Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico drugs war: Corruption grows on US border

Traffic queues at the US-Mexico border near Tijuana - May 2011
Image caption Agents are being encouraged by traffickers to assist or turn a blind eye to illegal activities

Mexican drug cartels are increasingly targeting American border guards and customs agents with bribes and sexual favours, a US security official says.

Charles Edwards of the US Department of Homeland Security told a Senate committee the cartels were using what he called systematic corruption to smuggle drugs and migrants into the US.

He said the cartels were also seeking tip-offs about police investigations.

Another official said 127 US agents had been arrested or tried since 2004.

Alan Bersin, the US customs and border protection commissioner, said Mexico's offensive against the cartels combined with the rise in the hiring of border agents in recent years has multiplied the risks of corruption.

Mr Edwards named the Zetas cartel as being involved increasingly in systematic corruption.

It came in the form of monetary bribes, sexual favours and other methods to encourage border agents to assist drug traffickers, those involved in smuggling undocumented immigrants, or to ignore their activity, he said.

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