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Gates, Mullen Head US Crime-Fighting Delegation to Mexico

gatesDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Mexico City this week as part of a delegation focused on helping the Mexican government fight drug-trafficking cartels and other security threats.

“It is in our interest that our friends have greater capabilities to protect their own security and to take care of transnational criminal activity such as the drug cartels,” Gates said. “It is in our interest, because we have [a] shared interest to enhance the capabilities of the Mexican armed forces.”

The Mexico visit will build on the last high-level consultative group session, when Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa discussed ways to evolve the Mérida Initiative in December 2008. Those talks focused on breaking the power of drug-trafficking organizations, improving border security and strengthening the rule of law, as well as democratic institutions and human rights.

Passed by Congress in June 2008, the Mérida Initiative aims to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime and money laundering, and it gives the United States a framework to provide Mexico with equipment, training and technical expertise to support the Mexican military’s drug-interdiction activities.

During a 2009 visit to Mexico City, Mullen praised Mexican leaders for their firm stand against drug cartels.

“From my perspective, we have shared responsibilities for the cause and shared responsibilities for the solutions,” he told his hosts. “How we work those shared responsibilities is very important.”

More intelligence sharing and more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, as well as a stronger military-to-military relationship, could improve the Mexican military’s capabilities for the challenges they face, Mullen said.

He also emphasized during that trip that other U.S. agencies, including the State and Homeland Security departments and the Drug Enforcement Agency, play important roles in supporting Mexico.

“There are fairly far-reaching areas of cooperation,” he said. “These are very much ongoing.”

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