Friday, February 17, 2012

Sen. John McCain expresses doubt about one of Mexico's presidential candidates - but just which one did he have in mind?

The incautious John McCain, oblivious to diplomatic protocol, dangles a teaser

U.S. Senator John McCain (R. Az.) is a man who tends to say just what's on his mind - to anyone, anytime, anywhere. McCain didn't hesitate to give another demonstration of his peculiar knack yesterday when U.S. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is Ranking Member.

After discussing narcotics trafficking, cartels and Mexico-U.S. cooperation in the ongoing drug war, MCCain shifted gears and asked Clapper if he thought that whoever succeeds president Felipe Calderón later this year would remain steadfast in the offensive which was launched in December 2006. Clapper gave the only diplomatically correct answer, and replied that the United States is confident that Mexico's next president will be committed to winning the war, which has cost the country over 50,000 lives to date.

Eyeballing Clapper, McCain said: "Well, I might suggest you focus on that question a little more closely, Mr. Director, because I don't believe that's the case, at least with respect to one of the candidates." So to whom was McCain referring?

It couldn't be PAN nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota, who has repeatedly said that she'll generally stay the course adopted by Calderón (including use of the Mexican military). It might well be PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who plans to "return the Mexican army to its quarters" within six months, and restore all law enforcement duties to local and state police. Or it could be PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who said last November on a trip to the U.S. that he, too, would pull the army from the fight. But of late he has wavered on the issue, leaving all of his options on the table during the campaign season. No response yet from the campaign camps or candidates.

Clapper's testimony; Mérida Initiative
Clapper testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Jan. 31, telling members that although Mexican drug cartels are "more cautious" in the U.S., they still present a risk to the country. His remarks yesterday echoed similar concerns. When McCain asked Clapper if Mexican drug cartels threaten the United States, the Director replied "Yes; that's one of the reasons we've been working so long with Mexico."

Clapper referred to the Mérida Initiative, a 2007 agreement between the United States and Mexico which provides for U.S. training and equipping of Mexican military and police forces, as well as for intelligence gathering and sharing. The $1.6 billion price tag on the deal was given the green light by Congress at the urging of former president Bush, who negotiated it with Mexican president Calderón. By last Dec. 31, U.S. funding of the Mérida Initiative had reached $900 million, just over half of the total package authorized in 2008.

On Dec. 17 the House of Representatives approved another $248.5 million to be applied to the Mérida Initiative in current fiscal year 2012. The House approved a separate $33.5 million to be used for economic development projects in Mexico. Read that story here.

June 12 - New York Times got Josefina Vázquez Mota's drug war strategy wrong

Peña Nieto says Mexican army will retain pivotal role in drug war if he's elected:
Republicans vote to declare Mexican drug cartels "terrorists":
DEA: Calderón drug strategy producing results:
Calderon responds to drug war critics:
U.S. ambassador to Mexico thinks Mérida Initiative is best option:
"We're not talking about alms here":
Mexico has invested $21 billion of its own in drug war, says State Dept.:

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