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Obama's shout-out for Mexico's drug war

A US report cites Calderón's progress on human rights. As more legal reforms kick in, Mexicans should not let up on their support.

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Mexicans should take heart from a report last week by the Obama administration that shows America's neighbor is making progress in honoring human rights – despite a violent, internal war against powerful drug cartels.

The State Department told Congress in an official evaluation that Mexico is successfully reforming its justice system with better accountability and transparency.

Such reforms include removal of corrupt officials, punishment of soldiers who harm civilians, civilian oversight of federal police, and a broad education effort to raise respect for the rule of law.

The report was a requirement for the next release of US funds under the Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion, three-year aid package for Mexico's campaign. Both the new money and the report should help Mexicans overcome their battle fatigue from a long war that has seen 45,000 Army soldiers deployed in narcotics-trading areas.

Mexicans are starting to lose faith that there will be any sort of victory. Ever since President Felipe Calderón began the war in 2006, more than 12,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence – most of them in fighting between competing cartels. Top leaders in Mr. Calderón's National Action Party (PAN) are questioning the strategy of using the military to do police work. The number of complaints of human-rights abuses by soldiers has risen, but so, too, has the capacity and willingness of the military to prosecute errant soldiers.

Progress is being made. The war has resulted in the arrests of more than 76,000 suspected traffickers. Nearly 200 cartel leaders have been sent to the US for trial. Most of all, the campaign allows for a cleansing of corrupt officials and police, which in turn allows communities to start to prosper and create jobs for idle youth who might be tempted to join the cartels.

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