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Public Statements

Sense Of House Regarding Assistance To Mexico In Fight Against Drug Violence

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. CHU. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of House Resolution 1032, a resolution to honor Agustin ``Bobby'' Salcedo, an exemplary American citizen who was the victim of a shocking murder in Mexico, and to urge the United States to be resolute in its efforts to help Mexico fight the drug cartels.

This past December, Bobby traveled to Gomez Palacio in the Mexican state of Durango to visit his wife's family for the holidays. On New Year's Eve, he was out with family and friends at a local restaurant when gunmen burst in and dragged Bobby, along with five other men, out of the restaurant at gunpoint. They were then each shot to death execution-style. The next day, all six bodies were found dumped in a ditch. Bobby was only 33 years old.

I met Bobby early in his career. Having grown up in my district, in El Monte, California, he was dedicated to improving the lives of children in his community. He was an elected school board member in the El Monte School District. He returned to his alma mater to become its assistant principal and was studying for his doctorate in education at UCLA. It was clear to everyone who knew him that he was going somewhere. He was a rising star.

After the investigation began, it was confirmed that none of the six murder victims were connected to the drug trade in any way. Bobby and the others were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths exemplify the growing number of innocent bystanders who are becoming victimized by cartel violence in Mexico. It had seemed as though the situation could not get worse. However, only weeks after Bobby was murdered, the lead state investigator in his case was also shot dead by the drug cartels.

Bobby's murder brings to the forefront two critical issues: the urgency in finding the killers of Bobby Salcedo, and the importance of reducing the violence of the drug cartels in Mexico. There must be justice in the murder of Bobby Salcedo, but the challenges are great. The state of Durango is one of the most violent in Mexico. In 2009, there were 637 cartel-style murders in Durango, and not one of the cases has been solved by the police. State authorities are limited in their resources, and the cartels have successfully corrupted or scared away many officials from interfering in their business.

That is why I have asked the Mexican Government to make every effort to bring the full force of the federal government on the Salcedo murder. The federal government's strong stance against organized crime offers hope in this case. The federal government has greater resources at their disposal, such as forensic equipment, manpower, and training. Although the federal government has yet to federalize Bobby's case, I am hopeful they will realize this case is a symbol for both of our countries and can demonstrate to all parties that progress can be made.

We cannot allow the death of innocent bystanders, of American citizens, to pass without consequence. Until there is true accountability for the violence, there is little incentive for the drug lords to keep peace. But the overall solution is not stopping the violence of the drug cartels. The U.S. must be resolute in supporting Mexico's efforts to combat the drug trade and its violent consequences. There has been progress. President Felipe Calderon made the combating of drug violence his focal point. He greatly increased efforts on the Federal level to track down the drug kingpins and reduce their supply lines.

In 2007 the United States and Mexico worked together to pass the Merida Initiative. This agreement took Mexican and American cooperation to a whole new level, providing over $1.3 billion to support the Mexican Government in its fight. The funds went to helicopters, surveillance aircraft, interdiction equipment, nonintrusive inspection equipment and improved data collection capabilities, as well as provided for training programs and institution building in Mexico.

But now we are at a critical point. The Merida Initiative will expire at the end of this year, the war has not been won, and the violence grows more disturbing each day. That is why Congress and the administration must decide now how to implement the next phase of this partnership.

In my conversations with law enforcement and state departments, three elements are critical in a new initiative: fighting the massive money laundering of funds out of the U.S., improving the forensic technology available to Mexican law enforcement entities, and helping Mexico rebuild its judicial institutions.

On money laundering: Every year between $8 billion to $10 billion is smuggled out of the U.S. by the drug cartels. Even as our law enforcement agencies are improving their ability to stop these funds from leaving the country, the cartels are finding novel ways to launder money. They are using money service businesses, online services, and even legitimate retail businesses as fronts for their illegal transactions, and they are also using massive bulk cash transfers. Stopping the money laundering gets at the heart of the drug cartel operation.

On technology: Mexican state and local law enforcement agencies are sorely lacking in the appropriate technology to combat these well-armed cartels. We must focus more of our efforts on the local institutions to provide them with 21st-century law enforcement technology.

And on the judiciary: until we have a partner with a strong judiciary and objective law enforcement, the cartels will continue to run free. By providing resources to train law enforcement and rooting out corruption amongst them, drug kingpins will be forced to face the consequences of their actions.

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Ms. CHU. Now is the time to pass this resolution. Bobby Salcedo's death is a brutal reminder that this violence is a growing threat not just to Mexicans, but also to Americans. Bringing his killers to justice will vindicate his death, and ending the violence in Mexico will save the lives of thousands of innocent victims in this gruesome war. For these reasons, I urge you to vote in favor of this resolution.

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