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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mexico, U.S. Allies in War on Drugs

Calderon: Mexico, U.S. Allies in War on Drugs

President Felipe Calderon called on the United States to help fight organized crime jointly with Mexico, with each country focusing on efforts on its own territory, during a visit to the crime-ridden border city of Juarez.

Mexico City and Washington should approach the war on drugs “as a battle that we have to fight on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border and win as allies, each on his own territory, each within his abilities, but with close cooperation on information, intelligence and public policy,” the Mexican president said in an address Tuesday.

Drugs are “a binational problem, which has a fundamental origin, basically, which is drug consumption in the United States and the criminal activity associated with that trafficking, and as a result it is the responsibility of both countries,” the president said.

Calderon made his third trip in just over a month on Tuesday to Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, and considered Mexico’s most violent city.

The trip, which had been planned since last week, came in the wake of the killings over the weekend of an American couple, one of whom worked at the U.S. Consulate in the border city, and of a Mexican who was married to another consular employee.

U.S. consular official Lesley Ann Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, a detention officer at the El Paso County Jail, were killed Saturday by gunmen who fired on their vehicle on a busy street in Juarez.

The couple’s baby, riding in the backseat, was not harmed.

Mexican citizen Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of another consular employee, died in a similar attack minutes later.

Enriquez and Redelfs were U.S. citizens who lived in El Paso. They drove to Juarez for the birthday party of another consulate employee, an event also attended by Salcido and his wife.

“The recent killings of people linked to the U.S. Consulate in this city are truly outrageous, unacceptable and deeply sad,” Calderon said.

Mexican security forces have arrested a fourth suspect in connection with the killings of 16 people, the majority of them students, at a birthday party on Jan. 31 in Juarez, Calderon said.

The suspect was arrested Monday by “federal forces” Calderon said in his address.

One of the suspects died a day after the massacre in a shootout with the security forces, while three other suspects were arrested on Feb. 2, 6 and 27 in separate police operations.

The president did not provide further details about the arrest or the suspect’s identity.

Outrage over the massacre forced Calderon to visit the border city to get a firsthand look at the situation and to roll out the “Todos Somos Juarez” social development program.

Ciudad Juarez has become a battleground in the war between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels for control of smuggling routes into the United States, with both criminal organizations employing street gangs to carry out attacks.

The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when more than 800 people were killed, then it more than doubled to 1,623 in 2008, according to press tallies, with the number of killings soaring to 2,635 last year.

Ciudad Juarez, with 191 homicides per 100,000 residents, was the most violent city in the world in 2009, registering a higher murder rate than San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Caracas, and Guatemala, two Mexican non-governmental organizations said earlier this month.

The border city first gained notoriety in the early 1990s when young women began to disappear in the area.

More than 500 women have been killed in Ciudad Juarez since 1993, according to the National Human Rights Commission, with the majority of the cases going unsolved.

Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence blamed on powerful drug cartels.

Last year, according to the El Universal newspaper, was the deadliest in Mexico in the past decade, with 7,724 people killed in violent incidents attributed to organized crime groups.

So far this year, drug-related violence has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people, the daily says.

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