CUERNAVACA, Mexico (AP) - The U.S. and Mexico are creating a
cross-border group to develop strategies for stopping the illegal
flow of guns and drugs between the two countries, officials said
Emerging from a conference with U.S. officials, Mexican Attorney
General Eduardo Medina-Mora said more meetings are needed to
develop plans to bring warring drug cartels under control along the
Medina-Mora said Mexico planned to begin checking 10 percent of
the vehicles entering the country from the U.S. for illegal weapons
and will more closely check outgoing vehicles for drugs and money.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that, in
addition to beefing up border inspections north of the border, "we
have to do more to reduce demand for drugs."
Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder met privately
for several hours with Medina-Mora and Mexico's Interior Minister
Fernando Gomez-Mont and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.
The officials hammered out an agreement that might be signed
when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Mexican President Felipe
Calderon later this month.
"We want to take advantage of this moment in time," Napolitano
said, referring to the elevated concern on both sides of the border
about drug-related killings and kidnappings blamed on the cartels.
Medina-Mora said one point still in negotiation is how to ensure
prosecution of anyone violating guns laws, whether they are
arrested in Mexico or the United States. In addition, he said, the
two countries will create a shared ballistics database to track
weapons used in crimes.
Holder said the U.S. is not seeking to change any of its gun
laws as part of the effort to curb weapons smuggling.
"I don't think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of
what we have begun," he said.
Except to say that "too many weapons are flowing from the
United States and into Mexico," Holder did not have a number of
how many guns are smuggled across the border.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
recently reported that up to 95 percent of guns seized at scenes of
drug violence in Mexico can be traced to U.S. commercial sources.
Between 2005 and 2008, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents
seized 831 weapons along the southwest border.
Until recently, the U.S. did not regularly inspect southbound
vehicles, and the Mexicans didn't scan the license plates of cars
coming into the country. Facilitating legal trade, not catching gun
smugglers, was the prime directive, Mexican officials said.
The threat of cartel violence is forcing a new approach. Mexico
will begin scanning vehicles for drugs and money and using
intelligence to target the right vehicles, Medina-Mora said.
The U.S. will used border surveillance technology to track
vehicles crossing the border and flag those making frequent trips.
Additional X-ray machines and drug sniffing dogs are being deployed
at border crossings to help detect weapons shipments.
Two weeks ago Customs officials at the eight railroads between
the U.S. and Mexico began scanning rail cars on the way out of the
U.S. instead of just on their way in. When U.S. officials see
something suspicious in the X-ray, they alert Mexican law
enforcement, which intercepts the rail cars in Mexico.
It was as simple as flipping a switch, said Marko Lopez Jr.,
chief of staff for Customs and Border Protection.
Lopez, a recent addition to the new administration, said he did
not know why this wasn't being done before. "Bottom-line is that
we weren't," Lopez said. "It's a huge vulnerability."