The Obama Administration and Americans in general face a deadly threat close to home. The threat is posed by the violence of Mexico’s murderous drug trafficking cartels and gangs that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border. One group of Mexican killers, the Barrio Azteca, is believed responsible for the cold-blooded murder of an American citizen and a Mexican employed by the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez on March 13. A key leader of the trans-border gang is Eduardo Ravelo, who recently joined Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.
U.S. law enforcement has intensified efforts to track the Ciudad Juarez killers, fanning out across the El Paso area to investigate individuals associated with Barrio Azteca and working closely with Mexican authorities.
The Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and State along with the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff travel to Mexico on March 23 to meet with President Calderon and Mexican counterparts. The meeting will allow top Administration officials to assess the current drug trafficking challenges at first hand and evaluate the effectiveness of assistance currently being provided to Mexico under the Mérida Initiative.
Many in Mexico fear public support for Calderon’s three-year confrontation with the drug cartels is evaporating as a result of escalating violence and that pressure is mounting for some form of accommodation with the cartels. Critics of Mexico in the U.S. worry about the effectiveness of U.S. assistance to a government riddled with corruption and still dependent on the use of the Mexican Army against the cartels.
While pursuit of Barrio Azteca and other Mexican cartel figures is a law enforcement priority, the Obama Administration needs to explain why it intends to reduce counter-drug assistance to Mexico in the FY2011 budget and what more it proposes to do protect American citizens from the spillover of border drug violence.
In Mexico City, the Obama national security team should demonstrate resolve before the threat of narco-terrorism, advance cross-border law enforcement cooperation, and discuss ways strengthen military-to-military ties and encourage Mexican participation in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).