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Obama to beef up Mexico border policy
The Obama administration announced a major increase in security funding and the deployment of U.S.-Mexico border agents Tuesday as part of a comprehensive new plan to beef up resources at the Mexican border.
The plan commits $700 million to bolster Mexican law enforcement and crime prevention efforts. The funds will provide, among other things, five new helicopters to increase mobility for the Mexican army and air force as well as new surveillance aircraft for the Mexican navy.
The initiative is designed to help with Mexico's accelerating war against violent drug cartels.
The plan, developed by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, calls for doubling the number of border security task force teams as well as moving a significant number of other federal agents, equipment and resources to the border.
It also involves greater intelligence sharing aimed at cracking down on the flow of money and weapons into Mexico, which helps fuel the drug trade, the officials said.
"The president is concerned by the increased level of violence, particularly in [the border cities of] Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and the impact that it is having on the communities on both sides of the border," the White House press office said in a statement.
"He believes that the United States must continue to monitor the situation and guard against spillover into the United States. [He] is firmly committed to ensuring our borders are secure, and we are doing all we can to reduce illegal flows in both directions across the border."
The plan also will fund enhanced communications technology for Mexican prosecutors, law enforcement and immigration officials.
The funds, meant to assist what administration officials described as an "anti-smuggling effort," will complement ongoing U.S. aid to Mexico under the Merida initiative, a three-year $1.4 billion package aimed at helping Mexico fight the drug cartels with law enforcement training, military equipment and improved intelligence cooperation.
The administration also is looking to increase intelligence cooperation on the border with Mexican authorities, tighten enforcement of existing U.S. executive orders to go after drug trafficking money and money laundering and step up investigation and prosecution of cartel-related activities in the United States, the officials said.
To help strengthen the U.S. side of the border, the administration also plans to triple the number of Department of Homeland Security intelligence analysts dedicated to stopping Mexican-related violence. It also will increase the number of immigration officials working in Mexico, double the number of "Violent Criminal Alien" teams on the border, strengthen the presence of border canine units and quadruple the number of border liaison officers working with Mexican law enforcement.
It also will make an additional $59 million in federal funds available to support state, local and tribal border law enforcement operations.
At the same time, more agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives will be deployed to the border region. The agents will be given updated equipment and surveillance technology to help track the movement of cash, drugs and weapons.
"We are discussing more things we can do to address the very real problem of currency and weapons moving into Mexico and at the same time trying to prevent potential border spillover," one senior administration official said.
The plan is scheduled to be announced at the White House by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and U.S. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.
The announcement comes shortly ahead of a planned visit of three Cabinet secretaries to Mexico before President Obama visits there next month. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Mexico City this week, to be followed next week by Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been pushing back against U.S. criticism of drug cartel-related violence, which killed about 6,500 people in Mexico last year. In speeches and other recent comments, Calderon has said the United States also must take responsibility because much of the demand for drugs and most of the weapons used by narcotraffickers come from the United States.
"Mexico believes we are not acknowledging the transitional nature of the problem and the role the U.S. is playing in this," another senior administration official said. "So we are looking at what U.S. law enforcement agencies can do to respond to the Mexican concerns."