The soaring level of violence in Mexico resulting from drug wars has led the U.S. to develop plans for a “surge” of civilian and perhaps even military law enforcement should the bloodshed spread across the border, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the New York Times. He said the criminal activity in Mexico, which has caused more than 5,300 deaths in the last year, reached a point last summer where he ordered specific plans to confront the kind of shootouts and other mayhem that in Mexico have killed members of warring drug cartels, law enforcement officials, and bystanders.
Officials said the plan called for aircraft, armored vehicles, and special teams to converge on border trouble spots, with the size of the force depending on the scale of the problem. Military forces would be called if civilian agencies like the Border Patrol and local law enforcement were overwhelmed. Chertoff has Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to succeed him, that “I put helping Mexico get control of its borders and its organized crime problems” at the very top of the list of national security concerns. Chertoff suggested that his controversial efforts to build a fence along nearly 700 miles of the Mexican border, as well as bolstering the size of the Border Patrol, were part of the push to defend against drug violence, not just to control illegal immigration.