Grijalva, Giffords praise border steps
PHOENIX (AP) — Two members of Arizona’s congressional delegation are pleased with steps the Obama administration is taking in protecting areas along the border against warring drug cartels.
The United States announced Tuesday that it is undertaking a series of new security measures to fortify the border against drug-related bloodshed while blocking weapons and bulk amounts of cash heading south.
“These are important actions of support for the fight that President Felipe Calderon’s government is carrying out,” Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said.
It’s a move that could lead to a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico.
“Mexico is a very proud country. They protect their sovereignty, so for them to ask us for support to fight this violence means a lot,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. “We should treat that request as an opportunity to take it even further.”
The United States has ordered the redeployment of more than 360 officers and agents from multiple agencies to the border.
Before leaving for Mexico Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Tuesday with Grijalva and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., as part of a group of lawmakers from border districts.
Clinton was to meet this week with Mexican officials regarding spiraling drug violence and fears of greater cross-border spillover.
The Obama administration views Mexico as a “strategic partner” as well as a “historic neighbor,” Grijalva said.
Grijalva said Clinton assured lawmakers that “the long-term issue is to reconnect and redefine our relationship with the country of Mexico, our neighbor, and begin working with that country in order to deal with economic-development issues, health issues, education issues, so that Mexico can sustain its own people and its own work force.”
Grijalva and Giffords agreed that a strategic partnership is needed to confront the devastating violence that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said includes more than 500 assassinations of law-enforcement personnel and other public officials.
“The money flows south and the guns are flowing south and the drugs flow north because of the big demand that we have,” Giffords said. “Ninety percent of the weapons seized from Mexican organized crime comes from the United States.”
Still, skeptics doubt the U.S. will do much to crackdown on its side of the border.
“To say (U.S. authorities) do little is being generous, because they do nothing,” said Armando Alarcon, director of a crime-policy think tank called the Security and Civic Life Observatory at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez.
“And on the Mexican side they inspect at random, so it’s not very strict. So the guns just flow across,” Alarcon said.