Mexican Drug Lords Could Face U.S. Justice Mexican President Vicente Fox has pledged to allow the extradition of suspected Mexican drug lords to the United States to face prosecution. The announcement comes as Mexico tries to deal with an escalation of drug-related violence. Lourdes Garcia Navarro, reporting from Mexico, talks with Madeleine Brand about the controversy over the extradition pledge.
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Mexican Drug Lords Could Face U.S. Justice

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Mexican Drug Lords Could Face U.S. Justice


Mexican Drug Lords Could Face U.S. Justice

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This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Madeleine Brand.

In a few minutes, all you former high school punk rockers take note: there maybe gold in your old demo tapes. First though, the State Department is warning tourists going to Mexico to, quote, "exercise extreme caution when in unfamiliar areas".

There has been a huge increase in drug violence throughout the country, including execution style murders of both Mexican and U.S. citizens. Mexican President Vicente Fox made a commitment to fight drug dealers this week. He said he would extradite any drug traffickers wanted by the United States.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro has been covering this story from Mexico. She joins us now.

Hi Lourdes


BRAND: Well, tell us more about this announcement from President Fox. Is it significant is it really going to curve these powerful drug cartels?

NAVARRO: Well, it's certainly something that the United States has been asking for for a long time. Mexico had pretty much banned the extradition of Mexican nationals to the United States, especially in cases where the convict may have faced the death penalty. But with the recent extradition of Francisco Rafael Arellano FĂ©lix - he's one of the reputed heads of the Tijuana cartel - Fox now says there will be more of these to come.

Will this curb the cartels? Listen. Mexico has been very active in capturing and imprisoning major drug cartel figures. And as Fox has pointed out, Mexican prisons are overflowing with drug traffickers, both large and small. But the drug violence continues and is even getting worse.

The United States argues that the extradition will prove a powerful deterrent. And there is some proof that while drug traffickers are imprisoned, these capos continue to manage their businesses from Mexican prisons here.

But the fact is that while Mexico borders the largest drug consuming country in the world - which is the United States - drug trafficking is going to continue to be a major problem here.

BRAND: And we've heard a lot of news about problems along the border with drug cartels and drug trafficking and violence and murders. But you've been reporting from the interior of the country. You had a very compelling piece this morning on MORNING EDITION from Michoacan. What's going on there. The drug cartels have infiltrated the interior of the country?

NAVARRO: We're seeing it all over the country, from the south to the middle to the north. Different cartels control different areas and they're fighting. What's happening really follows on to what I was just talking about. There is a massive power struggle going on all over Mexico.

Drug cartels are fighting each other for control of key areas. And in a way, analyst say, the situation has been exacerbated because so many major drug figures have been imprisoned, leaving a kind of vacuum. And that of course means power struggles.

While Mexico is the main trans-shipment point for cocaine into the United States, we're also seeing Mexico produce more drugs too: methamphetamines, heroin, marijuana. So that's also exacerbating the situation.

BRAND: And tell us about the violence that you've witnessed. Beheadings. That's something that you covered in Baghdad, but know you're seeing them in Mexico. What's going on there?

NAVARRO: Things are pretty much out of control here. I'm going to read to you a few headlines from today's papers. An American drug trafficker was killed in the state of Tamalipas in a shoot-out with police. A body is Michoacan was found in a plastic garbage bag. His body was riddled with bullets. Six people were killed in Tijuana in a 13-hour period. In just the last six days there, 17 people have been murdered.

The police are either being suborned or intimated here, Madeleine. We're seeing the first killings of judges, which bodes badly for the criminal justice system. Many of the experts that I've spoken to have all said the same thing. It is a very worrisome development. There has been a spike in violence. And it seems that things might only get worse.

BRAND: Incoming President Felipe Calderon is from Michoacan, the area you profiled this morning. Has he said how he's going to address this problem?

NAVARRO: Well, Calderon has promised to be tough on the cartels. He wants to institute life sentences. He's promising to also extradite drug lords to the United States. One of the main issues he's promised to address is the professionalization of the police force.

You know, clearly the investigative branch here needs to be reinforced, and none of these assassinations get solved. There needs to be better training, better weapons, and they need to be very tough on corruption. That is one of the key issues. You know, we are seeing across the country how the cartels have been buying off and suborning the security services.

BRAND: NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro in Mexico City. Thank you.

NAVARRO: You're welcome.

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