Mexico Accepts Anti-Narcotics Aid From U.S.

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
New York Times
June 28, 2008
Pg. 5
By Marc Lacey
MEXICO CITY — With a deadly drug war spreading around the country, beleaguered Mexican officials on Friday welcomed $400 million in anti-narcotics assistance in a bill that was given final Congressional approval in Washington on Thursday night.
The White House said that President Bush would sign the bill, though lawmakers had trimmed $100 million from his request. The aid package, which will send helicopters, drug-sniffing dogs and technical help to Mexico, came dangerously close to falling apart.
Mr. Bush had negotiated the deal with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico without consulting legislators in the two countries. The Democratic Congress in Washington then redrafted the package, shifting more funds from Mexico to Central America, which is also under siege from traffickers, and insisting that Mexico meet certain human rights conditions to get access to all the money.
Mexican officials reacted angrily to the changes, calling them unacceptable. They hinted that they might turn down the assistance — which experts say will increase the country’s anti-narcotics budget by about 20 percent annually — unless the conditions were removed.
“The terms that were approved are respectful of the sovereignty and jurisdiction of both countries,” Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mouriño told reporters, an about-face from his criticism of an earlier draft of the legislation.
In subsequent negotiations, House and Senate leaders toned down the human rights language but did not eliminate it altogether. The bill still calls on Mexico’s armed forces to cooperate with civilian prosecutors when soldiers are accused of committing abuses, and still requires the State Department to report to Congress on the Mexican government’s collaboration with civilian groups who have been strongly critical of the security forces in the past.
The inclusion of the human rights language, activists said Friday, is important in focusing Mexico’s attention on abuses by the security forces.
“The big victory is for the rule of law,” said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch. “This will push the security forces in Mexico to a higher level of professionalism.”
That Mexico could use the assistance is not in dispute; the country has seen its police commanders singled out for assassination and its municipalities taken over by drug traffickers. But no one expects the aid to be the tipping point in what is proving to be a long-term war.
Mr. Calderón has unleashed tens of thousands of soldiers throughout the countryside to combat narcotics traffickers and to end the cozy relationships they have developed with local authorities over the decades.
Six police officers were killed in Sinaloa State on Thursday night, authorities said. Earlier this week, the federal police and army raided a baptism party in Tijuana and rounded up 61 people suspected of having links to drug trafficking, including three local police officers and one state police officer.
“My impression is that the goal of the war is not to eliminate drug trafficking from the face of Mexico — that’s impossible,” said Jorge Chabat, an expert on narcotics trafficking and security at CIDE, a Mexican research group. “The Calderón strategy seems to be to fragment the drug cartels and reduce the violence. That goal is at least possible.”