U.S.-Mexico border garners much attention from White House

In response to highly publicized wave of turf battles among drug cartels along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Obama administration issued an ambitious multi-agency $700 million plan this week to combat the violence. The on-going problem has caused more than 8,000 deaths since January 2008.

The violence has increased over the past few years wreaking havoc in Mexico that has even led to a series of kidnappings and home invasions in some U.S. border cities.

The initiative plans to boost existing efforts by Washington and Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration by adding manpower, money and technology to the southwestern border with the deployment of nearly 500 federal agents and support personnel.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also made a trip to Mexico where this is one topic under discussion.

Mexico is the largest trading partner for the U.S. Due to the current U.S. recession Mexico is suffering and undergoing its own disastrous economic crisis. Mexico’s export factories have lost some 65,000 jobs since October. Exports fell 32 percent in January, and automobile exports fell 50 percent in the first two months of 2009.

Critics argue Mexico’s conservative and right-wing administration under Calderon welcomes free trade and neoliberal policies highlighted by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

As a result such policies enforced by Calderon and markets dominated by major multinational corporations, millions throughout Mexico are unemployed and seek job opportunities to the north. Lack of jobs, the high cost of living and extreme poverty in most cases perpetuates the violence directly related to the warring drug cartels that offer financial stability to those struggling to survive, critics charge.

Many say American drug users have turned Mexico into a drug superhighway. As drug addiction rates in Mexico continue to increase, the vast majority of illegal drugs coming from Mexico will be injected, smoked or sniffed by Americans. And according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives 90 percent of the guns used by Mexican drug cartels come directly from the U.S.

Secretary Clinton two-day trip on a broad diplomatic agenda will be followed up with future visits next month including one by President Obama.

Last week during a town-hall-style meeting in California, Obama outlined the problem.

“I don’t think we can do this piecemeal,” Obama said.

“I’m going to be working with President Calderon in Mexico to figure out how we get control over the border that’s become more violent because of the drug trade. We have to combine that with cracking down on employers who are exploiting undocumented workers.”

For more information on the violence and its roots, you can go to:

Drug cartel has political, economic roots: and

World crisis slams Mexico:

In a March 24th conference call Dan Restrepo, director of the Western Hemisphere Affairs, National Security Council explained to reporters one of the major themes behind the measure.

“At the end of the day there is nothing more important to President Obama than the U.S.-Mexico partnership,” Restrepo said.

Reports also point to Mexico taking offense to officials and pundits in the United States calling it a “failed state.”

The Mexican daily newspaper El Universal reported March 26 that the U.S. had submitted Cuban-born Carlos Pascual’s name to the Mexican government as the next ambassador to Mexico. Pscual has written extensively about “failed states” and served as the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization in the State Department, a post that involved working with several agencies to develop strategies for broken countries like Afghanistan, El Universal reported.

U.S. political and economic analysts of the region have disputed the “failed state” claim. For example, Moody's Investment Service says that Mexico is not at risk of failure and will maintain its investment-grade rating.

plozano @ pww.org