Release Date: March 25, 2009
Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
(Remarks as Prepared)
Chairman Lieberman, Senator Collins, and members of the Committee: I appreciate this opportunity to testify about the Department of Homeland Security's role in the U.S. effort to combat the campaign of violence waged by drug cartels in Mexico, and about the Department's efforts to keep Americans safe from this security threat.
The violence in Mexico is not only an international threat. It is a homeland security issue in which all Americans have a stake. America has a significant security stake in the success of Mexico's efforts against drug cartels. The cartels that Mexican authorities are battling are the same criminal organizations that put drugs on our streets and use violence as a tool of their trade. Illegal drugs, money, and weapons flow both ways across our border and inextricably link the United States and Mexico in our efforts against drug cartels. The two nations share a nearly 2,000 mile-long border, billions of dollars in trade, a commitment to democracy, and the need to prevail against the transnational threats of terrorism and organized crime. Threats to the United States come from every part of the globe, and the security situation of our next-door neighbor deserves our utmost attention.
At DHS, we are not in a wait-and-see mode. We are taking action now to aid the Mexican government in addressing this threat and to secure our country. DHS is bolstering the resources dedicated to this mission and taking a number of new steps. America has several roles to play: First, we must provide assistance to the Mexican government in its efforts to defeat the drug cartels and thereby suppress the flare- up of violence in Mexico. Second, we must take action on our side of the border to cripple smuggling enterprises. Third, we must guard against and prepare for the possible spillover of violence into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is working with the Departments of State, Justice, and Defense, as well as with border states and border communities, on all of these fronts.
The Violence in Context
Those who have worked on issues related to our southwest border know that incidents of transnational violence are, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon. But what is occurring in Mexico now is violence of a level that we have not seen before.
The spike of cartel violence in Mexico is primarily a reaction against the efforts of the Mexican government to take on the cartels and battle the organized crime, corruption, and violence that comes with the illegal drug trade, as well as a result of competition among the traffickers themselves to control constricted territories and smuggling routes. The cartels' backlash against the crackdown – though brutal and deeply troubling – is predictable. They seek to protect a very lucrative criminal livelihood. Mexican drug cartels have used violence as a tool of their trade for some time, but recent violence in Mexico between drug cartels – and, particularly, violence against Mexican officials by the cartels – has risen to unprecedented and disturbing levels. About 6,000 drug-related murders occurred in Mexico last year alone, more than twice the previous year's total, which was also a record. These included the deaths of 522 military and law enforcement officials.
We are seeing limited increases in drug-related violence in the United States. This has come mainly in the form of cartel operatives committing violence against one another, the kidnappings of those involved in the drug trade or their family members, and assaults on Border Patrol agents by those attempting to bring illegal drugs into the country. Mexican drug cartels maintain drug-distribution networks, or supply drugs to distributors, in at least 230 American cities, leading the Justice Department to call Mexican drug cartels the "greatest organized crime threat to the United States."1 Read the rest at Homeland Security
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