Bloodstained border poses major foreign policy challenge
Confiscated weapons from Mexico’s border county of Hidalgo in an evidence room in Edinburg, Texas, April 14, 2009. (Photo credit: Reuters / Jessica Rinaldi)
By Julian Cardona
April 14, 2009
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Drug cartel gun battles that leave dead bodies yards from American soil have turned Mexico’s bloodstained northern border into a major foreign policy challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Much closer to home than Iraq or Afghanistan, the scenes of carnage in the drug war along the border are alarming Washington and will be top of Obama’s agenda when he visits the Mexican capital on Thursday.
Cartel hitmen slaughtered some 6,300 people in Mexico last year, in many cases torturing or beheading their victims. In border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, dead bodies have been strung from bridges and dissolved in vats of caustic soda. …
Worried that drug violence is seeping into the United States, Obama has already vowed tighter southbound border controls to reduce the flow of illegal U.S. guns smuggled to the cartels.
Mexicans and Americans alike are keen to see whether he will offer more help in crushing the traffickers, whose feuding over lucrative smuggling routes north is creating a bigger threat to Mexican stability than has been seen in years.
“This is extraordinarily important to the United States and our national security and economic interests,” said Michael Braun, a former operations chief at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and now a security consultant at Spectre Group.
“Iraq and Afghanistan are certainly important but, well, pull out the map – Mexico is our closest neighbor to the south,” he said.
Focused on the economic crisis and domestic issues, Obama gave little campaign air time to Mexico, a politically stable U.S. trade partner and oil supplier for many years. But he told CBS recently that Mexico’s violence had “gotten out of hand.”
Drug murders have soared, particularly near the border, as President Felipe Calderon deployed the army to try to crush cartel violence that had been on the rise since around 2003. A new military surge last month has reduced the pace of killings but they could resume once the soldiers move on. …
As the army crackdown cramps their movements in Mexico, some gangs are crossing into the United States and staging armed raids on homes to seize handguns and cash. …
Braun noted the $1.4 billion in aid offered by former U.S. President George W. Bush is dwarfed by the roughly $700 billion Washington has spent on Iraq and Afghanistan. “It’s not nearly enough. We’re going to have to find more money,” he said.
Mexican officials say nine in 10 guns seized at drug crime scenes are traced back to the United States, often assault rifles back in circulation after a U.S. ban expired in 2004. Obama may not suggest reinstating the ban but could offer more smuggling curbs.
“It’s clear the Obama administration has decided to make Mexico a foreign policy priority,” said Josh Kussman, a former U.S. border policy director and vice president of The Sentinel HS Group consulting firm. …
Related story from the New York Times
U.S. stymied as guns flow to Mexican cartels (Apr. 15, 2009)
Federal tracking system crafted to protect Second Amendment rights
Gregory Bull / AP file
President Obama with Mexican President Felipe Calderon during a welcoming ceremony in Mexico City, April 16, 2009, on the first day of a four-day swing through Latin America. The New York Times reports that Mr. Obama seeks to curb illegal arms trafficking and combat the rising tide of cross-border drug violence. (Photo credit: Ronaldo Schemidt / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
Following are security developments in Iraq on Tuesday, April 13, 2009, as reported by Reuters.
KERBALA – A U.S. soldier died after an attack on a convoy just south of Kerbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.
KIRKUK – Gunmen killed a civilian in southern Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, police said.
MOSUL – Armed men killed a civilian on Sunday near his home in northern Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.
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