July 30, 2008

Corruption harms effort to fight drugs


by Midland Reporter-Telegram
Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 3:22 AM CDT

Where drugs are involved there is money, and where money is to be had there is the chance of corruption.

In fact we are seeing that already along our border with Mexico as a growing number of law enforcement officers are accused of taking bribes from drug gangs. This comes just as the United States is trying harder to secure our borders by slowing both the drug trade and the inflow of illegal aliens.

Washington is trying hard to aid Mexico's solid effort to fight the drug cartels by sending $400 million to help Mexico's army-led war on the trafficking gangs, at the hands of which brutal murders have surged to unprecedented levels.

But as we spend more money to fight the drug gangs, they spend more money to get their product into the U.S. where the drug market is lucrative. But as the hurdles mount for the drug dealers, they find other ways to get drugs to their anxious customers.

Currently, the Mexican drug cartels are using of bribes to corrupt U.S. agents. Data on agents convicted of graft are not made public, but the U.S. government is probing hundreds of border corruption cases where a decade ago it saw only a few dozen a year.

The FBI-led Border Corruption Task Force says it is busier than ever, from Texas to California. Some put the rise in bribery down to a recent tightening of border controls and a jump in hiring new agents. Smugglers can offer hundreds of thousands of dollars to get past the heavily policed border with drugs and immigrants. That can be much more than a border agent or sheriff makes in a year.

Andy Black, who oversees the San Diego task force, near the busy border crossing of San Ysidro, told Reuters, "We are talking about a minority of agents but they are a very significant threat, a weak link in efforts to secure the border."

Corruption south of the border is a major hurdle to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's quest to crush drug gangs, with up to half the country's police thought to be crooked. Spiraling drug violence has killed 1,700 people in Mexico this year.

U.S. anti-drug officials have pointed to higher street cocaine prices as proof of tighter border controls.

But the campaign is weakened by cases like that of a border agent and his brother in Texas who netted $1.5 million by letting tons of marijuana through checkpoint inspection lanes from 2003 to 2005.

We have always taken pride in the honesty of the vast majority in law enforcement in the U.S. We certainly don't want to be known for corruption in the system. That's why we should continue to search for corruption and graft, and when found, deal with it harshly.

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