Napolitano sets plan to curb Mexico border drug smuggling
NOGALES, Ariz (Reuters) - Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday rolled out the Obama administration's 2011 strategy to curb drug smuggling on the Mexico border, pledging to boost intelligence sharing and technology to tighten security.
President Barack Obama has been under intense pressure to beef up security on the porous southwest border to curb immigrant and drug smuggling north from Mexico, and halt the flow of guns and cash proceeds south. The strategy update was the first since 2009.
"Since that time we have been devoting really unprecedented efforts to make sure that the border is safe and secure," Napolitano told a news conference at the Border Patrol station in Nogales, in southern Arizona.
Napolitano, who was accompanied by Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Alan Bersin, U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, presented the report detailing ten strategic objectives.
Among goals going forward was boosting intelligence and information sharing with state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies along the nearly 2,000-mile border, and enhanced liaison with Mexican authorities.
The plan also sought to increase the use of technologies such as X-Ray machines at land border crossings to detect drugs headed north to U.S. markets, and bulk cash proceeds and guns headed south to Mexico to arm the Mexican cartels.
With smuggling by sea on the rise off the coast of southern California, the plan seeks to increase the detection and tracking of small vessels, including submarines -- which have been used by the cartels to run drugs in Pacific coastal waters off Colombia and Central America.
It also set out to increase capacity to detect clandestine tunnels under the border -- usually used to smuggle drugs -- 135 of which have been identified by law enforcement up to March of this year.
Part of the emphasis also focuses on reducing U.S. demand for drugs through education, community development and providing rehabilitation for drug users.
As a metric of the administration's success, Napolitano said gun, drug and bulk cash seizures had increased along the southwest border in the past two years, while the number of illegal immigrants was down "substantially."
"The numbers that need to go up are going up, the numbers that need to go down are really going down, and the president is committed to sustaining that effort," she added.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune)
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