WASHINGTON – The time is right for striking at the Mexican drug cartels, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday.
“We have a unique opportunity now in time because of the priority this has taken with the president of Mexico to break up these cartels,” said the former Arizona governor and federal prosecutor.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón has been widely praised by the Obama administration for his courage in taking on the cartels that have ravaged northern Mexico and spread into the U.S.
Napolitano said she hopes an upcoming series of meetings with Mexican officials involving her, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder will lead to more U.S. interdiction on southbound guns and cash.
But she said the Mexican government will be pressed on what resources it’s going to put into Mexico’s northern territories to fight the cartels.
“Having the president of Mexico take the lead is something new,” she said. “Clearly, putting his administration behind this – that’s a unique opportunity.”
Federal officials say Mexico’s drug cartels have infiltrated as many as 230 U.S. cities.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and panel top Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine introduced legislation Tuesday to provide an additional $550 million to fight drug violence along the border.
By John Yaukey, Deborah Barfield Berry