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Congress Approves $600 Million for More Cops, Drones on Mexico Border [UPDATED]

(This is an updated version, posted August 11, of an article originally published on August 7.)

Acting to fulfill a June request from President Obama, the Senate last Thursday approved spending $600 million to increase the law enforcement presence on the US-Mexico border. The House earlier approved a $701 million version of the bill, and Tuesday moved on a voice vote to accept the Senate version.

military drone planes
The Obama request was largely a response to the meltdown over immigration in Arizona and calls to "secure the border" from Republicans. It also reflected heightening concern about the prohibition-related violence bloodying the Mexican side of the border. Last year, Obama had vowed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at this point, all that's left is more money for law enforcement.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) provides funds for purchasing more unmanned drone surveillance aircraft ($32 million), 1,000 new Border Patrol agents to form a rapid-deployment unit ($129 milllion), as well as another 250 agents each for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE ($50 million) and Border Protection ($29 million).

Then there's $10 million for investigators to stop corruption in the Border Patrol and ICE, $14 million for communications equipment for new officers, $6 million for forward operating bases near the border, $30 for border interdiction, $8 million for a federal law enforcement training center, $10 million for federal judiciary resources for increased caseloads, $196 million for the Department of Justice, $13 million for border area US Attorneys, $8 million for more US Marshals along the border, and $7 million for border processing of apprehended drug and human traffickers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms gets $37 million in the border beef-up, the DEA gets $34 million, and the FBI gets $24 million. And then there's another $21 million for "interagency crime and drug law enforcement along the border," another $20 million for a federal prison system for immigration criminals, and, finally, $2.1 million to "expedite" the deportation of aliens along the border.

The Senate bill pays for the spending by imposing a new tax on companies that hire foreign workers. Companies affected would be those that hire more than 50 H1B or L visa foreign workers.

"What a relief that the Senate is still capable of passing measures that are really needed without playing political games," McCaskill said Thursday after the vote. "America must do a better job of securing our borders. This bill will help in a big way."

"This bipartisan effort shows we are serious about making the border more secure than ever. Now our attention must turn to comprehensive reform, which is the only way to fully address the problem of illegal immigration," said Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee.

And so the show goes on, just as the flows of drugs and immigrants go on.

Washington, DC
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 28,000 people, the government reported this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, August 5

In Ciudad Juarez, eleven people were killed in various incidents across the city. In one case, a 20-year old woman was shot dead as she walked with a 4-year old girl, who escaped unscathed. In another incident, an apparent extortionist was shot and killed after a shoot-out with security guards. Drug trafficking organizations across Mexico are also involved in extortion.

Friday, August 6

In Matamoros, at least 14 inmates were killed during a clash between rival gangs inside the prison. Troops from the Mexican army were eventually sent into the facility to restore order. It is unclear which groups participated in the fighting, but much of the recent violence in the Matamoros area been the result of fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas Organization.

Saturday, August 7

In Mexico City, thousands of journalists marched to protest the killings and disappearances of journalists due to prohibition-related violence in the country. Similar protests were planned in Sinaloa and Chihuahua. Over 60 Mexican journalists have been killed since 2000. This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists says that 10 journalists have been killed, and many face daily threats to their lives and harassment.

Sunday, August 8

In Ciudad Juarez, over 200 armed federal police officers raided the hotel where their commander, Salomon Alarcon,  was staying. After blocking off the streets to prevent his escape, they detained Alarcon at gunpoint, accusing him of having planted drugs on officers to force them to become involved in extortion plots. The officers found weapons and drugs in his hotel room. The officer was held captive until the Federal Police Commissioner General agreed to suspend him pending a full investigation into the allegations. It was later found that Alarcon was on the payroll of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Also in Ciudad Juarez, two federal police officers were shot dead as they walked in plainclothes through the center of the city at night. A large police operation was immediately launched, but no arrests or confrontations occurred.

In Palomas, Chihuahua, three severed heads were discovered in the main plaza as locals left Sunday mass. A charred SUV with the headless bodies was discovered south of the town. A note left with the bodies indicate that the victims were extortionists who were killed by a rival criminal organization. Last October, the mayor of Palomas was kidnapped and found murdered.

Monday, August 9

At a forum in Puerto Vallarta, Mexican authorities said that drug-trafficking organizations pay an estimated $100 million in bribes monthly to municipal police officials. According to Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, this estimate is based on officer perceptions and on a list of payouts to police officers that was seized during recent operations. He also said that 20% of municipal police officers make less than $79 a month, and 60% make less than $317 a month.

