Mexico wants US to share blame

DRUG VIOLENCE: President Felipe Calderon stressed the role of US drug consumption and weapons trafficking in funding Mexican gangs and urged the US to do its part


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 7

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called on Tuesday for shared US responsibility in the fight against Mexico’s drug gangs, after killings of people connected to the US consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

Calderon was met with protests by hundreds of residents frustrated by almost daily attacks, extortion and kidnappings that plague Ciudad Juarez despite the deployment of around 6,000 troops in the violent city of some 1.3 million.

Some protesters threw stones at police around the hotel where Calderon was holding meetings and others managed to jump over barriers police had set up to limit access to the building. At least eight protesters were detained.

“It’s indispensable that the fight against organized crime is fully assumed as a shared responsibility between the United States and Mexico ... with each on its territory and in its field of competence,” Calderon said on a visit to the border city across from El Paso, Texas.

Calderon’s third visit this year to Mexico’s crime capital followed the high-profile murders of a US employee of the US consulate who was three months pregnant, her husband and the husband of a Mexican consular employee in two separate weekend attacks.

Accompanied by US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, Calderon stressed the key role of US drug consumption and weapons trafficking in funding the Mexican gangs.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has acknowledged the US role in Mexico’s violence and US officials have targeted Mexican drug gangs in the US in recent years.

Mexican authorities have blamed the latest murders on “the Aztecas,” hitmen linked to the powerful Juarez drug cartel, as US FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents joined investigations there.

Pascual dismissed reports that US forces would carry out operations inside Mexico, saying they had been sent to assist their Mexican counterparts.

“No US law enforcement officers will conduct operations in Mexico,” he said. “US agencies are in Mexico to support the Mexican authorities who have jurisdiction over the investigation.”

The US already shares technical expertise and has provided military equipment to Mexico under the US$1.3 billion Merida Initiative to fight organized crime.

Ciudad Juarez is at the heart of Calderon’s controversial clampdown on organized crime, which has seen some 50,000 troops deployed nationwide.

More than 15,000 people have died in the surge of drug-related violence since Calderon took office at the end of 2006, including more than 2,600 last year alone in Ciudad Juarez.

Investigators said it remained unclear why the US consulate-linked victims were singled out by hit teams who ambushed the two family groups just minutes apart on Saturday after they left a birthday party. Police on Monday located a charred van they believed was used by the killers.

The broad daylight attacks put Ciudad Juarez under a heightened glare of attention only two months after the gruesome massacre of 15 youths at a party there on Jan. 31.

After those killings, Calderon launched a project in a bid to restore some normalcy to the city.

Last weekend, however, suspected drug attacks claimed more than 100 lives across Mexico. Among the hardest hit areas was Guerrero state, a key transit point for drug trafficking.