Mexican president says country to extradite 24 traffickers

Mexican President Vicente Fox said his government is preparing to extradite at least 24 drug traffickers to the United States, but he ruled out using police to stop migrants on Mexico's side of the border.

Speaking to reporters in Cancun, where he is meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Fox said Thursday he couldn't release the names of the traffickers facing extradition, and warned they might react violently to the prospect of being sent abroad.

"This will be punishment for them because we'll take them out of Mexico so they stop operating," Fox said.

He said the first dozen will be turned over to the United States in the coming weeks and at least another 12 will soon follow. Fox had earlier mentioned extraditing a smaller number of traffickers.

In November, Mexico's Supreme Court overturned a 4-year-old ban on the extradition of suspects facing life in prison, removing an obstacle that had prevented many of the country's most notorious criminals from facing U.S. justice. Mexico, however, can still deny extradition if the person faces the death penalty.

American investigators have long said allowing top drug suspects from Colombia to be extradited to the United States reshaped the anti-narcotics battle in that country and that extraditing Mexican suspects could have a similar effect here.

While Fox's statements on extradition were likely to please the United States, he flatly ruled out any possibility that Mexico would try to prevent its migrants from crossing the border illegally.

Mexico has long cited a freedom-of-movement clause in its Constitution as prohibiting any attempt to stop would-be Mexican migrants from massing at border towns.

"We can't infringe upon the right of people to move freely within our territory," Fox said.

Fox said his government has strengthen enforcement on his southern border, where 240,000 Central American migrants heading to the United States were deported last year, reports the AP.


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