Antidrug Strides in Mexico

Mexico's antidrug forces, once scorned as corrupt and ineffective, have had a string of successes that could make them the envy of their US counterparts.

Major drug kingpins have either been eliminated or captured, and officials have seized massive quantities of cocaine and other substances. The US antidrug chief, John Walters, has gone so far as to say, "They are ahead of us in attacking this problem."

Considering the persistent nature of the problem, however, such statements may be a bit hyperbolic. Experts worry that the breakup of major Mexican cartels, like Tijuana's Arellano Félix gang, will cause a decentralization of narcotics trafficking into smaller units.

That could present law enforcement with a new set of challenges. But the brightest side of these developments is the evidence that Mexican law enforcement may finally be ready to meet such challenges.

Under President Vicente Fox, there have been strong thrusts against police corruption, often linked to the drug trade.

US officials acknowledge the progress, noting they can now work closely with Mexican officers without worrying that shared intelligence will end up on a drug lord's desk. The US has already assured Mexico it will be "certified" this year as an active partner in the war against narcotics.

Indeed, the hope on both sides of the border should be that the increasingly effective antidrug cooperation will grow to the point where the certification process, with its threat of economic sanctions, can be dispensed with. It has been an unnecessary irritant in US-Latin American relations.

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