With Mexico’s new president launching an anti-drug crackdown, U.S. agents hope to expand their presence to three Mexican border cities where narcotics-trafficking runs rampant, reports the Houston Chronicle. Officials in Mexico City and Washington, D.C., said the Drug Enforcement Administration has asked the Mexican government to allow it to open offices in Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Nogales. That likely would increase the number of American antidrug personnel in Mexico to nearly 100, U.S. officials said. Now, 81 DEA staffers are posted in Mexico, where they work with Mexican police by sharing intelligence on trafficking gangs. The proposed offices would cost about $4.5 million a year and would be staffed by five to seven people each.
A Mexican official said the presence of DEA agents in Mexico, even though they are not allowed to carry weapons or make arrests, continues to be “a very sensitive issue.” If the proposal is approved, the new border facilities would expand the DEA’s Mexico offices from eight to 11. Since taking office last month, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has sent more than 10,000 troops and federal police to drug-trafficking hotspots. ”The aim to work closely with the DEA makes eminent good sense,” said Peter Ward, an expert on Mexico at the University of Texas at Austin. Calderon is planning a tough anti-crime effort that includes installing an extensive database and restructuring Mexican police agencies, many of which are viewed as corrupted by drug gangs.