Mexico drug violence intensifies
A spike in violence between rival drug gangs and police has exacerbated concern about security – and may lead to questions about a key US aid package.
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Although the United States has spent hundreds of million of dollars since 2000 trying to stem the flow of illegal narcotics, only a small percentage of those narcotics are seized every year. Violence meanwhile has skyrocketed, an editorial in the Arizona Central newspaper contends.Skip to next paragraph
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Since 2000, the United States has provided $397 million to help Mexico fight drugs, according to a Government Accountability Office report dated August 2007. The GAO estimates that an average of 275 metric tons of cocaine has arrived in Mexico every year since 2000 for transshipment to the United States. Only about 36 metric tons per year is seized.
Nearly 19 metric tons of what the GAO calls "export quality" heroin is produced in Mexico each year, but less than 1 metric ton is seized. A whopping 9,400 metric tons of export-quality marijuana is produced in Mexico each year, with only about 2,700 metric tons seized each year.
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006 and began going after the cartels, 4,152 people have died in drug-related violence, including 450 police, prosecutors and soldiers.
The explosion in Mexico's violence has prompted the Bush administration to push Congress to approve a $1.4 billion aid package for Mexico, the Associated Press reports.
President George W. Bush has used a wave of violence in Mexico to push for Congressional approval of the first US$500 million installment of the multiyear aid proposal.
But the U.S. Senate approved only US$450 million for the plan, and the House US$461.5 million. The two chambers must agree on a final version before sending it back to Bush for approval.
The Merida Initiative would provide helicopters, planes, computer systems and police dogs. But the Congressional versions would impose several conditions on the aid, including guarantees of civilian investigations into human rights abuses by the Mexican military."
The conditions stem from concerns over corruption, as The Washington Post editorial points out.
"But there's substantial congressional skepticism about aid that could flow to the notoriously unaccountable, often corrupt, Mexican military and police forces. And then the tough, basic question: Realistically, how much could U.S. aid of roughly $500 million a year do to stem the gargantuan illegal drug trade that now flows across the Mexican border — about $23 billion a year by U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates?