Mexican police operating from US soil

August 27, 2011

At some point, someone in authority is going to have to admit there is a war going on in Mexico and that our national security is at stake, because we’re already fighting it:

The Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the American side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for American and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Although the operations remain rare, they are part of a broadening American campaign aimed at blunting the power of Mexican cartels that have built criminal networks spanning the world and have started a wave of violence in Mexico that has left more than 35,000 people dead.

Many aspects of the campaign remain secret, because of legal and political sensitivities. But in recent months, details have begun to emerge, revealing efforts that would have been unthinkable five years ago. Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, who was elected in 2006, has broken with his country’s historic suspicion of the United States and has enlisted Washington’s help in defeating the cartels, a central priority for his government.

American Predator and Global Hawk drones now fly deep over Mexico to capture video of drug production facilities and smuggling routes. Manned American aircraft fly over Mexican targets to eavesdrop on cellphone communications. And the D.E.A. has set up an intelligence outpost — staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and retired American military personnel — on a Mexican military base.

Two things I’ll say about this. The first is that I’m glad it’s happening. For too long Mexico has hidden behind a chest-thumping nationalism (1) and refused almost any serious cooperation. That the Calderon administration is changing this policy, albeit quietly, at great political risk to itself shows they recognize the serious problem they have, that it’s also a military and no longer just a law-enforcement problem, and that they need help. While Mexico is not yet a failed state, the danger signs are there.

Second, while I’m glad we’re cooperating with the Mexicans and giving them help, it would be really nice if our own government would admit there is a serious security problem on our southern border and make a credible effort to secure it, including fencing where appropriate and Border Patrol forward operating bases (FOBs) in others.

And if the US government really wants to help Mexico, maybe it should stop helping to arm the cartels.

So, when do we resume cavalry patrols?

via Big Peace

Footnotes:
(1) Just because of that little dust-up in 1846 that cost them half their country. Jeez, what grouches.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gunwalker: the scandal that breaks the Obama administration?

June 14, 2011

I’ve said for a long time that I think Eric Holder is the worst Attorney General since the wretched A. Mitchell Palmer (1) and should be forced to resign or be impeached. From his failure to protect voting rights on a color-blind basis to his vindictive persecution of CIA interrogators questioning al Qaeda terrorists and his incompetence in handling the trials of terrorists, he’s not just incompetent — he’s doing genuine harm.

But it appears the scandal that may finally bring Holder down (and his boss?) is one that’s been simmering on the backburner for months and is only now coming to a boil: Operation “Fast and Furious,” aka “Gunwalker,” a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms plan to trace the flow of firearms to Mexican drug cartels by letting US gun-dealers sell them the weapons.

What could go wrong?

At Pajamas Media, Bob Owens (aka “Confederate Yankee“) looks at the forthcoming hearings, reviews the fatal results of Gunwalker, and concludes Obama and Holder have plenty of reason to stonewall Congress:

Rumors began to fly over a week ago that a .50 BMG weapon supplied to Mexican drug cartels by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) was used to bring down a Mexican military helicopter in May. According to CBS News, the use of that weapon can be confirmed, and it turns out the helicopter was one of two  fired upon by suspected cartel members.

The raid on the cartel that the helicopters were supporting was successful, netting more than 70 weapons, including the helicopter-down .50 BMG rifle and other weapons traced back to the botched ATF Operation Fast and Furious, also know as “Gunwalker.”

To date, the ATF operation, which encouraged gun shops in the American southwest to sell weapons to suspected criminals and let them carry the weapons across the border, has resulted in an estimated 150 Mexican law enforcement officers and soldiers shot  with ATF-supplied weapons. While the theory behind the plot was different, the end result is no more deplorable than Iran’s arming of Iraqi terrorists.

At least two American law enforcement officers have been murdered with ATF weapons as well. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry  was killed with “Gunwalker” firearms in Arizona, while ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata  was killed in an ambush in Mexico with a gun the ATF allowed to be sold to a cartel gun smuggler in Dallas.

The damning evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice agency is a major supplier of cartel weapons will go in front of a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week, in what could be a damning indictment of the ATF’s senior leadership and Eric Holder’s leadership of the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Holder has apparently ordered the DOJ to fight Congressional oversight, with the DOJ and ATF ignoring seven letters and a subpoena  from the committee. Neither Holder nor ATF Director Ken Melson will answer questions — which may lead to them being held in contempt of Congress.

Be sure to read the rest.

One can see why Holder would want to keep information from the House committee: if true, it reveals a mind-boggling level of stupidity and possibly criminal recklessness at ATF and Justice that has lead to the deaths of people on both sides of the border.

Owens hints at a hidden agenda behind the program, and one wonders if he isn’t on to something. Obama, as well as the Left in general, have long been advocates of strict gun-control, regardless of the plain meaning of the Second Amendment. Encountering resistance from the gun-rights lobby and conservatives in Congress, the administration has even worked to circumvent the Second Amendment via international treaty. The President has regularly lied about the role of US firearms in Mexico’s violence, far exaggerating their numbers. Could it be that one of the “side benefits” of Gunwalker was to provide more “ammunition” for the administration’s gun-control agenda?

I’d hate to think that was the case, but it can’t be completely discounted, either.

And that leads to the other reason Holder might rather risk a contempt citation at this week’s hearings than tell the truth: if Obama knew of this plan in advance and approved of it or at least didn’t stop it, or if he found out about it afterwards and didn’t do anything about it, then he bears responsibility for an operation that has cost the lives of US and Mexican federal agents and armed dangerous gangs allied with our declared enemies. It could easily be a fatal blow to his reelection chances.

Which means it’s time to ask The Question: What did the President know, and when did he know it?

BACKGROUND: CBS, in particular reporter Sharyl Attkisson, has been doing yeoman work on this story from its earliest days, reminding us of what the MSM used to be. Here’s one of her first reports. The whole series of articles is here.

RELATED: The Diplomad draws a connection from the ATF to… Thor Heyerdahl?

Footnotes:

(1) Hmm… Also appointed by a progressive Democrat president. I detect a pattern.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Falcon Lake murder: witnesses come forth

April 14, 2011

Six months ago, David and Tiffany Hartley thought they were going to spend a pleasant day exploring the ruins of an abandoned Mexican town, now mostly submerged under Falcon Lake, in Texas.

Instead, they were attacked by Mexican drug runners: Tiffany barely escaped with her life, while David was gunned down. His body was never found, and the lead Mexican investigator on the case was beheaded by the cartels as a warning to authorities to back off.

Since then, Tiffany has returned to live with her parents, trying to put her life back together. As the weeks and months went by, it looked less and less like she would ever receive justice, or even the body of her husband to bury. In addition, she has had to endure suspicions on the part of some that she was not telling the truth and maybe even involved in David’s death.

Just recently, though, two witnesses have been found that who corroborate her story:

Gonzalez told South Texas television station KRGV an elderly couple with a home near Falcon Lake heard the gunshots that killed David Hartley.

“We’ve had calls from people that were in the area, U.S. fishermen fishing on the Mexican side of the lake. They heard what the witness calls a war zone, three different episodes of gunfire, a barrage of bullets,” Gonzalez said.

The sheriff says the new witness accounts validate Tiffany Hartley’s version of the events that led to her husband’s death.

“I’ve had to come up against a lot of criticism, a lot of judgment, kind of fighting through all this with what happened to David,” Tiffany Hartley said. “It’s hard being judged and it’s hard having your character judged.”

Gonzalez also released a photograph taken by a Customs and Border Protection helicopter, showing six men in a boat just after the attack. Two of the men match Tiffany Hartley’s description of the killers.

Follow the link for photos.

Hopefully this will lay those monstrous rumors to rest and provide a clue to the identity of the killers, and eventually to giving Tiffany some peace.

LINK: Earlier posts on the Falcon Lake murder.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Failing state watch: Mexican soldiers arrested for drug smuggling

March 4, 2011

Thirteen soldiers arrested for smuggling drugs:

The Mexican army has ordered three junior officers and 10 soldiers to stand trial on drug trafficking and organized crime charges after they were allegedly caught with more than a ton of methamphetamines and 66 pounds (30 kilograms) of cocaine.

