Despite the continuing onslaught of deadly violence generated by Mexican drug cartels, U.S. officials are seeing signs of hope south of the border.
The commissioner of Customs and Border Protection is optimistic that bilateral efforts can bring progress in getting a handle on the situation.
Commissioner Alan Bersin spoke at UCSD's Institute of the Americas Friday evening, noting that Mexico is finally welcoming the cooperation of the United States in this effort, which used to be a real sovereignty issue.
A former U.S. Attorney for the southern district of California, Bersin likens the challenge to this country's 30-year struggle to downsize organized crime.
"We recognize that drugs coming north and guns and cash going south are part of the same cycle of organized criminal activity that we need to confront together," Bersin told reporters. "For the first time, instead of pointing fingers at one another, we're actually recognizing the shared responsibility for the problem."
It's a problem that's taken the lives of nearly 30,000 thousand Mexican citizens over the past four years.
Last month, in a southern barrio of Tijuana, 13 recovering addicts were shot to death during an assault on a drug rehabilitation clinic -- presumably, by rival gangsters.
Bersin praises the resolve of Mexican leaders and their constituents in confronting the narco-terrorists and withstanding their reprisals.
"We sympathize and support the Mexican people in their heroic decision to say 'No mas! We cannot have the corruption, the violence, that comes along with having organized crime play such a critical and central role in our politics and our society'."
Bersin says the struggle won't be easy.
He sees it as an unavoidable stage in a process that's too important to abandon now.
"But we need to stand together and continue to recognize that Mexican democracy and organized crime are no more compatible than American democracy was when we took on -- over a generation -- organized crime in the United States."
Meantime, it's been suggested that Bersin's agency might be of help in efforts by Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive agents to curb the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
An inspector general's report this week cited "significant weaknesses" in the ATF's "Project Gunrunner", saying it needs to pay more attention to "high-level traffickers."