Outside editorial: Massacre in Mexico

Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2009

Melquisedet Angulo Cordova, a member of Mexico's naval special forces, had been laid to rest for only a few hours when hit men burst into his family's home Tuesday and slaughtered his mother, brother, sister and aunt.

This was not a random act of violence. It appears to have been retribution for Cordova's part in a military ambush that resulted in the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva, one of Mexico's most violent and brazen drug lords, and a handful of his bodyguards.

The revenge killing, the targeting of a mother and family, has shocked even those who have been numbed by thousands of deaths at the hands of the nation's drug cartels during the past few years. This tragedy should serve as a reminder of why the United States must remain a strong and unwavering partner to Mexico in combating the increasingly ruthless cartels.

The Obama administration condemned the murders as "barbaric" and pledged to "stand firm" with the Mexican government "in our commitment for total cooperation and shared responsibility in this fight against a common enemy." It has staunchly and correctly pushed to maintain funding levels for the Merida Initiative, which provides Mexico and neighboring countries with some $1.3 billion in equipment and training for anti-drug operations. The administration points to the Dec. 16 ambush of Beltran Leyva as proof that the U.S. assistance to Mexico's military is paying off.

It must do more. Some 90 percent of the guns seized from operations against organized crime in Mexico come from the United States. President Barack Obama expressed strong support during the campaign for closing the gun-show loophole, which allows some purchases of weapons without the buyer undergoing a federal background check.

He also vowed support for legislation to outlaw assault weapons. Since taking office, he has distanced himself from both, and he has taken only anemic steps to empower law enforcement officials to share information about the origins of weapons used in crime. He also has yet to respond meaningfully to the reasonable pleas from Mexican President Felipe Calderon for the United States to do more to stem the flow of illegal guns into his country.

Obama's professions of full support for Mexico in the war against drug cartels are welcome. They'd be more valuable if backed up by the courage to tackle the gun problem.

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