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White House Steps Up Drug Cartel Fight

The Obama administration says it is sending more agents and equipment to the southwestern U.S. border to combat Mexican drug cartels.

Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said officials still were considering whether to deploy the National Guard to the border. She plans to meet with Texas Gov. Rick Perry to discuss the matter.

Deputy Attorney General David Ogden pledged "to destroy these criminal organizations" through a united effort on both sides of the border.

Violent turf battles among cartels have wracked Mexico in recent years and led to a spate of kidnappings and home invasions in some U.S. cities.

Authorities say they will increase the number of immigration and customs agents, drug agents and antigun trafficking agents operating along the border.

Prosecutors say they will make a greater effort to go after those smuggling guns and drug profits from the United States into Mexico.

Officials said President Barack Obama is particularly concerned about killings in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, Mexican cities just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and San Diego, California, and wants to prevent the violence from spilling over into the United States.

Recently, Mexico's president Felipe Calderon sent an influx of soldiers into Juarez to stem the drug violence. CBS Radio News correspondent Cami McCormick reported, the move has worked so far with fewer murders in Juarez, and U.S. agents are seizing fewer drugs crossing the border.

But, McCormick reports, ask most people here whether they think the peace will hold and they simply shake their heads. Some speculate the drug cartels may have called a ceasefire among themselves, only to prepare for all-out war on these Mexican security forces.

Among moves the government plans:

  • Doubling border enforcement security teams that combine local, state, and federal officers.
  • Adding 16 new Drug Enforcement Administration positions in the southwestern region. DEA currently has more than 1,000 agents working along the southwest border.
  • Sending 100 more people form the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the border during the next 45 days. A recent bill passed by Congress already provided money for the ATF to hire 37 new agents and support staff in the region to fight gun trafficking.

    The administration also is highlighting $700 million that Congress has approved to support Mexico's efforts to fight the cartels.

    The plan so far falls short of a request last month by Perry, the Texas governor, that 1,000 troops be sent to bolster border security in his state.

    During a visit to El Paso last month, Perry said he had asked Napolitano for aviation help and "1,000 more troops that we can commit to different parts of the border."

    Asked then if he wanted the military, Perry said, "I really don't care. As long as they are boots on the ground that are properly trained to deal with the border region, I don't care whether they are military troops, or National Guard troops, or whether they are customs agents."

    Last week, a Perry spokeswoman said federal border protection had been underfunded for some time, and the 1,000 extra troops Perry requested would fill in gaps that state and local agencies have been covering.

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