Mexico: Calderon appeals for more Drug War aid; Chiapas in crosshairs

In his first published interview with the foreign press since he became Mexico’s president last month, Felipe Calderon told the Financial Times: “The United States is jointly responsible for what is happening to us… [I]n that joint responsibility the U.S. government has a lot of work to do. We cannot confront this problem alone.”

Since taking office, Calderon has deployed thousands of army troops to several states across the country to combat the illicit drug trade. Early this month he even appeared in battle fatigues during a visit to one of the army’s counter-narcotics operations (in Michoacan). “I was very concerned about the growth of drug-related violence and the existence of criminal groups trying to take over control of entire regions,” said Calderon.

Calderon did not explicitly say how much the US should contribute to his efforts but he said the cost would be “perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars or even billions.” According to the US Embassy in Mexico City, last year Washington gave Mexico $37 million to fight narcotrafficking.

Broaching military and intelligence cooperation with the US, Calderon acknowledged how sensitive the issue is in his country. “It is a very controversial topic among Mexicans and one has to tread with caution.”

But he added: “We have to work out a mechanism that implies that, without giving up or ceding an inch of Mexican sovereignty, we have the understanding and the collaboration of intelligence and sufficient resources from the country that, at the end of the day, is a fundamental cause of the problem.” (El Universal, Jan. 19)

Meanwhile, Chiapas state Prosecutor General Mariano Herran Salvatti announced a new joint effort with federal forces to “cleanse” the zone along the Guatemalan border of criminal gangs and drug traffickers. Hundreds of federal army troops and officers from such federal agencies as the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), the National Immigration Institute (INM), the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) and various state police forces are said to be involved in the operations. (APRO, Jan. 17)

Sources archived at Chiapas95

See our last posts on Mexico and Chiapas, Calderon’s pledges to target Chiapas and crack down on “terrorism”, and the struggle in Michoacan.