U.S.-trained forces reportedly helping Mexican drug cartels

WASHINGTON – As many as 200 U.S.-trained Mexican security personnel have defected to drug cartels to carry out killings on both sides of the border and as far north as Dallas, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, told Congress on Wednesday.

The renegade members of Mexico’s elite counter-narcotics teams trained at Fort Benning, Ga., have switched sides, contributing to a wave of violence that has claimed some 6,000 victims over the past 30 months, including prominent law enforcement leaders, the Houston-area Republican told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The slaughter has gained urgency amid high-profile assassinations of law officers in Mexico since May 1, claiming six senior officers, five of them with the federal police.

Poe held aloft a dramatic, poster-board-size photograph that he said showed guerrilla-style commandos crossing into the United States.

He said the Department of Homeland Security had documented “over 250 incursions by suspected military forces” into the United States over the past decade.

“I was surprised to hear that the United States has trained Mexican forces and some of those have deserted and become the reason for these attacks,” Poe said.

Officers ‘switched sides’

The U.S.-trained Mexican security personnel have “switched sides and became assassins and recruiters for the Mexican drug cartels.”

Poe, a former prosecutor and criminal court judge, issued the allegations in an unsuccessful effort to persuade the House Foreign Affairs Committee to revamp President Bush’s Merida Initiative.

Bush’s blueprint calls for $1.4 billion in training, equipment and law enforcement assistance to Mexico and Central America over three years.

Bush also is seeking $500 million in emergency assistance for Mexico this year as part of the supplemental war spending measure.

Democrats have included only $400 million of Bush’s request in the $161 billion war spending measure.

Poe tried to require the Bush administration to evenly split spending between the United States and Mexico rather than sending the entire amount south of the border.

“It seems as though the United States has a history in some cases of giving support (to Mexico) and that support turns around and is used against the very people we’re trying to protect, in this case, us,” Poe said. “We have no assurance that the equipment we’re sending to Mexico won’t be turned over to the drug cartels and used against us.”

Panel backs original plan

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, also tried to persuade the Democratic-controlled panel to shift part of the Mexico-bound spending to the United States to bolster law enforcement efforts on the border.

McCaul, a former federal prosecutor who specialized in counter-terrorism, called border drug violence “an imminent security threat right on our doorstep” that deserves the same effort as the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 50-member panel, led by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., largely endorsed the Bush administration’s version of the proposal, expanding assistance beyond Mexico and Central America to include the Caribbean nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Berman referred Poe’s and McCaul’s proposed changes to the House Judiciary Committee, saying their plans for greater spending by U.S. law enforcement along the border fell within that panel’s jurisdiction.

By STEWART M. POWELL
May 14, 2008, 11:46PM

Source: Houston Chronicle

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