The military announced earlier that several soldiers were arrested last week with drugs at a military checkpoint south of Tijuana, across the border from San Diego. It was not clear whether it was the same group named in the charges announced Thursday.

Like cops, Mexican soldiers are poorly paid, so the temptation must be great to make a little extra on the side by acting as couriers or guards; the cartels have plenty of money to spread around in bribes. The danger of course comes when Mexico City wants these soldiers to do something against the interests of the guys who pay them better: whose soldiers are they, then?

RELATED: Border crossings by Mexican troops.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Bombshell allegation: Mexican presidents colluded in drug trafficking?

March 1, 2011

And the accuser isn’t some minor politico or crime figure, but a former state governor from the long-time ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) . According to Borderland Beat, Mexican presidents from Miguel de la Madrid through Ernesto Zedillo, nearly 20 years, bought social peace by telling the cartels which routes they could use to bring their drugs to the United States and which areas they had to leave alone:

In a conference with students held on Wednesday, February 23, at the Law School of the Autonomous University of Coauhuila in Saltillo, Socrates Rizzo delivered a bombshell that has rocked Mexico as the campaign for the 2012 presidential election approaches.

During an interview session the former PRI Governor admitted that previous PRI presidents held strong control over drug trafficking routes that prevented the attacks on civilians and the violence that Mexico is undergoing today.

Although an open secret in Mexican society and a charge occasionally leveled publicly by the country’s two other major political parties, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), this is the first time in recent history that a former or current PRI politician has admitted publicly that this arrangement existed.

“Somehow the problems with drug trafficking were avoided, there was a strong State control and a strong President and a strong Attorney General and a tight control of the Army.”

“Somehow they (drug traffickers) were told: ‘You go through here, you here, you there’, but do not touch these other places,” he said in his speech.

The former Governor added that this strategy allowed the State to ensure the social peace that has been lost in the war on drugs launched by the PAN administration of Felipe Calderon.

“What the old guard says is that we had control by the Government and the Army. The big problem is consumption, and while consumption exists in the U.S. there will be drug trafficking in that direction.”

“What control by the PRI governments guaranteed was that drug trafficking did not disturb the social peace.”

Former Governor Rizzo also said Mexico’s current troubles with violence began with the electoral victory of the National Action Party‘s (PAN) presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, in 2000. They knew nothing of the deal with the cartels, didn’t want to know, and indeed tried to crack down, with the bloody results we’ve seen in years since, especially since President Calderón took office in 2006. In fact, the PRI candidate in 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio, may have been assassinated by the cartels because he didn’t want to play along, breaking the deal. Rizzo laughably says the problem with the PAN presidents was a lack of “professionalism.” I guess “professional” in his book means “willing to play along.”

Not that the three PRI presidents, de la Madrid, Salinas de Gortari, and Zedillo were just honest brokers trying to spare their people as much as possible. Concern for their people may have been part of it, but they and those under them were getting their cut, too. In fact, the corruption grew so bad under Salinas that his predecessor, de la Madrid, was shocked at his greed. (Sort of like Louis in “Casablanca?”)

Rizzo retracted his story the next day under heavy criticism, especially from two Mexican senators from the PRI Party, Manlio Fabio Beltrones and Fernando Baeza Melendez, both former governors themselves and both reputedly in tight with the cartels. Fabio Beltrones, in particular, is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate next year, should the party’s golden boy, Enrique Peña Nieto, falter. Wouldn’t that be sweet if he wins? “We’re back in business, boys!”

The trouble with Rizzo’s retraction, however, is that his accusations are just too plausible: not only are his critics rumored to have heavy ties to the cartels, but the problem with violence after Calderón started his crackdown didn’t spring from nowhere. Large cartels were known to exist in the 80s, for example, Rafael Caro Quintero’s Guadalajara Cartel. It’s hard to believe they could do the volume of business they did in the 80s and 90s without some sort of under-the-table official protection.

And corruption in Mexico is known to have crawled up into the federal ranks. With that much money at stake, it’s inevitable  that a lot was spread around to ensure “cooperation.” But it didn’t happen overnight, and Rizzo’s allegations argue that these corrupted cops were just following El Presidente’s lead — at least until the new guys screwed up a sweet deal.

