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Mexican Envoy Highly Critical of U.S. Role in Anti-Drug Effort

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2007

The United States has contributed "zilch" to Mexico's efforts to combat the nations' joint problem with criminal narcotics gangs, Mexico's new ambassador to Washington said yesterday.

"We are going to need significantly more in cooperation from the United States," Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said, including increased aid and intelligence and stepped-up U.S. efforts to stop the southward flow of weapons, laundered money and chemicals for the production of methamphetamines.

Sarukhan's comments, in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors, echoed recent criticism by Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Since his inauguration in December, Calderón has asserted that the United States is not doing enough to lower U.S. drug consumption or to help Mexico combat traffickers. He has also criticized U.S. border and trade policies as hindering the legal entry of Mexican citizens and goods.

Although Calderón played the gracious host during President Bush's visit to Mexico this month, Sarukhan said that Mexico is seeking a more businesslike relationship with the United States than the previous Mexican president, Vicente Fox, had with Bush. Although Bush and Fox pledged to have a close friendship and progress on immigration and trade issues, "at the end of his tenure, [Fox] had nothing to show for it," the ambassador said.

Calderón is "not trying to distance himself" from Bush, Sarukhan said, "but he wants to send a message that, before the hugs, before the fireworks, he actually needs to be able to prove to the Americans and to Mexicans" that the relationship can produce tangible results.

Rather than raise "false expectations," he said, "let's prove that we have the ability to move" forward on the long list of outstanding issues between the two countries. "Then we'll become buddies," Sarukhan added.

A career diplomat who served as Calderón's campaign and transition adviser on foreign policy, Sarukhan holds a master's degree in U.S. foreign policy from Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

Bush's waning presidency and the 2008 U.S. election campaign will probably inhibit major progress on various issues, and "I don't think that much can be achieved in the next two years," Sarukhan said. He said that he is "guardedly optimistic" about changes in U.S. immigration law, but that any real change in the northward flow of illegal immigrants would depend as much on "Mexico's ability to prove it is working to generate jobs" as on U.S. legislation.

Mexico is increasing its consulates in this country to 49 and they will become more active in explaining Mexico and its agenda, Sarukhan said. He also echoed Calderón's criticism of border delays and transport restrictions on Mexican exports to the United States.

Noting that Calderón has used the Mexican military and federal police to launch major attacks against Mexican drug cartels during his first 100 days as president, Sarukhan called on the United States to move more energetically against the illegal flow into Mexico of U.S. weapons, laundered drug cash, and ephedrine and pseudoephedrine -- the principal ingredients of methamphetamine -- smuggled from China and other countries through U.S. ports.

Mexico also needs "end-game resources," including real-time intelligence and sophisticated surveillance equipment to enhance its own anti-narcotics efforts, Sarukhan said. "What the U.S. has provided up to now will not do the trick," he said.

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