Attorney General Prepared Remarks
Binational Meeting between the U.S. And Mexico San Diego, California [NOTE: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFTEN DEVIATES FROM PREPARED REMARKS] July 24, 2001
Good morning. I want to make a few remarks before introducing my distinguished guests.
We have just finished another in a series of extremely productive law enforcement meetings between the U.S. and Mexico. We have no more important law enforcement relationship than our relationship with Mexico.
A large percentage of the drugs that come into our country come from or transit Mexico - with devastating consequences for both countries. Increasingly, violent criminal organizations operate across the border - preying on citizens in both countries and seeking to avoid apprehension and prosecution by crossing the border.
Whether dealing with our mutual efforts to fight drug trafficking, our mutual efforts to fight trafficking in humans, or the many other areas of mutual interest, our law enforcement relationship with Mexico is absolutely crucial.
The importance of the law enforcement relationship mirrors the importance of the overall relationship. It is for this reason that President Bush's first foreign visit was to Mexico to meet with President Fox. And his first state visit at the White House will be with President Fox this September.
And it is for this reason that my first foreign visit was to Mexico City to meet with President Fox and his senior advisors, several of whom are here today.
It is important to remember that this is a two-way relationship with mutual responsibilities. Too often in the past there has been a tendency to speak only of what we need or want from Mexico - frequently forgetting that we have responsibilities to assist them in law enforcement matters just as they have to assist us.
It is that recognition and acceptance of shared, mutual responsibilities that is the hallmark of a mature law enforcement relationship between two great countries.
And I am extremely encouraged and excited by the current state of our law enforcement relationship with Mexico. Since President Fox and President Bush took office, there have been very positive developments on both sides of the relationship.
While extraditions are not the sole measure of the strength of the relationship they are a significant one. And since January of this year, Mexican-U.S. cooperation on extraditions has reached a new, unprecedented level of success.
- The number of fugitives arrested for, and extradited to, the United States by the Mexican government has increased dramatically.
- In the first six months of this year, Mexico has extradited 13 individuals to the U.S. - putting Mexico on pace to double its annual average of extraditions over the last few years.
- In addition, the four Mexican nationals extradited already this year is a record that far outpaces the numbers in previous years.
- And it is not just the number of extraditions.
- The Government of Mexico has extradited the first Mexican national ever for alien smuggling.
- And the Mexicans have extradited individuals charged in this country as very significant narcotics traffickers - including Mexican nationals. These individuals have included Arturo "Kitti" Paez Martinez and Francisco Rafael Camarena Macias.
The Mexicans have also recently succeeded in capturing two notorious fugitives - former Governor Mario Ernesto Villenueva Madrid and Alcides Ramon Magana. Both are charged in New York with drug trafficking and money laundering - the results of an investigation in which the Mexicans provided substantial assistance.
And members of the Organized Crime Unit of Attorney General Macedo de la Concha's office worked extremely well with U.S. law enforcement in the investigations, searches and arrests in Operation Marquis, which targeted a large cocaine trafficking organization responsible for smuggling tons of cocaine across our border.
Earlier this year, Mexican authorities also conducted an extremely successful operation against a significant cartel resulting in the arrests of 20 people - including certain military officials who had been providing protection to the cartel. They also seized over 20 tons of marijuana, weapons and sophisticated communications equipment.
And together with the Mexicans, earlier this year we put into force the Temporary Surrender Protocol to the Extradition Treaty, which gives us an enhanced capacity to ensure that criminals who commit crimes in both our countries are effectively brought to justice.
These are just a few of the many examples of the dramatic and accelerating progress we are making in our law enforcement relationship with Mexico.
In the context of this strong and growing law enforcement relationship, I am delighted to welcome to the United States a number of senior Mexican officials who have kindly accepted my invitation to come here to discuss a variety of law enforcement and border safety.
With me today are:
- Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha,
- Commissioner for National Security Adolfo Aguilar Zinser,
- Deputy Attorney General Eduardo Ibarrola,
- Deputy Secretary of Foreign Relations Enrique Berruga, who is representing Secretary Jorge Castaneda, and
- Deputy Secretary of Government Javier Moctezuma, who is representing Secretary Santiago Creel,
- and their staffs.
This is not the first time I have met with these officials, and it will not be the last. I have come to think of these people as friends as well as professional counterparts, and I certainly hope they feel the same.
Hoy, sin duda, somos amigos.
There are obviously many, many people involved in making a successful mutual relationship. But I hope that these kinds of close personal relationships at senior levels can substantially help improve the relationship - whether by cutting through some of the red tape on individual cases or by setting a positive overall tone.
Today's meetings were very productive and we have four significant announcements to make. But perhaps even more importantly, we have continued the process of regular consultations. It is my hope that we will have many more such meetings as the relationship between our two great countries continues to mature and improve.
For some time the Mexicans have expressed concern about the illegal trafficking of firearms into Mexico from the United States. For both of our governments, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals is a priority.
