Border cooperation

December 12, 2005

Arecent decision by Mexico's Supreme Court to allow the extradition of criminal suspects who face life sentences abroad is a welcome move that will help the U.S. prosecute alleged Mexican drug traffickers and murderers who are accused of committing crimes in this country.

Legislation approved last month by U.S. lawmakers that denies financial aid to countries that block extraditions most likely helped persuade the Mexican justices.

The decision reflects more willingness by Mexico to work with the U.S. to fight drug smuggling along their shared border. It could help stem the violent, drug-related crime spilling from Mexico into American border towns by removing the protection Mexican criminals who were wanted in the U.S. enjoyed under the extradition prohibition.

American authorities had sought the extraditions for years, but Mexican authorities contended that life sentences constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated their country's constitution.

Those sentiments have fortunately changed under President Vicente Fox, whose government has cracked down on drug cartels and arrested a dozen major drug kingpins, unleashing a wave of retaliatory violence. Those arrested have continued running their drug enterprises from prison, however, and Mr. Fox, who campaigned to change the extradition laws, said he would welcome sending them to the U.S. for prosecution.

Meanwhile, Guatemala, which shares a border with Mexico, has been working more closely with the U.S. to fight drug trafficking and has requested increased assistance from the U.S. military and the Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 75 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the U.S. comes through Guatemala, now the transshipment point of choice for drug traffickers fleeing arrests and interdictions by Mexico.

Last month, three top Guatemalan drug investigators were arrested in Virginia after a joint investigation by American and Guatemalan authorities and charged with conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.

This new level of cooperation among the three countries is good for all involved. The U.S. had been particularly critical of Mexico's drug-fighting abilities but should now encourage and support this collaboration.

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