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

Planned surge of federal resources aims to stem flow of cash, guns to Mexico.

ByABC News
March 23, 2009, 4:04 PM

March 24, 2009— -- The Obama administration has unveiled a plan to help the Mexican government confront the powerful drug cartels that operate in that country and spread violence across the border into the United States.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Deputy Attorney General David Ogden laid out details of what the White House calls a "comprehensive response to the situation along the border with Mexico."

"Department of Justice stands ready to take the fight to the Mexican drug cartels," Ogden said in a White House briefing with reporters.

Noting President Obama's concern about the "increased level of violence," particularly in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, the White House also said that the United States will invest $700 million for collaborative efforts with Mexican law enforcement and the judicial system, and that the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Treasury Department "are all ramping up personnel and efforts directed at the Southwest border."

Additionally, the administration plan calls for a renewed commitment "to reduce the demand for illegal drugs here at home."

Napolitano described the goal as twofold: First, to help the Mexican government break up the drug cartels. "They are heavily armed and they are using terrorist tactics," she said in an interview with ABC News. Second, to contain the violence. "We don't want those terrorist tactics spilling over into the U.S," she said.

The plan includes a surge of federal agents, who will focus on stemming the flow of firearms and millions of dollars into Mexico.

The long-range goal of the operation is to try to reduce the firepower of the cartels, whose members often have better weaponry than Mexican authorities. If U.S. authorities can capture more of the proceeds of the Mexican drug trade heading south into Mexico, the sources said, the administration believes it will have a crippling effect over time.

As part of the effort, Homeland Security will double the number of personnel on its Border Enforcement Security Task Forces from 90 to 180, triple the number of intelligence analysts working along the border, and increase attache staff in Mexico to assist with legal matters.

Other sectors of Homeland Security and several other departments and agencies, such as the Justice Department, Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI are stepping up their efforts to stem the violence and trafficking issues.

Napolitano will be meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry later this week, and traveling with Attorney General Eric Holder to Mexico next week. She said she and the governor will discuss the possibility of deploying National Guard troops along with Texas-Mexico border.

When asked about the ongoing building of the border wall, the secretary said construction on portions that have already been funded will continue. But "if you've ever worked on these cartel cases, as I have as a prosecutor, you know that a wall is not the best way to spend our dollars to prevent these drugs from coming into the United States and to be able to apprehend and prosecute the smugglers themselves," she said.