U.S., Mexico Unite to Fight Drug- and Gun-Smugglers

April 3, 2009 - 5:37 AM
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Cuernavaca, Mexico (AP) - The U.S. and Mexico agree on the need to stop the illegal flow of guns and drugs between the two countries, but the question is how to do that.
 
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were meeting Friday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and other top Mexican officials to develop strategies for dealing with those critical problems. The threat of cartel violence is forcing a new approach to border concerns.
 
After a conference with U.S. officials Thursday, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora said more meetings are needed to develop plans to bring warring drug cartels under control along the border.
 
Mexico plans to begin checking 10 percent of the vehicles entering the country from the U.S. for illegal weapons and will more closely check outgoing vehicles for drugs and money, Medina-Mora said. The new vehicle-inspection measures were part of Mexico's overall $1.4 billion modernization of border customs and crossing points, he said. The first such vehicle checks are already being carried out in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.
 
There have been about 1,600 drug-related killings in Mexico in the first three months of this year, about 25 percent less than during the last three months of 2008, Mexican officials say. The government says violence has decreased in border cities like Ciudad Juarez after thousands of additional army troops were sent there earlier this year.
 
Napolitano said that, besides beefing up border inspections north of the border, "we have to do more to reduce demand for drugs." Napolitano and Holder met privately Thursday for several hours with Medina-Mora and Mexican Interior Minister Fernando Gomez-Mont and Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.
 
The officials reached an agreement that might be signed when President Barack Obama visits Calderon later this month.
 
"We want to take advantage of this moment in time," Napolitano said, referring to the elevated concern on both sides of the border about drug-related killings and kidnappings blamed on the cartels.
 
Medina-Mora said one point still in negotiation is how to ensure prosecution of anyone violating gun laws, whether they are arrested in Mexico or the United States. In addition, he said, the two countries will create a shared ballistics database to track weapons used in crimes. Holder said the U.S. is not seeking to change any of its gun laws as part of the effort to curb weapons smuggling.
 
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Associated Press writer E. Eduardo Castillo contributed to this report.