But don’t think that this can be solved by Calderón or his successor cutting another deal with the Devil. As the Borderlands piece points out, Mexico now has its own drug consumption problem, and these guys are fighting over markets inside the country, not just for prime routes north. It will be much harder for Fabio Beltrones, for example, to come to a new understanding with the cartels that allows him to tell them what to do.

Of course, the big question for us is “Isn’t this all history?” In a sense, yes. What those three presidents did years ago has done its damage in the United States, and Mexico is now paying the price of cleaning it up — if it can be cleaned up. The monster de la Madrid and his successors summoned may have grown too big for their successors to defeat without a lot more blood being spilled, which has predictable implications for our own security.

But one also has to ask what happens if PRI wins the next election, particularly if Fabio Beltrones or some other cartel-friendly candidate becomes president. If Rizzo’s accusations are true, then it is a dubious question whether almost any PRI president and his administration can be considered a reliable partner against the cartels — or whether he is their partner.

Do read the whole thing. It’s long and it relies in part on rumor and anonymous sources, but it has a disturbing ring of truth to it, too.

via Business Insider

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico’s drug war hurts Los Angeles’ economy

January 17, 2011

Call it a spillover effect, or maybe collateral damage. For years, the Port of Los Angeles has been the jumping off point for cruises down the Mexican coast. Those days are now coming to an end, as the ships sail away for good:

The sour economy and growing drug-related violence in Mexico is having a major impact on the two largest cruise ships serving the Port of Los Angeles.

Royal Caribbean is leaving the rough waters of Southern California and Mexico after a voyage that begins Sunday.

The cruise line’s Mariner of the Seas, a 3,100-passenger vessel, will end up in its new home base of Galveston, Texas.

Norwegian Cruise Lines will pull its Norwegian Star out of port in May. The 2,348-passenger ship will end up in Tampa, Fla.

The two ships combined carried nearly half of the Port of Los Angeles’ passengers in 2009.

KABC also provides a video report.

Carnival Cruise lines is also leaving, sending its ship to Australia next year. These ships bring in roughly $1 million dollars each to the Los Angeles economy, so this is a heavy blow to an area already struggling with high unemployment and government mismanagement. The report cites a bad economy in Southern California as another reason for leaving, but, come on. Maybe passenger numbers for Mexican cruises are down because of news like this: 19 beheadings in Acapulco* this January alone — and the month’s not even over!

Small wonder these ships are leaving.

*A major cruise destination. That’ll draw the tourists.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shots across the border

January 16, 2011

Mexico’s continuing drug war spilled over into the United States again, when a  road crew in Texas had to flee for their lives as they came under fire from the other side of the border:

Hudspeth County, Texas Sheriff Arvin West confirmed a Hudspeth County road crew came under fire Thursday morning from gunmen in Mexico.

Sheriff West told ABC-7 that around 10:30 a.m, Thursday a road crew was repairing a part of Indian Hot Springs road, just east of Neely’s crossing in Hudspeth County along the US-Mexico border when they came under gunfire from the Mexican side.

The crew was able to escape unharmed and managed to call for help. Units from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Border Patrol and Hudspeth County sheriff’s deputies responded within minutes. They were able to determine the shots came from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande but were unable to spot the actual gunmen.

West added this is the first time county crews have come under direct fire. No one was injured and no equipment was damaged.

This isn’t the first time Americans in the El Paso area have come under fire, whether deliberately or accidentally.

The El Paso Times reports official speculation that this particular incident was caused by cartel gunmen wanting to clear the workers from a smuggling route they were using and notes that the area is a regular trafficking site:

Drug cartels use this busy smuggling corridor in between the Quitman Mountains and mountains in the northwestern part of Chihuahua state to traffic marijuana and sometimes cocaine, Doyle said.

The U.S. government built narrowly spaced steel poles north of the Rio Grande to fence the border in that West Texas area. The slots are not wide enough for people to cross, but small objects can fit between the 15-foot-tall poles.

Perhaps the road crew was in the way of a planned package-passing. Regardless, this will become another bit of evidence for border-security advocates concerned about our porous southern border. But, no fence, barrier, or wall, electronic or physical, is 100% secure. Until Mexico smashes the cartels that have made the rule of law and even Mexican sovereignty in their northern states a joke, there will be more incidents like this.

