Hamilton Legal Extradicting Mexican Drug Lords

Sara Sirota

Mexican drug cartels have infiltrated the U.S. for far too long. In order to correct this pressing issue, federal officials have attempted to work with the Mexican government to extradite drug lords. According to U.S. statute, international extradition is “the surrender by one nation to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside of its own territory and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other which, being competent to try and punish him, demands the surrender.”

Since the victory of President Vicente Fox Quesada and his center-right National Action Party in 2000, Mexican leaders have vowed to increase cooperation with the U.S. Indeed, during his term between 2000 and 2006, 223 extraditions took place. Between 2007 and 2012, during President Felipe Calder??n’s term, Mexico extradited 587 people to the United States.

On March 7, 2013, Cesar Alfredo Meza-Garcia, the leader of the Tijuana cartel, was extradited to the United States. This cooperation gave federal officials hope that Mexican President Enrique Pe?na Nieto would continue the efforts of his two predecessors, but now officials are still awaiting the extradition of Jos?e S??nchez Villalobos, the chief financial officer of the Sinaloa drug cartel. After a San Diego federal grand jury indicted Mr. S??nchez Villalobos on 13 counts, U.S. officials requested that Mexico send him to San Diego to face prosecution. However, it has been over a year since his January 2012 arrest. Mr. Meza-Garcia was extradited less than six months after his arrest.

Drug infiltration has had devastating effects on U.S. public life. Thus, U.S. federal officials must take a more active approach to ensure President Enrique Pe?na Nieto continues the

extradition cooperation of former Presidents Quesada and Calder?”n.

One way officials can accomplish such a task is by clarifying the terms of the 1978 bilateral extradition treaty between the U.S. and Mexico. According to Article 9 of the treaty, “Neither Contracting Party shall be bound to deliver up its own nationals, but the executive authority of the requested Party shall, if not prevented by the laws of that Party, have the power to deliver them up if, in its discretion, it be deemed proper to do so.” Such terms are vague and may be subject to differing interpretations.

Unfortunately, Mexico’s current executive authority may not be very willing to deliver up people who the U.S. requests to extradite. According to David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of California, San Diego, President Pe?na Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party “has traditionally painted itself as a defender of Mexican

sovereignty … against U.S. influence.” In order to ensure such nationalism does not hinder extradition cooperation, U.S. federal officials can clarify what is meant by “proper” for when it would be expected that the executive authority succumb to extradition requests. Perhaps such major crimes like drug infiltration should always be considered proper.

Another way officials can ensure President Enrique Pe?na Nieto continues the extradition cooperation of his predecessors is by altering the M?erida Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to “fight organized crime and associated violence while furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law.” Since its implementation in 2008, the U.S. Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion, supported Mexico’s “implementation of comprehensive justice sector reforms,” and provided “non-intrusive inspection equipment to enhance Mexican authorities’ ability to detect illicit goods at checkpoints.” Furthermore, the U.S. has delivered advanced helicopters to the Mexican military to provide for “rapid transport of personnel for

counter-narcotics and other security operations.”

The Mexican government certainly desires to maintain such appealing assistance from the U.S. In order to ensure extraditions continue, federal officials can use this desire to their advantage by either enhancing or weakening the terms of the M?erida Initiative. They can appropriate more money, support more training of justice sector personnel, provide more inspection equipment, and deliver more helicopters to the Mexican military. Such kindness may compel Mexican authorities to cooperate with U.S. extradition requests.

On the other hand, federal officials can decrease all of its assistance as a sanction for lack of cooperation. Such depleted help may compel Mexican authorities to deliver people up in order to gain back the appropriations, training, equipment and helicopters.

The U.S. has many options it can take to ensure President Pe?na Nieto continues the extradition cooperation of his predecessors. Choosing the right course of action may be difficult, as the U.S. wants extraditions to occur without causing further conflict.

As federal officials and law enforcement agents move forward in battling the illegal drug trade, they must remember to concentrate efforts not only on Mexico but other threatening states, such as Colombia, as well. Drug infiltration may be one of the most concerning issues of international conflict for lawmakers today.