I was recently honored to be with President Bush when he announced Project Safe Neighborhoods - a nation-wide initiative to fight gun violence. And earlier on this trip I have announced additional federal prosecutors to fight gun violence in both Denver and Albuquerque - two of 113 additional gun prosecutors nation-wide.
The Mexican government, too, has been working to fight gun violence. And just as we have been seeking additional cooperation by the Mexicans to fight the illegal flow of drugs from Mexico to the United States, they have looked to us for additional assistance to fight the illegal flow of guns into Mexico.
Although we do not have firm statistics, there is no question that the United States is the source of a significant number of guns used to commit crimes in Mexico. This is not surprising given our shared border and the violent criminal organizations that span the border to prey on citizens in both countries.
This is a clear problem of trans-border crime.
I am pleased to be able to announce an agreement with the Mexicans to assist in this important area. And I am delighted to have Brad Buckles, the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and his Assistant Director, John Malone, with me to make the announcement.
Their commitment of agency resources is essential to this initiative and I want to thank them for their cooperation in developing this proposal.
The ATF is the lead investigative agency in the United States for gun offenses. Its reputation for tracing weapons used in crimes is world-renowned. In recent years, the ATF has moved into the international arena, recognizing the problem of guns being smuggled out of the United States and the use of those guns to commit crimes in other countries.
Today, we have agreed with our Mexican colleagues on a program that will allow the expedited and optimal use of these resources to help fight violent crime in Mexico:
- When guns of suspected U.S. origin are seized in Mexico, the authorities will provide the technical information concerning the gun - make, model, serial number - to the ATF.
- ATF will work to trace the weapon.
- U.S. and Mexican agents will work closely together to fully support any resulting investigations.
- Attorney General Macedo de la Concha and I have committed to provide the prosecutors needed to pursue any resulting cases and bring them to successful conclusion. I will direct each of the border U.S. Attorneys to name a contact person to assist in this effort.
This is but one step towards our shared goal of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. I will be working with our Treasury enforcement agencies - ATF and Customs - and our Justice agencies - FBI, DEA, Border Patrol, and the U.S. Attorneys - so that working with our Mexican counterparts we can build a comprehensive program to combat this mutual problem.
As another indication of our close working relationship, Attorney General Macedo de la Concha and I have agreed that a Mexican prosecutor will be assigned to the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice in Washington and a U.S. prosecutor will be assigned to the Mexican Attorney General's office in Mexico.
This program will facilitate the training, communication and cooperation between our two countries in the understanding of both legal systems. The more we know about how each others system works the better we will be able to assist each other in law enforcement matters.
This program will make it easier to quickly identify and solve problems and develop innovative new proposals. It is another important step in developing relationships of mutual understanding, trust and respect.
We have also agreed on both sides to improve our response to Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty requests. These are requests for shared information and evidence in criminal cases. Given the frequency with which criminals commit crimes crossing our border, this kind of cooperation is essential to effective law enforcement.
All too often these requests languish and we have both acknowledged that we can do better in this important area of cooperation. We will both review requests that have not been acted upon promptly. I am also directing the Criminal Division to assist U.S. Attorneys' offices that are unable to process these requests promptly by processing the requests directly.
We have also agreed to take additional steps to investigate and prosecute ruthless smugglers of migrants who frequently abuse their victims, including leaving them to fend for themselves in unbelievably harsh conditions - all too often with tragic results.
I am directing Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff and the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Ralph Boyd, to work with the border U.S. Attorney's offices to increase our prosecution efforts in this area working closely with their Mexican counterparts.
As I said at the outset I am extremely encouraged with the strength and direction of our law enforcement relationship with Mexico. This meeting is just the latest in what I am sure will be a continuing series of meetings reflecting the mature law enforcement relationship between our two great nations.
- Later this month, the Plenary Group of Senior Law Enforcement officials will meet for the second time this year in Mexico City. To indicate the increased pace of progress in the relationship, I am increasing the level of the head of the U.S. delegation and will ask Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff to co-chair the meeting with Mexican Deputy Attorney General Ibarrola, who I am delighted is here today.
- Along with Secretary Powell, I will be meeting with Secretaries Creel and Castaneda in Washington early next month. This will be the second cabinet-level meeting of the Mexico Migration Working Group.
- Secretary Powell and I will again meet with Secretaries Creel and Castaneda in a third cabinet-level working group meeting immediately before the meeting of Presidents Bush and Fox in Washington in early September.
- I will also meet again with Attorney General Macedo de la Concha in September immediately before the meeting of the Presidents.
- And there are many additional meetings taking place at the staff level.
It is a privilege for me to be Attorney General during this exciting time in our relationship with Mexico. I want to thank my distinguished guests for taking the time to meet with me to help advance this critically important relationship.
And now I want like to invite my friends, Attorney General Macedo de la Concha and Commissioner Aguilar Zinser, to make any remarks they would like.