RELATED: The horrifying must-read story of Ciudad Mier, a Mexican town abandoned because of the drug war. Tell me again that Mexico isn’t a failing state. And 2010 was the bloodiest year in Mexico’s war against the drug cartels, with 15,273 dead. Iraq is safer. (By way of contrast, there were 15,241 murders and nonnegligent manslaughters in 2009 in the United States. This is from all causes, not just an organized crime war.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tijuana: “No, it really is a great success!”

October 14, 2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited Tijuana last week to proclaim a great victory in cleaning the city of drug cartel-related violence as brutal as that seen in any northern Mexican city.

Less than a week later, the hanged corpses and severed heads have returned:

A rash of decapitations and other gruesome killings have hit Tijuana since Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited the border city last week and called it a success in his drug war.

The most recent killing occurred just before midnight Tuesday when motorists found a decapitated body underneath a bridge on a road leading to the beachside neighborhood of Playas de Tijuana, according to a police report Wednesday.

Reporters at the scene saw a rope hanging from the bridge, suggesting the man had been hung from his feet but was too heavy and plunged into oncoming traffic.

The discovery came a day after two other beheaded bodies were found hanging from their feet in Tijuana.

Police said they were still conducting forensic tests on the body found Tuesday and had no immediate comment on the identity of the man or the circumstances of his death.

Earlier Tuesday, police found a human head inside a bag in another Tijuana neighborhood, but it did not belong to the body found underneath the bridge.

According to police reports, at least 16 people have been killed in the city since Sunday — a surge from the normal rate of about two homicides a day.

Calderon had come to Tijuana as part of a promotion for a two-week convention promoting the city as a place to do business. So, as part of their convention fun, the guests get to play “guess where the next corpse will be found.”

Helluva success story, there, Felipe.

To be fair, the Mexicans have made some progress in TJ, and the current round may be remnants of a smashed cartel striking back, or a new group moving in. Either way, the message to the Mexican government is clear: “We rule here. Not you.”

This is only going to get worse before it gets better.


When crooks no longer fear the cops

October 12, 2010

I’ve used that subject line before, about Chicago. But it’s just as fitting for Mexico, where cartel gunmen ambushed a police convoy in the state of Sinaloa, killing eight officers:

The gunmen, travelling in three or four vehicles, “began shooting with automatic weapons”, an official said.

The state is home to one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs, the Sinaloa cartel run by Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman.

(…)

The police officers were patrolling a road 80km (50 miles) form the state capital, Culiacan, when they were attacked on Monday.

The killings highlight the challenges for Mexico’s police as they and other security forces seek to take on the drug gangs.

Yeah, challenges such as “just staying alive.” Of course, when the cartels can trap even the Mexican Army in one of its bases, what a mere patrolmen supposed to do?

I think I’ll postpone that trip to Mazatlan for a while…

RELATED: President Calderon aims to deal with the serious problem of corruption in the local police forces by eliminating local departments and having the states provide local policing. Given the well-known problems of corruption at the state police-level (example), I can’t see how this is much more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Still, one can hope that it’s a start to purging corrupt cops from the local ranks.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico: four bodies found hanging from bridge

October 2, 2010

The nightmare continues in Mexico, this time in Tampico, the main city of violence -wracked state of Tamaulipas:

The bodies of three men and a woman were found Thursday hanging off a bridge in the Mexican Gulf coast city of Tampico, officials said.

The bodies were discovered around 5:30 a.m. in one of the city’s most important business and financial districts.

Soldiers and marines cordoned off the area and removed the bodies from the bridge.

Scenes like this have become common in recent years in Mexico, where drug cartels have used decapitations, massacres and other acts of violence in an attempt to strike fear into rivals and the government.

The northern border state of Tamaulipas, where Tampico is located, has become one of Mexico’s most violent states due to the war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of turf and smuggling routes into the United States.

Imagine seeing that on your morning commute to work.


Failing states: is Mexico the new Colombia?

