US wants to see Mexico political commitment against cartels

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration said Wednesday it does not expect to see progress in the fight by Mexico against organized crime unless the highest level of the Mexican government shows political commitment.

Rich Glenn, deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said during a U.S. House hearing that progress will be possible only after Mexico develops and shares a comprehensive strategy to confront transnational organized crime.

Glenn said his boss, Assistant Secretary of State Kirsten Madison, traveled to Mexico two weeks ago to discuss the need for that country to develop and share a strategy with clear goals and targets.

He also raised questions about events in the northern Mexico city of Culiacan last week in which attacks by cartel gunmen led Mexico's government to order soldiers to release the captured Ovidio Guzmán, son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán.

"The events of last week were very concerning to us," Glenn said in the harshest public comments from the U.S. on the incident.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has defended the decision, arguing that saving lives was more important than any arrest. He also said Saturday that he had received a phone call from U.S. President Donald Trump expressing "solidarity" over what happened in Culiacan.

In August, Trump warned that he might take action against Mexico if it didn't do more against drug trafficking.

Rep. Albio Sires, a Democrat from New Jersey who is chairman of the House subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, asked Glenn whether the U.S. should keep providing money to Mexico in light of Guzmán's release.

Glenn said cooperation has helped Mexican law enforcement build capacity to confront organized crime.

"We know they are capable. We know because we helped build that capacity," he said.

The State Department has asked Congress to appropriate $484 million for counter-narcotics aid to countries in the Western Hemisphere during fiscal year 2020. The United States has spent about $2 billion over the last decade in anti-drugs efforts in Mexico.


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