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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Anti-Drug Helicopters Not Ready for Mexico

PUBLIC | SERVICE

They were promised in 2007, but eight Bell 412 EPs and three UH-60 Black Hawk transport helicopters meant to bolster Mexico’s war against drugs won’t be delivered until this September. That’s the news that hit Congress on March 10, 2009, during hearings into the escalating drug violence along the U.S-Mexican border.

Waiting until September to deploy these aircraft is "absurd," said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. She chairs the Mérida Initiative subcommittee, which oversees the $1.4 billion U.S./Mexico/Central American drug-fighting program. While the DoD waits for the timely delivery of the aircraft from Bell and Sikorsky, "bodies are being decapitated," Rep. Lowey said. "People are being killed."

"The congresswoman believes that it is in the national interest of the U.S. for Mexico to have the helicopters as soon as possible," said Matt Dennis, Rep. Lowey’s press secretary. "They are needed to fight the narco-traffickers, drug cartels and the arms trade along the U.S.-Mexican border." According to a congressional source, Lowey understands that, under normal DoD procedures, a two-year acquisition process is not unusual. But due to the growing violence along the border, she wants the helicopters to be pushed through as quickly as possible.

More than 6,000 people died in 2008 as a result of the drug war. Casualties for 2009 are already more than 1,000 and climbing, amidst fears that the violence will spill over into southwest U.S. border states.

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