September 28, 2010

I’ve suggested in recent postings that Mexico and its cartel-spawned violence is coming to resemble Colombia’s war with leftist guerrillas and allied drug cartels, including the loss of state sovereignty over territory. Secretary of State Clinton made a similar observation, causing a minor diplomatic flap.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times criticizes this comparison, arguing that the analogy to Colombia is flawed:

As the death toll from drug-related violence nears 30,000 in four years, the impression that Mexico is losing control over big chunks of territory — the northern states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Durango at the top of this list — is prompting comparisons with the Colombia of years past. Under the combined onslaught of drug kingpins and leftist guerrillas, the South American country appeared to be in danger of collapse.

The Colombia comparison, long fodder for parlor debates in Mexico, gained new energy this month when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the tactics of Mexican cartels looked increasingly like those of a Colombia-style “insurgency,” which the U.S. helped fight with a military and social assistance program known as Plan Colombia that cost more than $7 billion.

But is Mexico the new Colombia? As the Obama administration debates what course to take on Mexico, finding the right fix depends on getting the right diagnosis.

The article then look at four facets of the comparison to see if the Colombian experience really does map to Mexico:

The Enemy: the authors correctly point out that Colombia’s problem originated with political rebellion – various flavors of Marxists trying to overthrow the state- while Mexico’s is, so far, more one of organized crime. Very bold and violent, but there is no political agenda. However, Colombia’s Leftist (and some Rightist) guerrilla groups eventually allied with the drug lords and even went into the business, themselves. There’s no reason to think the Mexican cartels couldn’t evolve in the opposite direction, to out and out rebellion, if the Mexican state weakens.

Land Grab: Journalist Ken Ellingwood is somewhat right when he asserts that, while the Colombian guerrillas at one time controlled vast swathes of territory from which Colombian authorities were banned, that hasn’t happened in Mexico. I say “somewhat,” because it almost seems like a distinction without a difference. Yes, no territory has been formally ceded to the cartels, as happened in Colombia. But what’s the practical difference when the Mexican Army gets blockaded in its bases; a newspaper gives up and says to the cartels “You win;” and the police chief of a major city has to live in an office closet with a gun under his pillow for his own safety? The cartels may not claim territory, but it’s clear who rules.

Who Gets Killed: Ellingwood  argues that the Colombian guerrillas attacked government officials and business men in an effort to topple the state. The Mexican cartels, on the other hand, while they they have killed cops and mayors (and even a gubernatorial candidate), are doing so as part of their war with each other. Yes, but the difference is… what? If government officials are getting whacked, it represents the breakdown of the state and civil society, regardless of whether it is part of an attempt to overthrow the government, or simply because they backed the wrong cartel. As with the territory issue, the end result is roughly the same.

A Weakening State: Here the article seems to argue that Colombia was in a better situation than that in which Mexico currently finds itself. State institutions fought back with the active support of the media and the public, particularly after an aggressive president, Alvaro Uribe, came to power. In Mexico, while President Calderon has launched his military against the cartels in some area, they’ve been largely ineffective. In addition, the police and court are notoriously corrupt. While Ellingwood describes the Mexican Army as more reliable that the police, it may be a question of relative positions on the scale of rottenness.

The article concludes with an argument, correct in my opinion, that Plan Colombia, which was tailored to specific Colombian needs, cannot be applied to Mexico as a “one size fits all” solution. Any solution (or solutions) will have to be designed with the particular qualities of Mexico’s problem in mind.

To come back to the original question, the analogy of Mexico now to Colombia of the 1980s and 1990s, while Mr. Ellingwood draws useful distinctions between the two nations, in my opinion they are largely academic. The essential quality of the situations in both countries is that rule of law, government, and civil society are under deadly assault by armed groups, whether directly targeted in an act of rebellion or as a byproduct of a war between criminal gangs. In that regard, the comparison is quite valid.


Another Mexican mayor assassinated

September 27, 2010

At this rate, being elected mayor in northern Mexico is beginning to resemble getting a promotion to admiral in the Imperial Navy in Star Wars. This time, it was the mayor of Doctor Gonzalez, in Nuevo Leon:

Armed assassins have killed a fourth Mexican mayor in less than six weeks’ time as drug war violence continues to engulf formerly calm parts of the country, authorities said Friday.

Gunmen Thursday night ambushed Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas at his ranch home near the industrial center of Monterrey in northern Mexico. Rodriguez was mayor of the town of Doctor Gonzalez, just northeast of Monterrey.

