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Mexico's drug violence: U.S. in the cross hairs

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Americans are under attack not in some foreign province but in their very homes and neighborhoods. Brutal drug cartel violence that wracks Mexico is increasingly seeping over the border into U.S. jurisdictions.

In Phoenix, armed extortionists are kidnapping Americans from their homes and cars. In Southern California, citizens have been abducted by armed gangs linked to the Tijuana drug rackets. And in Texas, Gov. Rick Perry is requesting an additional $135 million for border security to stem transnational gangs that threaten communities across the Mexican border.

Authorities say the gangs are ruthless, well-armed and -organized, as evidenced by the chaos that has gripped Mexico since President Felipe Calderon sent in troops to confront that country's powerful cocaine cartels. Mexican soldiers, police, judges, journalists -- the thugs aren't discriminating as to who ends up in the cross hairs.

Says former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey, "Mexico is on the edge of the abyss." In the meantime Americans are being dragged into it.

If the cartels insist on sending the U.S. a "message," it's high time the U.S. sends one of its own: by deploying troops to defend Americans in at-risk communities. What's needed is a force greater than the Mexican gangsters to send them back to their haciendas -- and not necessarily intact.

Yes, the U.S. must address its illegal drug market. Meanwhile American lives are at risk.

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