U.S. to Step Up Mexico Anti-Drug Cartel Efforts

Mexico Drug Wars: Murders, Cocaine, Marijuana and Meth

The government's allocation of $700 million comes under the Merida Initiative, the United States' partnership with Mexico and other nations in Central America and the Caribbean to boost efforts against criminal organizations.

The money will help fund increased border security efforts by Mexican authorities, inspection technology, training, five helicopters, information technology and support for Mexico's legal system, including stepped-up efforts "to strengthen observance of human rights by judicial authorities and police," as well as the establishment of witness and victim protection programs, according to a White House news release.

The Mexican cartels have been expanding their presence in the United States, and now have drug dealing cells and affiliates operating in at least 200 communities in this country, according to law enforcement sources. The criminal organizations are believed to be responsible for kidnappings and murders within the United States in addition to extraordinary carnage in Mexico.

In addition to dispatching agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there is a possibility that the National Guard could help with the operations if the situation worsens, but it is unclear if that step will be needed.

Members of President Obama's Cabinet have had Mexico on their agenda recently, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scheduled to head south of the border Wednesday and Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement last month that the U.S. arrested hundreds of members of a cartel operating in the United States.

Clinton's itinerary includes stops in Mexico City and Monterrey to discuss the Merida Initiative.

The governments have their work cut out for them.

Last week, State Department officials testified about the initiative on Capitol Hill, noting that estimates put drug-related murders in Mexico at as many as 6,200 in 2008.

Additionally, an estimated 90 percent of cocaine trafficked in the United States makes its way through Mexico first. The country is also said to be a major supplier of both marijuana and methamphetamine.

Mexican Cartels Engaged in "Increasingly Violent Conflict'

The State Department has warned of the violent situations throughout Mexico, cautioning U.S. citizens living in and traveling to that country to be vigilant.

"Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an increasingly violent conflict -- both among themselves and with Mexican security services -- for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border," the current alert says.

Kidnappings, daytime shootouts in public places and a "fluid" situation in northern Mexico have all contributed to the heightened security situation there, the warning states.

Holder, appearing at the Justice Department Feb. 25 with acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, vowed that cartels "will be destroyed."

Holder and Leonhart announced the results of a DEA operation that targeted the Sinaloa cartel, including arrests of more than 750 suspected members across the United States and seizure of more than 23 tons of narcotics in less than two years.

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