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U.S. and Mexico to Increase Cooperation

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 8, 1996 – Mexican officers are now training in counterdrug operations at U.S. bases as part of a U.S.-Mexican effort to increase military-to-military cooperation, senior defense officials said.

U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry met with Mexican army Gen. Enrique Cervantes Aquirre, secretary of national defense, in Mexico last fall. The October visit with Mexican government officials was the first by a U.S. defense secretary.

As a result of the meeting, U.S. and Mexican officials set up a working group to develop cooperative programs for the neighboring nations' armed forces. They focused on counterdrug programs, disaster relief, force modernization and education and training, officials said. They reported their findings to Perry and Cervantes Aquirres at a mid-April Washington meeting.

To increase cooperation between the two militaries, the United States has agreed to provide more training for Mexican forces in counterdrug operations. This is in addition to training provided through the International Military Education and Training program, a DoD official said. About $1 million in international training and education funds has been allocated to Mexico this year, a DoD official said.

As part of the new initiative, 15 Mexican officers began a 12-week course April 1 starting at Fort Benning, Ga., and then at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The course will concentrate on supporting law enforcement drug interdiction procedures, searching vehicles, preserving evidence, individual survival skills, military marksmanship, reconnaissance techniques, and first aid and medical evacuation procedures. Upon completion, the Mexican officers will return to their units, where they will develop similar training for Mexican units supporting counterdrug efforts.

DoD also invited Mexican officials to visit several U.S. installations where counterdrug training is conducted and support for drug law enforcement agencies is coordinated.

U.S. and Mexican defense officials also said they had agreed to a framework for transferring 20 excess UH-1 helicopters to the Mexican air force to help combat drug traffickers. Assuming Congress approves and final details are worked out, the helicopters will be transferred to Mexican authorities within the next few months, a DoD official said.

To be effective in the fight against drugs, Mexican military officials need faster transportation, a DoD official said. "If they get information a flight's landed that's offloading tons of cocaine and they get there two days later after climbing through jungles, it doesn't do any good," he said.

Mexico will also use the additional helicopters to quickly move forces to eradicate drug fields, a senior Mexican defense official said. Destroying marijuana and poppy fields has been a successful part of Mexico's counternarcotics policy, he said. "The logistics are very complex, and once you have more mobility, the capacities are enhanced," he said.

Drug dealers are not unbeatable, the Mexican official said. "They are beatable if everybody puts their forces together," he said. "In this process of cooperation, we can truly make some very big and important strides."

In the area of disaster relief, a Mexican official said his country wants people trained in disaster simulation so their reactions are measured and their capacities are enhanced. They are particularly interested in training to deal with forest fires.

The U.S.-Mexican working group is slated to meet every six months, DoD officials said.

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