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TribBlog: McCraw Says Mexico Worse Than Colombia

The situation in Mexico is worse now than the Colombian drug war of the 1980s and 1990s ever was, Texas Department of Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw told state lawmakers today.

Steve McCraw

The situation in Mexico is worse now than the Colombian drug war of the 1980s and 1990s ever was, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state lawmakers today.

"Colombia was never threatened like the government of Mexico is with the level of violence," McCraw told the House Select Committee on Emergency Preparedness at a Capitol hearing.

The committee and its chairman, state Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, focused many of their questions about the state's emergency preparedness on the current violence just across the border in northern Mexico, particularly in Juarez. "Each and every day we hear about killings, shootings, assassinations, kidnappings," said Peña, whose hometown is about 10 miles from the Mexican city of Reynosa. Peña asked McCraw to compare the violence in Mexico to that during the drug war in Colombia.

McCraw said the lawlessness in Mexico is worse. The United States eventually intervened to help the Colombian government quell the violence and take down Medellin cartel leader Pablo Escobar in 1993. "That hasn’t happened in Mexico," McCraw said. Though Mexican President Felipe Calderon is trying to control the violence, McCraw said, those efforts so far have not worked. "There has never been a more significant threat as it relates to cartels and drug and human smuggling on the border today," he said. Juarez alone has seen more than 4,800 drug war deaths since 2008, according to recent reports in the El Paso Times, including at least 600 killings this year.

Lawmakers said their primary concern is preventing that violence from spilling over into Texas — or at least stopping more of it from spilling over. "Do you see this getting worse before it gets better, and what can we do as state to make it better?" Peña asked. McCraw said the war is likely to worsen before it improves and state legislators need to continue doling out dollars for state border security initiatives. Since 2005, lawmakers have spent at least $200 million for state-led border security efforts. "We can never be too good," McCraw said.

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