(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Feb. 19, 2010) The following My Turn column is written
by Attorney General Terry Goddard regarding his Feb. 14-17 visit to Mexico
to meet with top law enforcement officials about increasing border security.
The challenging fight against organized crime on both sides of the border can be waged
most effectively when law enforcement strategies by both nations are closely coordinated.
A series of top-level meetings in Mexico last week moved us significantly closer to
maximizing our efforts.
A key priority in our fight must be reducing the flood of cash pouring from the
United States to the international drug cartels based in Mexico. I was
encouraged to hear so many senior Mexican law enforcement
officials now share my belief that the most effective way to combat the
cartels is by stemming the flow of illegal cash from the U.S. into the cartel's pockets.
My office's $94 million settlement with Western Union will give law enforcement in
both countries important new resources. It will provide access to money transfer data
on suspicious transactions, and it will allocate $50 million to bolster state and local
law enforcement along the entire Southwest border.
When I arrived in Mexico City, I was met with sobering news. The newspaper
headline reported that murders in the border city of Juarez were nearly
eight times higher than the national average. Nogales, Sonora -- right across the border
from Nogales, Arizona -- is on a pace to have three times as many
cartel-related murders this year than last year.
The problem, of course, is the extreme violence spawned by the drug trade of
Mexico's powerful and brutal cartels. The cartels lure impoverished
children out of the school system and into the violent drug, weapons and
human smuggling trades, where many become killers, murder victims or both.
Violence has spilled into the U.S., and if not controlled soon, the
cartels will establish a stronghold in our country to spread the terror
they have brought to Central and South America. We cannot allow that to
My first meeting in Mexico City was with the nation's relatively new Attorney General,
Arturo Chavez Chavez, who was encouraged by the opportunities
now available to law enforcement as a result of the Western Union
settlement. I was impressed with his interest in partnering with Arizona to find
solutions. President Felipe Calderon has directed his Attorney General to focus more on
disrupting the movement of money to the cartels.
I also met with the Public Safety Commission of the Mexican
Congress. One Congressman offered a particularly apt assessment of the
problem. Referring to the international cartels, he remarked, "Crime has
gone global, but crime fighting has not." I could not agree more. I
testified that we need bilateral law enforcement efforts to share and
quickly pursue investigative leads on both sides of the border.
My team also sat down with Secretary Janet Napolitano, who happened to be in
Mexico to sign a multinational pact on air security. She had been fully briefed on
our Western Union settlement and was ready to explore new ways for the federal
government to partner with Arizona on attacking border crime.
We talked about how to make the most of the new information and resources
provided by the settlement. I was heartened by the Secretary's receptiveness to
using federal Operation Stonegarden money as a match for the law enforcement
grants from the settlement funds.
Secretary Napolitano also offered Homeland Security's assistance
in investigating suspicious transactions uncovered through data
Western Union will provide, along with the possibility of
housing a new state-federal-local border crimes task force in the new
Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson.
Our final meeting was with the National Commissioner of the Federal
Police and the Director of Intelligence. I was pleased to learn that
5,000 newly trained Federal Police recruits have been deployed in the past
three months, including 200 stationed in Nogales, Sonora. Given the
current surge of violence there, this new deployment is an important
new weapon against cartel violence.
The information exchanged and personal relationships forged on this
trip will help us improve security on the border. Broadening efforts
to diminish the flow of money can take us a long way toward our goal.
Working together, we can make it happen.