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DOJ: Mexico main meth supplier to U.S.

Mexico has always been known as a grower of marijuana. It has been known as the conduit for South American cocaine to the United States. For as long as I can remember, U.S. counterdrug efforts have seen the Mexican border as a prime target for interdiction efforts. In fact, at a recent Homeland Security Roundtable that I attended, Chairman Bennie Thompson of the House Committee on Homeland Security commented that drug interdiction at the border was one of the priorities of the Committee.

But in another reminder that what happens South of the Border has an impact on U.S. security a new report released by the National Drug Intelligence Center, it is confirmed that Mexico is the main supplier of methamphetamines to the United States.

"Despite heightened chemical import restrictions in Mexico, methamphetamine production in that country has increased since 2004, and Mexico is now the primary source of methamphetamine to U.S. drug markets," the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2008 report on methamphetamine said.

All of this is happening at the same time as the ramped up anti-drug efforts of Mexico President Felipe Calderón occur, and in the face of the U.S. plan to spend over $500 million in support of the anti-drug campaign. However, one story, from the Dallas Morning News suggests that the south of the border narco-terrorism may actually increase if the plan is implemented. Dubbed the Merida Initiative, this security cooperation initiative with Mexico and the countries of Central America is intended to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, and at least on the surface, has the "political resolve" of the Preisdents of Central America to join forces to strengthen regional security and seek additional tools and capacity to execute such will. This program provides:

• Non-intrusive inspection equipment, ion scanners, canine units for Mexican customs, for the new federal police and for the military to interdict trafficked drugs, arms, cash and persons.

• Technologies to improve and secure communications systems to support collecting information as well as ensuring that vital information is accessible for criminal law enforcement.

• Technical advice and training to strengthen the institutions of justice – vetting for the new police force, case management software to track investigations through the system to trial, new offices of citizen complaints and professional responsibility, and establishing witness protection programs.

• Helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support interdiction activities and rapid operational response of law enforcement agencies in Mexico.

• Initial funding for security cooperation with Central America that responds directly to Central American leaders’ concerns over gangs, drugs, and arms articulated during July SICA meetings and the SICA Security Strategy.

• Includes equipment and assets to support counterpart security agencies inspecting and interdicting drugs, trafficked goods, people and other contraband as well as equipment, training and community action programs in Central American countries to implement anti-gang measures and expand the reach of these measures in the region.

The full National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment 2008 can be found here.

While it may be hard to believe, some U.S. anti-drug officials are saying that this implementation of the Merida Initiative could well increase the violence, as the drug cartels respond forcefully against the increased pressure. Drug-related killings surpassed 2,500 in 2007, eclipsing 2006's figure of more than 2,100, according to the Austin-based Stratfor consulting firm.

But if you think that this is a Mexican security problem, think again. This is also, and maybe more importantly, about U.S. border security.

"Between Texas and Arizona alone, you've got 12,000 gun shops along that border with Mexico. And a lot of these gun shops provide weapons that feed into organized crime in Mexico, so we really need the support of the Unites States," Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán said.

It was only a few years ago that there were debates about whether the drug smuggling routes being used by the cartels to bring narcotics to the United States might also be used by terrorists. We know now that drug smuggling and human smuggling across that border use the same routes. We also know that the narco-terrorism has spread across the border in places like Laredo Texas. If we think that border security is only about illegal immigration, we miss the point about drugs, viomence and guns that are all being propagated on the other side of what is a seriously porous border with Mexico.