Since at least December 2006 the Mexican government has been engaged in an intense struggle with criminal cartels that control shipping and distribution of drugs to US customers. It is a furious and deadly fight. This week Washington D.C. took serious notice.
This is not the first notice. In September 2007 Colleen Cook at the Congressional Research Service prepared a very helpful primer on the, then, five major cartels. A few years ago the New York Times started an online archive dedicated to Mexican drug trafficking. The stories go back to 1990. There are plenty of other examples of sober testimony, earnest effort, and even strategic engagement.
But this week Mexican border violence became a “numero uno” issue in a city accustomed to spinning many plates on long poles.
Yesterday DHS and Justice announced a range of new border security initiatives. Punctuating the priority, senior officials from State, Justice, and DHS appeared together in the White House briefing room to meet with reporters. At 9:30 this morning the same trio will testify on the topic. Today Secretary of State Clinton begins a two-day visit to Mexico. Both Napolitano and Attorney-General Holder will be making trips to Mexico in the next two weeks. The President will be in the Mexican capital on April 16-17.
Confirming the issue’s new front-burner status, yesterday morning the White House made explicit how it is going to be very much involved, “Because this effort has so many facets, the U.S.-Mexico relationship and our efforts to help address the increase in violence in Mexico are being coordinated at the White House through the NSC and HSC.” (See the complete White House statement.)
UPDATE: In its afternoon lead story the New York Times is reporting on Secretary Clinton’s remarks on arriving in Mexico City: Clinton Admits US Demand Feeds Mexico’s Drug Trade