US side of the border feed the scourge.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon took offense at a State Department report last week that said pervasive corruption was hampering the drug war. He said it was time Washington stopped the flow of guns and drug money into Mexico.
"I think that weapons and cash cross from there to here, and that both countries should strive to make their border safe and open to trade and workers, but closed to illegal drugs, weapons and money trafficking," he said.
Mexican and US authorities have traced over 90 percent of the guns used by the cartels to American gun shops and shows, even though US laws forbid foreign nationals from buying fire arms.
And an estimated 15 to 20 billion dollars passes across the US border to the drug barons each year, US analysts say.
The Admiral spoke of the United States' assistance to Columbia as a model for tackling drug cartels and believes similar support to Mexico should help in the war on drugs.
However, according to this December 8, 2008 article "Columbia Drug War: Failure or Best Kept Secret, "Coca is a serious destabilizer...". "...after almost a decade, U.S.-assisted efforts to reduce the crops production haven't just failed; they've been downright counterproductive."
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