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Homeland Security Chief Kelly Urges Regional Cooperation To Combat Drug Trade; Mexico a Key Ally

Feb. 10, 2017 (EIRNS)—In Feb. 7 testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee to discuss the Administration’s border security policy, Homeland Security Secretary Gen. (Ret.) John Kelly underscored the importance of a

"layered approach that extends far beyond our shores, throughout the hemisphere, in partnership with our neighbors to the South and North."

Building "partner capacity" is crucial, he said, because illegal immigration and transnational organized crime not only threaten U.S. security, "but also the stability and prosperity of our Latin American neighbors." Kelly pointed to Plan Colombia, the U.S.-Colombian anti-drug cooperation program that began in the late 1990s, and included a strong U.S. military component, as a successful model to follow.

Answering a question as to whether securing the border would stop the flow of dangerous drugs, particularly heroin, across the border, Kelly responded that "if the drugs are in the Untied States, we’ve lost." He estimated that 99% of the heroin that enters the U.S. is produced in Mexico; poppies used to manufacture heroin are grown in Mexico and Guatemala, and then the drug is shipped to the U.S.

Kelly emphasized the importance of a partnership with Mexico, saying the United States would like

"to help them get after the poppy production...after the production labs...after the heroin, methamphetamine ... before it gets to the border. ...You’re never going to get to zero,"

he said, "but we know how to do this. We’ve done it before with other drugs and other things that were bad for our society. We’re not even trying."

The issue of U.S. "help" for Mexico, particularly if it involves U.S. military participation, is a very touchy one, however, as, for historical and political reasons, Mexico would never allow deployment of U.S. troops into the country. Thus, the nature of U.S.-Mexico cooperation from here forward remains to be determined. Plans to do so are already underway. On Feb. 7, Kelly spoke by phone with Mexican Government Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, which Osorio described as very constructive, and reported that Kelly planned to come to Mexico City very soon to meet with him and map out the bilateral security agenda in greater detail. Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both met with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray in Washington yesterday, and Tillerson announced that he, too, would travel to Mexico soon.

In an interview with Mexico’s Grupo Imagen, as reported by Milenio Feb. 9, Osorio said Mexico has been working "as never before," in an "effective, complex and difficult job, that we must continue with a comprehensive strategy." He said that Mexico should in fact adopt "even bolder actions" than Plan Colombia, given that the global transport and production of drugs has become increasingly sophisticated.

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