By Derek Spellman
U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt on Thursday said he saw encouraging signs in Mexico’s war on drugs, citing visits with Mexican officials and their reports that drug-related violence appears to be ebbing.
Blunt was part of a congressional delegation that visited Mexico, Panama and Colombia to discuss regional trade and drug-trafficking problems. Blunt left for the trip April 3 and returned Wednesday.
During a conference call Thursday morning with reporters, Blunt said the Mexican government is “optimistic about the level of attention” that its partnership with the United States has attracted.
In a follow-up phone interview with the Globe, Blunt said Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been central to stronger extradition practices. More than 200 drug criminals have been extradited to the United States in the past two years, which Blunt called a “dramatic” improvement from previous years.
Mexico also has instituted a measure similar to the federal Combat Meth Act, which restricts the sale of cold medicines containing methamphetamine ingredients, Blunt said. Blunt helped promote that legislation.
Meth produced in Mexico has been flowing into the United States, including Missouri, to fill the void left by a decline in domestic supply, law-enforcement officials have said.
On the Mexican side, government efforts have restricted meth in ways that have increased its price.
“Meth prices have probably doubled at all levels of the process,” Blunt said.
The crackdown has triggered a wave of violence, though.
Mexico’s drug-related homicide rate surged to 10,657 killed between December 2006 and March 2009. Ninety percent of the victims are believed to have been involved in the drug trade, while 988 have been policemen. With that violence has come an increase in organized crime, as gangs branch out into kidnappings and extortion.
But Blunt cited reports from the Mexican attorney general, Eduardo Medina-Mora, that the violence might have peaked and is beginning to decline.
Asked about the U.S. role in the Mexican war on drugs, Blunt said the United States should continue its support of the Merida Initiative. The program is a security agreement among the United States, Mexico and Central American countries that entails assistance in training, equipment and intelligence.
“I would be pleased to see those programs be sustained at their current levels” without reductions in funding, Blunt said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
By Derek Spellman
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