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Jose de la Isla: Drugs and border violence are also American issues

Posted: March 4, 2009 10:10 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Mexico’s biggest national security problem stems from its fight with drug cartels. Its domestic body count of nearly 6,000 people last year sounded the alarm. Prominently listed among the grizzly assassinations were gangsters, police, journalists, members of the military and government officials, plus a multitude of collateral victims.

Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, argues the current violence is a counter to the squeeze government puts on the drug cartels.

The criminals are murdering each other over trade routes. The head of Mexico’s national defense commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Jorge Gonzalez Betancourt, says his country wants the United States to share more information, stop arms trading, control money laundering and curtail consumer demand for drugs if his country is to gain the upper hand in the fight.

These expressions follow a U.S. State Department warning about travel in Mexico. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called on the Department of Homeland Security to send 1,000 troops to the Mexican border.

“I don’t care whether they are military troops, or National Guard troops or whether they are customs agents,” Perry said.

His concern is that Mexico’s drug war may be spilling into U.S. territory. Some of the worry comes from a Homeland Security report that six drug cartel-related kidnappings occurred in El Paso, Texas, across the border from Ciudad Juarez where the infamous Sinaloa Cartel is fighting to maintain its franchise to supply this country.

The only problem is that when reporter David Crowder checked, the El Paso police had no record of any such kidnappings, except possibly one.

Another story circulating has it that Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz moved his family to El Paso. It’s true the mayor owns a house in El Paso. So did the previous Juarez mayor.

Bad is bad enough without embellishments, and hysteria isn’t a good way to cope with the matter. Our own officials need to get a grip. Wasn’t it this kind of mentality that got us into, say, the Iraq debacle?

Some of the justification for our shimmies comes from a U.S. military preparedness report that included a “worst case” scenario on what could occur if Mexico’s or Pakistan’s governments failed and either or both became a “failed state.”

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, from Texas, said drug-related violence is turning some communities there back into “the Wild West.” And Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut is calling for hearings later this month on border violence.

A better reason for hearings would be to address the recommendations in a November 2008 Brookings Institution report. Its study group, headed by former Mexico president Ernesto Zedillo and former U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, asked us to ratify the United Nations’ protocol against the illicit manufacture and trafficking in firearms, gun parts and ammunition.

If we want to get hysterical over Mexico’s violence, we should crack down on the gunrunning, originating with us, that is abetting the gangsters next door.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. He can be contacted at His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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