REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President Felipe Calderon used a two-day visit to ultra-violent Ciudad Juarez to deliver a pointed message to the United States. Standing a stone's throw from the U.S.-Mexico border, and flanked by some of his government's top security officials, Calderon switched to English to say, "No more weapons!"
"Dear friends of the United States," he continued in English. "Mexico needs your help to stop this terrible violence we are suffering."
Driving home the point, the president unveiled a dramatic billboard in which the words "No more weapons" were formed by 3 tons of seized guns, melted and chopped up like so many building blocks. Here is a video of the Thursday ceremony, mostly in Spanish.
The Mexican government has repeatedly urged U.S. officials to take stronger steps to stop the flow of military-caliber guns southward into Mexico, including a call to revive the assault-weapon ban that expired during the last Bush administration.
Revelations that hundreds of weapons also came into Mexico as part of the so-called Fast and Furious operation, courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, only exacerbated the problem.
Mexico argues that the steady supply of assault rifles, automatic pistols and other weaponry arms powerful drug cartels that are battling government forces and intimidating civilians. More than 50,000 people have been killed since Calderon launched an army-led offensive against drug-trafficking gangs in December 2006.
Calderon was in Ciudad Juarez, the deadliest city in Mexico, to assess government efforts to stem the violence as part of a 2-year-old program called "We Are All Juarez" that was prompted by the massacre of a group of young people at a soccer party. The pace of killings has slowed yet remains the highest in the country.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: President Felipe Calderon and senior members of his government unveil a billboard in Ciudad Juarez demanding an end to the flow of weapons into Mexico from the United States. Credit: Mexican president's office