US, Mexico to meet on drug war strategy

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Mexico has been pressing the United States for more help in the fight against the drug cartels. The U.S. already assists Mexican security forces with training, surveillance, and equipment. What else can be done will be discussed tomorrow in Washington. Top Mexican officials will be in town for talks with their American counterparts, lead by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. The global intelligence firm, Stratfor, has just published its latest assessment of the drug war in Mexico. Fred Burton is Stratfor's vice president of intelligence. He's in Austin, Texas. Now, your assessment of the drug war says violence has continued to rise in Mexico, and the cartels continue to fight for territory. Has U.S. help for Mexico made any difference so far?

Fred Burton: I think it has. It appears we're making some headway quietly between the countries from a liaison perspective, but many, many more things need to be done.

Werman: Well, I mean there's more intelligence that the violence continues to rise. What more things need to be done then?

Burton: If you're looking at this from a tactical perspective, certainly the Mexican government if they would allow a more overt presence in country, perhaps more special operations, more CIA support to the Calderon government in country, a much more operational role. Until we cross that threshold, either overtly or covertly, I'm not optimistic that the security posture is going to change in Mexico.

Werman: You know, your report that Stratfor put out this week on Mexico's drug cartels is incredibly detailed; it maps out points of entry into the U.S. that different cartels sort of consider their turf, it mentions many cartels I've never even heard of, like the independent cartel of Acapulco. It makes me wonder where the Mexican government has been in all of this if so much is known about the cartels. Why can't the Mexican government shut them down?

Burton: I think you're dealing with an issue that's easier said than done. When you start looking at just the sheer scope of cartels, their degree of control over politics, police, the military in many cases, the problem becomes daunting one for Calderon in Mexico City. The Calderon government has to look at this from a national scope, but they're also greatly hamstrung by the serious levels of corruption that run rampant through all facets of public safety throughout the country. And that's why most people that follow this issue believe that much more U.S. direct help is needed in order to get our hands around the actual threat.

Werman: Do you think that there's enough kind of frank discussion, tomorrow when the Mexican officials meet with Secretary of State Clinton, and her American counterparts, will there be frank discussion about how to bring that corruption problem down?

Burton: I think that's been an issue that's been ongoing for quite some time, and I know that they have highly vetted units inside of Mexico. But we've had foreign service national employees at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City be dirty. We've had a corrupt U.S. marshall out of El Paso that was found with a bullet in the back of his head in Juarez. We've had any number of local, state, and federal law enforcement agents on our side of the border corrupted. So this is just not a Mexico problem on corruption. It very much is a U.S. problem too. Now when you start talking about frank discussions, I'm a former state department special agent. Very rarely do you have open and frank discussions with a foreign government. Most of what is transpired is sound bytes and media controlled events, but usually the smaller working groups that are formated after these kinds of visits are productive. There clearly needs to be a political will on both sides. And remember, this is all centered around a very political issue; you've got elections in both countries looming.

Werman: Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence for global news and analysis publisher, Stratfor. Thank you very much for your time.

Burton: Thank you for having me.