Homeland Security to Send Agents to Mexico Border

MEXICO CITY (AP) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano's announcement Tuesday that nearly 500 agents and
support personnel will be sent to the U.S.-Mexico border would once
have drawn criticism in Mexico.

But on the eve of Wednesday's visit by Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, Mexico's top diplomat was full of praise for the
measures.

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa described
what she called "a new era of cooperation" between the two
countries.

"These are really important actions to support the frontal
battle that this administration is carrying out," Espinosa said,
noting the U.S. government has said it is open to discussing the
measures with Mexican officials.

Mexico has been publicly pressing the United States to do more
to stop the flow of U.S. weapons south. The State Department says
weapons originating in the U.S. were used in 95 percent of all
drug-related killings, and the Mexican government says more than
9,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon took office
on Dec. 1 and launched a national crackdown on cartels.

Mexico's former top anti-drug prosecutor, Samuel Gonzalez, said
"the signal here from what Secretary Napolitano said is that this
is no longer simply a diplomatic or foreign relations issue for
them. It is a matter of U.S. national security."

Mexico once would have bristled at the prospect of the U.S.
government sending more agents to the border, especially National
Guard units, a possibility that Napolitano said is under
discussion.

Mexico opposed the deployment of National Guard units to border
states in 2006, mostly because the measure was viewed as a
crackdown on undocumented migrants.

This time, border security measures include 100 more agents from
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and
increasing the inspection of rail cargo heading from the U.S. into
Mexico to detect weapons being smuggled into Mexico.

Mexico has been lobbying for such action for years.

"It's perfect. It's good that there is an attack on all
fronts" against the cartels, Gonzalez said.

In part, the change is because cartel violence has increased on
both sides of the border while immigration has declined amid extra
border security and the faltering U.S. economy. President Barack
Obama has also shown a willingness to push for immigration reform.

"On the immigration issue, we have seen in recent weeks under
the new U.S. administration a constructive attitude and a clear
willingness to seek a long-term solution," Espinosa said.

While immigration will clearly be brought up during Clinton's
visit, Espinosa said "the issue of security is naturally one of
the most relevant on the bilateral agenda."

The praise for the U.S. efforts is not unanimous. Carlos
Montemayor, an author who writes about national security issues,
said that "from a Mexican perspective, the U.S. participation
isn't consistent, and has some contradictions."

He said the United States appears to focus more on stopping
drugs from getting across the border into the United States, and
not enough on catching the money launderers or American traffickers
who operate north of the border.

Gonzalez said that, more than just agents or police, the most
valuable U.S. contribution was the decision to increase the FBI's
intelligence and analysis work on Mexican drug cartel crime.

"It is like the measures that were needed to break up the mafia
in the United States, intelligence work," Gonzalez noted. "It is
not just a military approach, which is not going to get you
anywhere."

He noted that Mexico's cartels have morphed into such
diversified criminal syndicates - with sidelines in extortion,
kidnapping, pirated goods and human trafficking - that what is
needed is true cross-border intelligence to stop that trend.


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