Washington - The United States blacklisted on Tuesday two Mexicans and one Colombian accused of working for the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel and said it will give Mexico some $527 million in anti-drug aid next year.
The United States is the main market for Mexican drug gangs who dominate narcotics smuggling and whose turf war has provoked horrific violence including beheadings and brazen shootouts, worrying investors and Washington.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement it had labeled Mexican nationals Agustin Reyes Garza and Hector Contreras Novoa as "specially designated narcotics traffickers" due to their support of the Sinaloa Cartel's activities.
The action bans Americans from doing business with them and companies they control and seeks to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.
The Treasury also designated Colombian national Nestor Alonso Tarazona Enciso as a drug trafficker for his ties to the Sinaloa cartel, and also blacklisted two livestock companies registered in Bogota that he owns or controls.
It said Tarazona Enciso was convicted on U.S. cocaine trafficking charges and returned to Colombia in 1995 after serving a prison sentence in the United States.
The blacklisting is part of Treasury's efforts to apply financial sanctions against foreign drug traffickers under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
Since June 2000, the Treasury says, it has imposed sanctions against more than 500 businesses and individuals associated with 82 drug kingpins, including 37 kingpins in Mexico.
In Mexico, the U.S. embassy handed over 5 Bell helicopters to the Mexican government on Tuesday and plans to give three UH-60 helicopters and 4 fighter planes in 2010.
The equipment is part of a three-year, $1.1 billion package pledged by the United States in 2007 to help Mexico combat rampant drug gang carnage.
More than 16,000 people have been killed in drug war violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight the cartels in 2006.
Mexico is lacking in state-of-the-art equipment and says a lack of helicopters with night vision allowed top drug baron Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, who heads the Sinaloa gang, to escape capture at his wedding to a local beauty queen in 2007.
The U.S. aid has been slow in coming and Mexican analysts say large chunks are being used up in salaries, bureaucracy and payments to U.S. security companies that are providing anti-drug gear.
The U.S. government says it is committed to helping crush Mexican drug gangs.
"It is absolutely critical that United States join as a good partner in dealing with this issue," said John Brennan, a security adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, during a ceremony to hand Mexico the helicopters.