News Room

Gov. Perry wants U.S. troops guarding border
February 25, 2009

Gov. Rick Perry said he wants 1,000 troops to help guard the Texas-Mexico border, and for the U.S. to fund strong security measures to fight the Mexican drug cartels that have spread violence and fear in Mexico, including Juárez.

Written by Diana Washington Valdez, The El Paso Times


Texas Governor Rick Perry addressed his concerns on the issue of Texas' Border Security Strategy at the Chamizal National Memorial and the Bridge of the Americas as a backdrop. Socoro Mayor Trini Lopez listens in to Perry's commnts. (Ruben R. Ramirez / El Paso Times)

EL PASO - Gov. Rick Perry said he wants 1,000 troops to help guard the Texas-Mexico border, and for the U.S. to fund strong security measures to fight the Mexican drug cartels that have spread violence and fear in Mexico, including Juárez.

"We're (also) asking the (Texas) Legislature for $135 million for border security - to go after transnational gangs, for technology and aviation assets, and for 1,000 troops," said Perry at a news conference Tuesday at the Chamizal National Memorial.

"I don't care if they are military, National Guard or customs agents. We're very concerned that the federal government is not funding border security adequately. We must be ready for any contingency."

Other officials at the news conference included Mayor John Cook, state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen and former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey.

Shapleigh, who called his own news conference later, said he agreed with some of Perry's proposals but not with using the military to guard the border.

"No one in El Paso supports militarization of the border," Shapleigh said. "I support 1,000 new effectively trained Border Patrol or customs agents, but not the use of the military."

McCaffrey said the U.S. government spends $12 billion on Iraq and $2 billion on Afghanistan each month, "without taking into account what is happening in Mexico."

Perry said the federal government needs to pay more attention to security threats closer to home than either of those two countries.

The federal Mexican National Commission of Human Rights reported that organized crime had killed more than 10,000 people in Mexico since 2007. In Juárez, authorities said, drug violence was to blame for taking nearly 1,900 lives since 2008.

"It is very likely that the levels of violence in Mexico will worsen," McCaffrey said in a Feb. 19 report. "We in the United States must be prepared to provide whatever assistance the government of Mexico requires to defeat these criminal organizations."

McCaffrey, who teaches at West Point, is president of BR McCaffrey Associates LLC, a consultant for government and private sector clients.

He, Perry and Shapleigh agreed that the $1.3 billion Merida Initiative for Mexico and Central America does not include sufficient resources for Mexico to take on the powerful drug organizations.

Given the right infusion of money to battle the cartels, Perry said, "I believe this can be put to bed rather quickly."

Shapleigh said the state should create Texas Department of Public Safety corridor teams to work with local and federal law enforcement to combat the cartels, and should develop a center to evaluate and create intelligence on kingpins, cartel assets, prison gang members and smuggling routes.

"In the 1980s, the FBI and New York City together deployed a successful model to fight transnational gangs operating from Sicily to Brooklyn through coordinated, targeted police work aimed at kingpins," Shapleigh said.

Perry said his presence in El Paso also was meant to send a message that Texas is willing to protect Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, who received death threats from a Mexican drug cartel and moved his family to El Paso.

On Tuesday, Reyes' staff said that the mayor carried out his normal duties in Juárez, including a Mexican Flag Day ceremony, and that he would continue to remove corrupt officers from the city's police force.

And the violence has continued with multiple killings daily. A total of eight homicides occurred Monday in Juárez.

In one incident, 9-month-old Alexa Gutierrez Medrano was wounded in a shooting that killed two people and wounded another man in front of a home in the 700 block of Pino Seco street, police said.

On Wednesday, members of the Mexican federal government's Security Cabinet will meet in Juárez with local and state officials to discuss what to do about the violence.

Mexican authorities also continued their investigation into the attack Sunday against Chihuahua Gov. José Reyes Baeza Terrazas' bodyguards, in which one agent was killed. One of the gunmen suspected in the attack, a former Mexican soldier, was wounded.

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