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Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Wednesday that $8.7 million in economic stimulus funds would be spent helping various law enforcement agencies in California defeat Mexican drug cartels at the nation’s southwestern border. “This task will not be easy. The Mexican cartels are sophisticated criminal enterprises with billion-dollar budgets,” Holder said during a news conference in Los Angeles. Members of the Drug Enforcement Administration and various local law enforcement authorities joined him. “These funds will help our state and local partners in California build the infrastructure and hire the professionals we need to confront the cartels,” Holder said. Additional awards will be forthcoming soon to support law enforcement agencies in California and four other states, he said. In all, the initiative will include 20 economic stimulus grants totaling $30 million. That money will create and retain 168 jobs, Holder said. The announcement came one month after Holder, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, unveiled President Obama’s National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy. The initiative is designed to reduce the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico into the United States by increasing local law enforcement resources. Earlier this year, the Justice Department arrested more than 750 people as part of Operation Xcellerator, a multi-jurisdictional crackdown on the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel. Authorities arrested more than 750 suspects and seized drugs worth some $60 million. Of the new funds, more than $2.8 million will pay for 10 new positions on a task force involving several law enforcement agencies in the border town of Chula Visa, Calif. More than $800,000 will provide a new automated intelligence management system to track distribution of Mexican drug trafficking groups in San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco; and nearly $5 million will create a 16-member uniformed team in San Diego County to patrol the border. That team will include a deputy district attorney to prosecute cases. Holder acknowledged challenges in combating the Mexican drug cartels and that the departments of Homeland Security and Justice have not worked together well in the past. He insisted, however, that the agencies are working together now to reduce the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico. He emphasized that the efforts depend on cooperation from Mexican authorities, particularly to increase the number of Mexican police units vetted for corruption.

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