Obama Moves to Halt 'River' of Guns, Drugs to Mexico
Adds top cartels to 'drug kingpin' list
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 16, 2009 9:45 AM CDT
Federal police walk outside the hotel where President Barack Obama is expected to stay during his visit in Mexico City, Tuesday, April 14, 2009.    (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)
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(Newser) – On the eve of an important meeting with Mexico’s president, President Obama yesterday imposed sanctions against the top Mexican drug cartels in a move intended to slow cross-border drugs and weapons trafficking, the Washington Post reports. After speeding up a process that normally takes a year, he added three cartels to the list of banned foreign “drug kingpins,” meaning the US can seize their assets and prosecute American companies or individuals that deal with them.

Designating certain cartels as kingpins has helped the Colombian interdiction effort, but one expert warned that if authorities don't target particular assets, "it's an important symbolic gesture, but it's kind of an empty threat." Experts say $19 billion to $39 billion in drug proceeds crosses the border annually, and officials say 90% of weapons seized since December 2006 come from the US. But stopping the “iron river” may not stop the cartels: they could score weapons from Central America and Eastern Europe.