US buys aircraft, technology for Mexican drug war

A passenger aircraft waits on a taxiway as another takes off from a farther runway at Newark Liberty International Airport, Friday, June 27, 2008, in Newark, N.J. At Newark Liberty International Airport, where three runways intersect at the northeast corner of the airport, planes often have to be sent around when two of them approach intersecting runways at the same time. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

In the first stage of the multi-year Merida Initiative, the U.S. is providing $400 million to Mexico and $65 million to Central America to fight drug gangs. The U.S. State Department says the money will pay for:

- Helicopters and surveillance aircraft to support interdiction and rapid responses by Mexican law enforcement

- Non-intrusive inspection equipment, ion scanners and canine units for Mexican customs, the new Mexican federal police and the military to interdict trafficked drugs, arms, cash and persons.

- Technologies and secure communications systems to improve data collection and storage, thereby ensuring that vital information is accessible to law enforcement agencies.

- Technical advice and training to strengthen the institutions of justice by: improving vetting for the new Mexican police force, providing case management software to track investigations through the legal process, supporting offices for citizen complaints and professional responsibility, and promoting the establishment of witness protection programs.

- Equipment, training and community action programs in Central American countries to implement and expand anti-gang measures.

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