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U.S. steps up fight against Mexico drug crimes

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced $30 million in federal grants Tuesday to prevent drug-fueled violence from spilling into the United States from Mexico, heralding it as the latest of several moves in recent months to bolster border enforcement.

Law enforcement agencies in Texas will get nearly $13 million, California and Arizona will get more than $7 million each, and New Mexico will receive nearly $3 million under the federal Operation Stonegarden program.

Speaking at a news conference in El Paso, Texas, Napolitano reiterated a mantra of the Obama administration that the United States shares responsibility with Mexico to stop illegal drugs from moving north and weapons from flowing south of the border to Mexican cartels. She called Mexican President Felipe Calderon "a strong partner."

"We have a unique opportunity with Mexico to really break up these cartels, and shame on us if we don't take full advantage of that opportunity and go through that window together," she said.

Drug violence has killed more than 11,000 people in Mexico since Calderon took office in December 2006, and Napolitano said preventing that carnage from spreading to the United States was among the administration's highest priorities. She said her department has added agents, investigators and technology to address the threat.

Some border city mayors shared Napolitano's assessment that violence has stayed south of the border. San Diego's Jerry Sanders told Napolitano that crime has fallen to historic lows in the nation's eighth-largest city. Bob Walkup said violent and property crimes have dropped in Tucson, Ariz.

But Richard Cortez, mayor of McAllen, Texas, said violence is up sharply in small, rural areas. Napolitano promised to follow up with him to try to determine why.

Police say U.S. soldier fired shots in cartel killing

An 18-year-old U.S. Army soldier was the triggerman in a paid hit on a Mexican drug cartel figure who was also an informant for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, police said Tuesday in announcing the arrests of the soldier and two alleged co-conspirators.

Pfc. Michael Jackson Apodaca, who was based at Fort Bliss near El Paso, told El Paso police investigators that he fired the shots in the May 15 slaying of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, police said in charging documents. Gonzalez, a lieutenant in the Juarez drug cartel, was shot eight times outside his pricey El Paso home.

Apodaca, Christopher Duran, 17, and Ruben Rodriguez Dorado, 30, were arrested Monday and charged with capital murder in Gonzalez's slaying.

A warrant has been issued for a fourth man, Jesus Aguayo Salas, 33. Investigators said Aguayo, also a ranking cartel official in Mexico, ordered and paid for the hit.

U.S. steps up fight against Mexico drug crimes 08/12/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:07am]
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