In Morelos, seven people were killed in prohibition-related violence. Among the dead were three men who were decapitated in the town of Ahuatepec. In Ciudad Juarez, police discovered the dismembered body of an officer.

Tuesday, August 10

In Morelos, 10-12 heavily armed men ambushed a police convoy carrying a high-profile prisoner to jail. Two officers and the prisoner were killed in the ambush. Mario Alberto Chavez Traconi, 54, was known as the King of Fraud. The ambush occurred after the police convoy was cut off by SUV's and the gunmen attacked the police officers with assault rifles.

Total Body Count for the Week: 146

Total Body Count for the Year: 6,994

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

Mexican Presidents Talk Drug Legalization

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fox_0.jpg
Vicente Fox
Last Tuesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon briefly opened the door to drug legalization, saying it was something that needed to be discussed, only to clarify in a press release hours later that he remained opposed to legalization. Now, Calderon's predecessor, former President Vicente Fox, has stepped up to call forthrightly for legalization, and just two days ago Calderon again expressed a willingness to rethink his aggressive anti-drug campaign.

The discussion comes as Mexico staggers through the fourth year of Calderon's war on the so-called drug cartels. Despite deploying nearly 50,000 soldiers and federal police in the fight, violence has only increased, with the death toll rising year after year. And the drug trade goes on, seemingly unimpeded by the campaign.

Fox's call came in a Saturday blog post in which the ex-president cited the "enormous cost" of fighting organized crime, beginning with the more than 28,000 people the government admitted last week had been killed in prohibition-related violence since Calderon came to power in December 2006. He also cited the cost of corruption among law enforcement and public officials, the loss of tourism, and the threat to foreign investment.

Felipe Calderon attending security conference
"We should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs," wrote Fox, like Calderon, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). "Radical prohibition strategies have never worked. Legalizing in this sense does not mean drugs are good and don't harm those who consume them," he wrote. "Rather we should look at it as a strategy to strike at and break the economic structure that allows gangs to generate huge profits in their trade, which feeds corruption and increases their areas of power."

Fox also called for the "rapid return of the national army to its bases," saying it was "neither conceived for nor is prepared for police work." The military's role in Calderon's campaign has tarnished its image and led to "more and more" human rights violations, he added. The military's role should be taken over by a new national police force and there should be direct election of police chiefs and high commanders, Fox wrote.

On Tuesday, Calderon underwent his second session of talks on the drug war that he began last week, this time mostly with opposition legislators. Calderon wasn't ready to jump on Fox's legalization bandwagon, claiming that it would lead to increased drug use and wouldn't reduce drug traffickers' income. But he did signal an increasing awareness of the disastrous impact of his policies. "I know that the strategy has been questioned, and my administration is more than willing to revise, strengthen or change it if needed," Calderon said at the meeting. "What I ask, simply, is for clear ideas and precise proposals on how to improve this strategy."

Under the 70-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexican drug trafficking organizations were not so much suppressed as managed, but with the election of Fox, the modus vivendi between traffickers and the state was shattered. Midway through his term, Fox declared war on the cartels and went after their leaders. That led to intramural fighting within and among the cartels and to increased confrontations between traffickers and police, a situation that has only continued to escalate under Calderon.

Mexico

Mexican Prison Doubles as a Hotel for Cartel Hit Men

Location: 
Mexico
Mexico's prisons are infested with internal crime, drug use, bad treatment and corruption. At some prisons, inmates are allowed to leave, provided with weapons, and loaned police vehicles to carry out their dirty work. Essentially, they use the prison itself as a safe house.
Publication/Source: 
MexiData.info (CA)
URL: 
http://www.mexidata.info/id2758.html

Mexican journalists seek more protection

Location: 
Mexico
Thousands of Mexican journalists demonstrated during the weekend as part of protests across Mexico asking authorities to do more to safeguard members of the news media from drug prohibition-fueled violence. Aggression against journalists has increased from both law enforcement agents and drug trafficking organizations.
Publication/Source: 
El Paso Times (TX)
URL: 
http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_15713608?source=most_emailed

Ex-Mexico President Calls for Legalizing Drugs

Location: 
Mexico
It looks like the Mexicans are finally understanding the folly of drug prohibition. Last week, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon agreed to open the door to discussions about the legalization of drugs. Now, Mexico's former president, Vicente Fox, is joining with those urging Calderon to legalize drugs in Mexico, saying that legalization could break the economic power of the country's brutal drug trafficking organizations.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gMi5B2USfJStXxfqgWWr2xjRYpOgD9HFMD5O0

