Wednesday, May 8, 2013



Note: More on the significant development on restricting intel
U.S. tech aid has been critical in struggle against los zetas.
A very big step backwards.

Cuellar: U.S. needs role in cartel fight
Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 5:02 am
Jared Janes | The Monitor
Posted on May 3, 2013
by Jared Janes

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar wants to hear Mexico's rationale for stopping
U.S. law enforcement agencies' direct access to its strategies for
fighting drug cartels.
Mexican government officials acknowledged this week that they were
funneling all contact for U.S. law enforcement through the federal
Interior Ministry, the agency that controls security and domestic
policy. The new policy under President Enrique Peña Nieto marks a
dramatic change from his predecessor's administration, which invited
U.S. law enforcement as partners in fusion centers that integrated
Mexican military in an all-out offensive against the drug cartels.
Cuellar, D-Laredo, said he understands Mexico's desire to establish
one point of contact but wants to ensure that U.S. agencies aren't
completely shut out of the partnership.
"Mexico is still trying to figure out what they want to do about
security and they want to centralize all contact on security,"
Cuellar said Thursday during a scheduled event in the Rio Grande
Valley. "Why they don't want the U.S. in some of those fusion centers
is something I want to talk to them about. I don't know if it's a
sovereignty issue, but there's so much we can do to help them."
Mexico's changing security policy was at the forefront of a meeting
Thursday between Peña Nieto and President Barack Obama in Mexico
City. Obama and Peña Nieto downplayed the significance of the new
policy, saying the U.S. and Mexico are still cooperating to fight
drug trafficking and organized crime, even if the strategy has changed.
"I agreed to continue our close cooperation on security, even as the
nature of that cooperation will evolve," Obama said at a joint news
conference with Peña Nieto. "It is obviously up to the Mexican people
to determine their security structures and how it engages with the
other nations — including the United States."
U.S. and Mexican officials billed Obama's first trip to Mexico since
beginning his second term as focused on economics, not security.
Cuellar, an early supporter of Peña Nieto, said the Mexican
government is trying to shift the conversation about its place on the
world stage away from its strife with organized crime and toward its
growing economy. Since Peña Nieto took office Dec. 1, his
administration has pushed reform to Mexico's education, labor and
energy systems, but it's largely been quiet about any plans for
improving security.
Given the past reputation of Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary
Party, or PRI, to turn a blind eye to the cartels, the new security
policy has raised red flags, Cuellar said. But he added that the new
policy is reflective of the Mexican public's suspicion of foreign
meddling in internal affairs.
It's also indicative of a country that may still be deciding on an
appropriate security strategy.
As a member of the House Appropriations committee, Cuellar has
reached out to Mexican officials on several occasions to figure out
what their plans are for expending U.S. aid from Plan Merida, a
comprehensive package of aid and equipment approved in 2007 to help
Mexico fight the drug cartels. Cuellar said Mexican officials have
still not released a detailed strategy for how they plan to work with
the United States under Plan Merida.
"In fighting this, we've got to be strong together," Cuellar said.
"This is not an American problem or a Mexican problem. It's a joint
problem that includes Guatemala, Central America and the other
countries we have to work with."

Central America struggles to unite for Obama trip

Dario Lopez-Mills
El presidente Barack Obama ríe mientras saluda a las personas en la
audiencia tras hablar en el Museo de Antropología en la Ciudad de
México, el viernes 3 de mayo de 2013. (Foto AP/Darío López-Mills)

Posted: Friday, May 3, 2013 8:07 pm | Updated: 10:04 pm, Fri May 3,
Associated Press |
President Barack Obama on Friday addressed a Central American region
that continues to be plagued by violence, drug trafficking,
corruption and poverty, despite the success of a seven-year trade
agreement with the United States.
Central America's problems have directly impacted the U.S., as
thousands from the region migrate north each year along increasingly
deadly smuggling routes.
In a press conference late Friday with Costa Rican President Laura
Chinchilla, Obama said only a comprehensive approach will work to
solve the region's problems, including stronger economies, better
institutions, education and youth centers that give young people a
sense of opportunity.
"Problems like narco-trafficking arise when a country is vulnerable
because of poverty and institutions not working for people," he said.
"The stronger the economy and institutions for individuals seeking
legitimate careers, the less powerful these narco-trafficking
operations are going to be."
Obama went on to a closed meeting with the eight-nation Central
American Integration System, known by its Spanish initials SICA,
which was formed to discuss regional issues.
He said he looked forward to the regional cooperation. But national
rivalries that have often blocked cooperation.
Guatemala and Belize maintain a border dispute. Honduras and El
Salvador are fighting over the use of the waters and shores of the
Gulf of Fonseca, and a conflict between Nicaragua and Costa Rica has
been escalating over the San Juan River border. On top of that,
Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua often feel excluded because
Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras get the bulk of U.S. security
aid, said Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American
program at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.
"SICA has tried to build itself as the place where all these
countries can come together and that can be the distribution point
for that aid," Olson said. "But I think the rivalry between these
governments gets in the way."
Still, the Central American presidents have come manned to talk about
security, an issue they see as directly related to drug consumption
in the United States. Some Central American countries have the
highest murder rates in the world, with Honduras often called the
world's most dangerous country. Leaders here say they want the U.S.
to take more responsibility in the fight against drug cartels.
"We need the decided support of the U.S. to attack our common enemy,
drug trafficking," Honduran President Porfirio Lobo said Thursday.
"Unfortunately, Honduras and the countries of the region bear the
dead of a war that we didn't start and that we repudiate. It's time
to renew our mutual political cooperation."
The White House doesn't plan to launch any new initiatives with this
trip, said Ricardo Zuniga, the lead official for Latin America policy
on the U.S. National Security Council. Rather, it wants to talk about
better coordination and use of the aid that is already going to the
"Besides the United States expressing its deep worry over the
deterioration of the region, there isn't much more to expect," said
Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American program at the Wilson
Since 2008, the United States has allocated $496 million in security
cooperation to Central America, Zuniga said, and that number isn't
expected to increase substantially.
The White House asked for $162 million for the fight against drug
trafficking in its 2014 budget through the Central America Regional
Security Initiative. That's $26 million more than what was allocated
in 2012.
By comparison, Washington has allocated $1.9 billion to Mexico since
2008 for the fight against drug trafficking through the Merida
Even on security issues, the countries have difficulty uniting.
"There is no effective cooperation because there is no trust," said
Ignacio de Lucas, coordinator of the Network of Prosecutors against
Organized Crime, an initiative of the United Nations Office on Drugs
and Crime that brings together 10 prosecutors from Mexico to
Colombia. "Sometimes big projects arise, for example creating a
database to cooperate with Interpol, but what information will go
there? Without trust there will not be useful information."
The more relevant forum to discuss drug trafficking in the region
will be the June general assembly of the Organization of American
States, said Guatemalan Foreign Minister Luis Carrera Castro.
Aside from security concerns, Central American presidents also have
agreed to prioritize economic issues in their meeting with Obama.
The SICA member governments, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,
Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic,
want to enhance the trade agreement they've had since 2006 with the
United States, said Muni Figueres, Costa Rican Ambassador to the U.S.
Under the CAFTA-DR agreement, U.S. exports to the region have risen
to $30 billion in 2012, up 25 percent from 2010 and 80 percent from
2005, according to her embassy's figures.
One of the specific goals for the Obama meeting is a commitment from
the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to actively participate
in a commission tracking the performance of the trade agreement,
Figueres said.
"The challenge now is how to facilitate trade to flow better and how
to translate the agreement into more jobs and investment," she added.


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