Borderland Democrats weigh next steps in battling Mexican drug violence

The national debate over immigration reform has heated up over the last weeks, as has debate over borderland security– underlined here in Colorado over the last two weeks by former Congressman and anti-illegal alien hawk Tom Tancredo, who visited the Arizona border the same March weekend a rancher was reportedly murdered by smugglers, a tragedy that brought national attention to degrading conditions there. Debate will include discussion on the future of U.S.-Mexico relations in fighting drug cartel violence, which has plagued Mexico in the last year and has ratcheted up violence in the regions where illegal immigrants seek entry to the States.

The Houston Chronicle reports that next week, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on border affairs, will meet with State Department officials to discuss the expansion of the Merida Initiative, a program that helps Mexico with equipment and training. He is also planning a subcommittee hearing to decide the best way to send military equipment to Mexico, fast-track training initiatives and cooperate with the Mexican military and law enforcement to fight cartel violence.

Cuellar’s planned meetings come after lawmakers met with Mexican president Felipe Calderon earlier this week. Cuellar and Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), who met Calderon in Mexico City, said yesterday they will attempt to expedite aid, including helicopters and other equipment, to the Mexican government to help them fight drug cartel violence. Reyes said Obama and Calderón have been working to develop a “next phase” of assistance, since the government’s Merida Initiative, a program that helps Mexico with equipment and training, is in its last year.

The kind of violence they intend to mitigate? The kind happening throughout Cuidad Juarez. Since U.S. authorities now believe Juarez’s trafficking routes are controlled by Mexico’s most powerful cartel leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman of the Sinaloa cartel, drug traffickers could become more powerful now than ever, and violence could get worse.

From Cuellar’s press release:

“The consensus between the United States and Mexico is that we need a forward-thinking strategy built on more interoperability between our law enforcement and more direct investments in stabilizing local Mexican communities,” said Congressman Cuellar. “President Calderon said we’ll begin to see a similar initiative unfold in Ciudad Juarez that is centered on strengthening rule of law and expanding investments in social and economic infrastructure”…

Moving forward, Congressmen Cuellar, Reyes and Pastor will continue to make recommendations to Congress regarding Mexico and the Mérida Initiative program, in addition to matters related to ongoing southern border security.

These border lawmakers seem intent on taking steps to mitigate Mexico’s drug war. And not a moment too soon: According to StopTheDrugWar.org, the total body count since Calderon took office in 2006 is 19,032; this year alone, 2,721 have been killed.

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Julissa Trevino

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