2012 Mexican Elections May Yield New Approach To Drug Cartels

Location: 
Mexico
From the 1960s through the ’80s, organized crime was intertwined with the government, according to Diego Enrique Osorno, a Mexican journalist and author of the recently published history, The Sinaloa Cartel. Whoever wins the 2012 elections is expected to take a new approach toward the cartels. Many voters may hope for a return to the days when the PRI let organized crime run drugs unfettered up to the U.S. border, but kept the violence off the streets.
Publication/Source: 
National Public Radio (DC)
URL: 
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129009629

Calderon: Mexico drug gangs seeking to replace state

Location: 
Mexico
Drug prohibition can even lead to governments being overthrown. Mexican President Felipe Calderon has warned that drug gangs are seeking to replace the state and impose their own law in parts of the country. The gangs were imposing fees like taxes in areas they dominated and trying to impose their own laws by force of arms, said Calderon.
Publication/Source: 
BBC News (UK)
URL: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10877156

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 28,000 people, the government reported this week. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

better late than never: Pres. Calderon now supports discussing legalization
Thursday, July 29

In Guadalajara, police killed one of the highest-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel. Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, 56, was the third-highest ranking member of the cartel, only behind cartel bosses "El Chapo" Guzman and "El Mayo" Zambada. Coronel was killed after resisting an army raid on his lavish Guadalajara home. A bodyguard was captured. Over $7 million in cash was discovered inside the residence, as well as large quantities of jewelry and weapons. Coronel was known as the "King of Ice" for his multi-million dollar methamphetamine business.

Saturday, July 31

In Coahuila, policemen rescued two journalists who had been kidnapped on Monday. A third reporter had been released by his kidnappers Thursday, and a fourth was released under unclear circumstances. The men had apparently been kidnapped by drug traffickers in an attempt to have Mexican media broadcast their messages to the Mexican public. The men had been kidnapped after covering the arrest last week of a prison director accused of letting out prisoners at night to commit killings. About 30 reporters have been killed in Mexico since 2006.

In Ciudad Juarez, 15 people were killed in different parts of the city, bringing the city's death toll for July to 291. This makes July the second deadliest month the city has had so far in 2010, only behind June's total of 313. As of August 1, there have been 1,701 murders in Ciudad Juarez this year.

Sunday, August 1

In Ciudad Juarez, a riot took place during visiting hours at the city's main prison. The clashes began when members of the Aztecas gang took 12 guards hostage and attacked members of their main rival, the AA (Artist Assassin) gang. The Aztecas are allied to the Juarez Cartel, and the AA fight for the Sinaloa Cartel. Two men were killed in the clashes. Some 150 visitors,including women and children, were present at the facility when the incident took place.

Tuesday, August 3

In Mexico City, Mexico's intelligence chief acknowledged that the death toll from drug-related violence is far higher than previously reported. Guillermo Valdes Castellanos, the head of the National Security and Investigation Center (CISEN) now estimates that just over 28,000 people have been killed since President Calderon took office. Last month, the office of Mexico's Attorney General estimated that some 25,000 had been killed.

Also in Mexico City, President Calderon said he was open to debate on the legalization  of drugs. Calderon went on to say that Mexican policy would likely be driven by California's decision on marijuana legalization, which is due to take place later this year.

Wednesday, August 4

In Ciudad Juarez, two police officers and two civilians were wounded after a group of armed men attacked the Continental Hotel, which houses many federal police officers. Additionally, a painted message from the Juarez Cartel threatened the lives of federal police officers.

Also in Ciudad Juarez, a bomb was discovered on one of the four international bridges connecting the city and El Paso. The bridge was closed for two hours, as were several main streets in the area, leading to massive traffic jams. Mexican police and security forces arrived and detonated the bomb. Many Juarez residents fear further bombings such as the one which killed four people on July 15.

Total Body Count for the Week: 177

Total Body Count for the Year: 6,848

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

Amid Mexico's Drug War, A Rush For Bulletproof Cars

Location: 
Mexico
Drug prohibition violence usually tends to negatively affect business, but that's not the case with businesses involving bulletproofing cars. Fourteen armoring companies are certified by Mexico's federal government, and business is getting better by the day.
Publication/Source: 
National Public Radio (DC)
URL: 
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128959610

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