It is good to see Mexico and the United States working together to battle the drug cartels that deliver hundreds of tons of illegal drugs to American consumers every year, killing more than 2,000 Mexicans annually along the way. Still, the Bush administration’s proposed $1.4 billion counternarcotics aid package falls far short of what is needed to confront the problem.
If Washington is serious about stopping the northward flow of cocaine, heroin and other drugs, it must begin an aggressive campaign to stop the southward flow of money and high-powered weapons that finance and arm the cartels. And there must be a far more serious effort to curb Americans’ use of illicit drugs.
Federal financing for drug prevention and treatment programs has been steadily declining since 2005. Yet so long as there is demand, the narcotics will always find a route, through Mexico or some other way.
There is not a lot of talk these days about the war on drugs, but the traffickers are more than holding their own. The National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that Andean cocaine arriving in Mexico for transshipment north jumped from 220 tons in 2000 to 380 tons in 2006. Mexican heroin production for the United States market went from 9 to 19 tons in the same time. In Mexico, defeat is measured in bodies: more than 2,000 last year and 1,100 in the first six months of 2007, including drug dealers, police officers, journalists and bystanders.
For the first time, Mexico is seriously turning to the United States for help, and Washington is eager to respond. Even then, the proposed aid package — starting with $500 million to help train and equip Mexican law enforcement tucked into the White House’s request for the Iraq war — looks shockingly inadequate when compared with what the drug dealers have at their command.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, between $8 billion and $23 billion in proceeds from the drug trade flowed illegally across the border into Mexico in 2005. The cartels have used that enormous financial clout to corrupt Mexican law enforcement on an unparalleled scale. The traffickers’ firepower — likened to what American soldiers face in Afghanistan and Iraq — also eclipses the puny arsenal of Mexico’s police forces. Mexican officials estimate that 90 percent of the guns they confiscate are smuggled in from the United States.The good news is that Mexico and the United States finally recognize that they are on the same side in this battle. It is a vast improvement over Washington’s perennial finger-wagging. Mexico’s resolve to take on drug trafficking, rather than dismissing it as an unsolvable problem, is also welcome. But it is only a start
NY TIMES OPINION