US general comments on Predator drones over Mexico

U.S. involvement south of its border is a sensitive issue in Mexico, where it is seen by some as interference

By Dan Elliot
Associated Press

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The U.S. shares responsibility with Mexico for confronting the danger posed by international crime rings that ship drugs across the border, a top American general said Friday.

Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., head of the U.S. Northern Command, said Mexico isn't just a neighbor but "part of our North American family."

Jacoby spoke of developing an effective relationship with the Mexican military during a briefing with reporters at Northern Command headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. He credited his predecessor, Adm. James Winnefeld, for bringing "depth, breadth, and just as importantly, warmth" to the relationship between the two countries' militaries.

U.S. involvement south of its border is a sensitive issue in Mexico, where it is seen by some as interference.

In March, the Mexican government acknowledged the U.S. had been surreptitiously flying Predator drones over Mexico for two years to help gather intelligence about drug trafficking. That brought criticism from some Mexican lawmakers, prompting the Mexican government to assert the flights were done only with its authorization and supervision.

Mexicans also were angered by reports that U.S. law enforcement agents allowed hundreds of weapons purchased in the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico as part of an investigation into gunrunning by drug cartels.

Jacoby stressed that the Mexican government and U.S. diplomats, not the military, have the lead in the U.S. military's actions.

"It's a supporting role that we play, in support of things that the Mexicans ask us to help with, things that the embassy asks" of military commanders, he said.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press

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