Foreign Minister Rosario Green has declared that law enforcement agencies and the military in Mexico are prepared to fight drug traffickers without U.S. equipment and other logistical support.
The assessment, in a report handed to members of the Mexican Senate on Tuesday, reflected growing Mexican frustration over political strings attached to U.S. anti-drug assistance. In particular, Green's report was prompted by the recent return to the U.S. Army of 72 Vietnam War-era helicopters that were given to Mexico for drug interdiction, but which turned out to be too old and expensive to operate.
"Our country has the solid base . . . to continue the war against drug trafficking with our own resources," she wrote.
The timing of Green's report proved embarrassing to Mexican and U.S. officials who were participating in a cabinet-level bilateral conference in Washington on drug cooperation. Responding to questions that dominated a news conference closing the meeting today, Green attempted to play down the situation, saying her report "does not mean an end of cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico in the fight against drug trafficking."
Green's report, however, was the latest example of growing Mexican resentment of U.S. intervention in Mexican law enforcement and drug policy. It was hailed in Mexico as a warning shot to the U.S. government, which will soon begin drafting its annual report card on which foreign countries should be "certified" as eager partners in fighting drug trafficking.
"The terms the U.S. puts on cooperation become increasingly unacceptable," said independent Mexican Sen. Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, a member of the Senate foreign relations committee that is expected to discuss the report on Thursday. "The U.S. does not create a climate of cooperation. The U.S. is like the commander in chief of a war and we are all units under their command that must do what the U.S. asks us to do."
For many Mexican officials, the helicopter embarrassment has come to epitomize the problem in U.S.-Mexico drug relations.
"I'm providing you with choppers that have a lot of problems but I've kept my part of the deal," said one senior Mexican official describing his perception of the U.S. attitude. "Now, the U.S. is asking us why we're not doing better in the drug war with something we can't use."
Mexican newspapers pounced on Green's letter describing how the Mexican military and law enforcement now have enough of their own helicopters and other equipment for drug interdiction with headlines that gave her comments an ominous interpretation.
"Mexico Will Fight the Narco Alone: Ending Military Cooperation," said the daily newspaper Reforma.