Ahead of U.S. Vote, Mexico Unveils New War on Drug

Ahead of U.S. Vote, Mexico Unveils New War on Drug
Posted by FoM on February 05, 1999 at 10:57:28 PT

MEXICO CITYThe government Thursday unveiled a high-tech strategy to wage "a total war against drug trafficking," including new satellite surveillance, X-ray detection systems and high-speed navy patrol boats. 
   Interior Secretary Francisco Labastida Ochoa, a likely presidential candidate who is responsible for domestic security, said key government departments had spent 10 months developing the plan to fight the drug scourge, which he said "constitutes the gravest threat to our national security."   The announcement came just weeks before the March 1 deadline when President Clinton must inform Congress whether Mexico and 27 other countries have fully cooperated in the war on drugs. Getting a failing grade on the certification scorecard could lead to financial sanctions, and at the very least would cause a major diplomatic firestorm between the United States and Mexico after a year of already strained relations over drug-related disputes.   Labastida joined Defense Secretary Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aguirre in disclosing the new strategy, highlighting the growing role of the Mexican military in the anti-drug campaign. Officials showed off some of the new equipment, including a 10-ton truck with a hydraulic X-ray arm that can detect drugs or weapons in any vehicle.   Atty. Gen. Jorge Madrazo Cuellar said five of the trucks will be installed at critical points on Mexico's southern border with Guatemala as well as at Nuevo Laredo and Mexicali on the U.S. border. Eight more rigs will be added during the year, he said, along with smaller X-ray machines that reveal hidden weapons and drugs stashed in clothing and body cavities.   In all, the program calls for spending up to $500 million in the next three years.   Madrazo, who has daily control of the drug war, said Mexico ranks first worldwide in eradication of illicit crops, especially marijuana and poppies. He said 44,730 people had been arrested in Mexico on drug charges since December 1994, when President Ernesto Zedillo took office.   Madrazo also said the anti-drug police will add 24 helicopters to the eradication program, bringing the fleet to 64, with greater reliance on satellites to detect illegal crops.   Labastida said the strategy includes greater emphasis on intercepting cocaine and other drugs heading into Mexico from the south, denying South American traffickers a key transit route for cocaine into the United States.   The program relies heavily on cutting-edge technology, which the secretary of the navy, Adm. Jose Ramon Lorenzo Franco, said is essential since the traffickers are diversifying their routes and using high-tech tools themselves.   In response, Lorenzo said, the navy is building eight gunships equipped with helicopters and high-speed boats to combat the increasing use of quick coastal drops on the Caribbean coast.   After their presentations, the officials declined to answer questions. It was not clear whether any U.S. or other foreign assistance is supporting the new strategy, as has been the case in previous Mexican anti-drug programs, such as a year-old money-laundering initiative.   Repeated incidents of high-level corruption, including the arrest of the country's previous anti-drug czar on trafficking charges and allegations of military involvement in drugs, have prompted angry complaints by some U.S. politicians that Mexico is not doing enough to fight drug trafficking. 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: