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Senior U.S. drug official praises cooperation with Mexico, a 'law enforcement wall'

A farmer walks through a marijuana field in Mexico. (Los Angeles Times)
A farmer walks through a marijuana field in Mexico. (Los Angeles Times)

A top U.S. drug official made a strong case Thursday for continued cooperation with Mexico on fighting drug-trafficking, saying successful law enforcement already has created a virtual wall.

In a subtle dig at the Trump administration, William Brownfield, the State department's senior diplomat involved in drug policy, said that despite a crisis drug epidemic, the United States and Mexico were in a better position than ever to combat it.

"In a sense, we have developed a law enforcement cooperative wall at this point without actually having the physical construction of a wall," Brownfield said.

Brownfield, assistant secretary of State for international narcotics and law enforcement, spoke to reporters as his agency released the 32nd annual narcotics-control strategy report.

Brownfield said the U.S. and Mexico had developed an extended system of intelligence-sharing and joint operations to counter illegal drug trafficking in the last decade since the beginning of the Merida Initiative, an aid program dedicated to law enforcement and the so-called war on drugs.

Any future efforts, he said, should be coordinated with Mexican authorities. That contrasts with what President Trump often describes as a unilateral approach to stopping drugs from flowing into the country.

Still, Brownfield acknowledged that the U.S.is suffering its worst heroin and opioid crisis in 60 years. Almost all the heroin consumed in the United States — 90% to 94% — comes from Mexico, he said.

Brownfield dodged questions about how possible budget cuts at the State Department would hurt his agency's work. He also had praise for the anti-narcotics trafficking efforts of the United Nations — another potential target of the administration's budget cutting.

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