The narco-terror gripping Mexico has reached an epidemic state. Not only are the drug lords murdering top police officials with near-impunity, but the culture of fear has shaken the government's already weak security apparatus. Much is dangerously wrong when local Mexican police chiefs turn up at U.S. border checkpoints seeking political asylum, and when the acting chief of the federal police is assassinated inside his own apartment in what authorities say was an inside job. The United States needs to help Mexico fight the violence and rebuild that country's criminal justice system. Our own drug war and border security are at stake.
Edgar Millan's was only the most brazen of the murders of at least six senior police chiefs in recent weeks. His killing May 8 sent a chilling message in a country where more than 4,100 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and launched his crackdown on trafficking.
Drug-related murders are up nearly 50 percent this year, as the traffickers push back against the government and against rival gangs hoping to grab new drug turf. While Calderon has sent federal police to the provinces, he has achieved few of his intended goals — to stem the killings, stop the flow of drugs or reassure the civilian population.
The United States can help by following through on President Bush's proposal for a three-year, $1.4-billion aid package to Mexico. Most of the money would help plug holes in the Mexican government's ability to track down traffickers by paying for helicopters, surveillance aircraft and communications equipment. The government also needs to build public confidence that it has the means and the will to see the drug war through. Toward that end, some of the aid should go toward rooting out police corruption, strengthening the courts and providing such supportive services as witness protection programs.
America has no shortage of reasons — both political and practical — for helping the Mexican government succeed. The guns and money shipped from the states into Mexico that feed America's appetite for cocaine can only be stopped through a coordinated effort in the region. Closer ties mean more information-sharing between Mexican and U.S. authorities. America also has a security interest in ensuring that a Colombian-style narco-state does not take hold in a country that shares a 2,000-mile border with the United States. Mexico's problems are deep, but curbing the violence and the addiction to drug money is the first step toward building stronger social institutions.