Editorials | June 2008
|Officials Must Save Plan to Aid Mexico|
San Antonio Express-News
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When it comes to the Mexican drug wars, the United States is making the right move but sending the wrong message.
Congress is considering a massive funding bill to help its neighbor combat the drug cartels — right move. But Congress is also considering linking the support to human rights reforms in Mexico. And that is the wrong message, at least at this time.
Mexico is a country in stress, and its own corrupt system, both politically and judicially, has exacerbated the drug problem for decades. There is no disputing that. But Mexican officials feel the U.S. is trying to strong-arm them, and while our lawmakers should be lauded for pushing reform, they should not do so at the expense of this desperately needed measure, known as the Merida Initiative.
Yet that is precisely what they are in danger of doing. Mexican officials, upset with what they consider the arrogant tone of U.S. politicians, have said they would not accept the assistance if the reform language is linked to the funding. That would be a tragedy — for both countries.
“Since when is it bad policy, or an infringement of anything, to insist that American taxpayer dollars not be given to corrupt, abusive police or military forces in a country whose justice system has serious flaws and rarely punishes official misconduct?’’ Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a recent statement, according to Bloomberg News.
The answer is when that insistence trumps the best interests of both countries. Mexico is a flawed democracy, but President Felipe Calderón is waging the drug war on two fronts — against the cartels and the corrupt law enforcement officials. This is not the time to stall that noble effort.
Calderón inherited the problem; he did not create it. And he does not need lectures on how to run his country. He needs help in dealing with a crisis that affects both nations; almost 400 people died in drug-related executions during May, including seven federal agents who were gunned down in Culiacan, according to the Mexico City daily, El Universal.
In Juárez, the violence has become so rampant that federal officials are trying to calm the fears of residents in El Paso, the sister city on the U.S. side. Four Juarez police officials were killed last week, the El Paso Times reported.
The newspaper also reported that drug smugglers are using children as cover, some as young as 7 years old, because border officials are less likely to stop vehicles with youngsters.
“What is needed mostly is resources, equipment and personnel, and it would be disastrous for the border states if the commitment to Plan Merida were diminished,” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson told the Associated Press.
Cooperation is the key. Mexico must overcome its defensiveness, and the United States must try a diplomatic approach. U.S. lawmakers should recommend human rights reforms, rather than try to embarrass an administration that is clearly trying to do the right thing.
The House recently passed the bill to aid Mexico in its battle against the drug cartels — $1.6 billion over three years — without the offending language. The Senate will consider the legislation this week, and when the bodies meet to resolve the differences between the bills, they must address the controversial human rights language. If not, the Merida Initiative could implode due to political grandstanding.
And the only winners will be the cartels.