Little Progress as U.S., Mexico Discuss Drug Cartels and Arms

Vicente Carrillo Leyva is the heir to the powerful Juarez drug cartel.
Vicente Carrillo Leyva is the heir to the powerful Juarez drug cartel. (By Eduardo Verdugo -- Associated Press)
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By William Booth
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 3, 2009

CUERNAVACA, Mexico, April 2 -- Top cabinet officials from the United States and Mexico met here Thursday to decry the violence unleashed by the drug cartels, but failed to announce any new bilateral programs to combat the traffickers.

With U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. sitting at his side during a news conference, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora stated that the two-day meeting devoted to stopping arms trafficking had produced "an agreement to create a joint working group that could produce a timely report" -- meaning little progress was made.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has deployed the army to fight powerful drug cartels that are heavily armed with assault weapons and grenades -- arms that Mexican officials say come mostly from the United States. More than 10,100 people, including almost 1,000 soldiers and police officers, have been killed since Calderón launched the offensive in December 2006.

Mexican officials, including Medina, have blamed loose U.S. gun-control laws for the weapons smuggled south, and he has repeatedly called on the United States to pass a ban on assault weapons.

Holder agreed that the "vast majority" of weapons used by the cartels come from north of the border. "This is a reality we have to face in the United States," Holder said, adding that the United States is not seeking to change any of its gun laws to slow weapons smuggling.

"I don't think our Second Amendment will stand in the way of what we have begun," Holder said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also attended the meeting, where she described the drug smugglers as a "scourge."

On Wednesday, Napolitano announced that the United States would spend $400 million to improve search and surveillance technologies at U.S. ports of entry.

Hours before the meeting, the Mexican government announced the arrest of the young heir to the powerful Juarez cartel, who was captured while he exercised in a city park in the wealthy neighborhood of Las Lomas in Mexico City.

Vicente Carrillo Leyva, 32, is the son of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was dubbed "the Lord of the Skies" for his ability to move planes stuffed with cocaine into Mexico and the United States. The father died in 1997 while undergoing plastic surgery to disguise his appearance.

Carrillo's neighborhood of walled mansions is home to many of Mexico City's richest residents -- and Carrillo looked the part when he was arrested in an "Abercrombie NY" sweat shirt and square-framed designer eyeglasses. The narco-scion was reportedly in charge of money laundering for the cartel.

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