Also Friday, Ricardo Solis, who was to be sworn in as mayor of another town in two weeks, was shot by an armed commando in the border state of Chihuahua, news reports from the region said. He was in critical condition.

Rodriguez was killed along with an employee by gunmen who lay in wait for the mayor, said Alejandro Garza, attorney general for the state of Nuevo Leon, where Doctor Gonzalez and Monterrey are located. Garza said the motive for the shootings remained under investigation.

The Mexican President expressed his condolences  and condemned the killing, which is about as effective as a sternly worded letter of concern from the UN.

I’ve written recently about Monterrey .

UPDATE: Have they implemented Shariah law? A Mexican mayor has been found stoned to death. (via quirky1too)


Baylor ends study-abroad in Mexico due to violence

September 23, 2010

In recent months, I’ve focused on Mexico and the cartel-related violence there, which directly relates to the security of our own southern border and that of the people who live in the area. Occasionally, I’ve been accused of demonizing Mexico and Mexicans by grossly exaggerating the problem. Perhaps, though I don’t believe so. But, if I am guilty of scaremongering, so is Baylor University:

Drug war violence in Mexico is escalating to an all-time high, forcing Baylor study abroad programs in Mexico to halt.

Baylor has suspended every program in Mexico, with the exception of the law school in Guadalajara, until the conditions change, said Dr. Michael Morrison, director of the Center for International Education. Guadalajara has not experienced the violence seen along the northern border of Mexico and in Monterrey.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against drug traffickers in late 2006.

Two Baylor students studied in Monterrey in the spring. Following an outbreak of violence outside the gates of Monterrey Tech, Baylor arranged for one student to return immediately and worked with the other student and the student’s parents to determine that the student would remain for the last few weeks to finish the Monterrey Tech program.

“We are not currently taking students on that program, as Monterrey is one of the most dangerous places,” Morrison said.

Dr. Sijefredo Loa, associate professor of Spanish, directed the last Baylor in Mexico program to Xalapa, Veracruz, in June 2009.

“There are a few facts that are very alarming,” Loa said. “The road blocks the cartels have set up, for instance. They’re stopping tourists with vans and buses because they want to check the traffic. So this has alarmed and scared a lot of people.”

I can see why.

To borrow a phrase from our President, let me be clear: I do not believe Mexico is a failed state or likely to fail in the near future; Colombia, for example survived far worse and came through it.  However, I think those who dismiss the discussion of Mexico’s security problems as hysteria or (you guessed it) racism are burying their heads in the sand to avoid seeing a very real, very serious problem that has serious implications for our own security.

Same with those who think the whole problem could be solved with a libertarian-style legalization of the drug trade: these are not simple businessmen fighting for the right to pursue a trade. The cartels are criminal-terrorist enterprises with much in common with our jihadist enemies (perhaps even allying), such as perceiving any accommodation as weakness. Legalizing their poisonous trade wouldn’t make honest merchants of them; rather, they would be like Edward G. Robinson’s “Johnny Rocco,” in Key Largo:

Johnny Rocco: There’s only one Johnny Rocco.
James Temple: How do you account for it?
Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What’s that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh …
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That’s it. More. That’s right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won’t.

And neither will the cartels, no matter how much we give them.

RELATED: The El Paso Times reports that Juarez’s largest newspaper, El Diario de Juarez, has asked for a truce with the cartels after the assassination of its second journalist in two years. I wrote about the situation in Monterrey yesterday.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


State Department: “Get your kids out of Monterrey”

September 22, 2010

The security situation in northern Mexico continues to worsen as an attempted kidnapping sparks a warning for Americans living in Monterrey and an order from the State Department: Get your children out.

Affluent Americans living in Monterrey became extremely worried in late August that they were in danger after a gun battle erupted  in front of the American School Foundation, which many children of American as well as Mexican business executives attend. The firefight took place between bodyguards working for the Mexican beverage company Femsa SAB de CV and cartel attackers, who were apparently attempting to kidnap young relatives of a high-level company employee. In the course of the ensuing battle, two bodyguards were killed and two others captured. Flying bullets caused students in the school to scramble for shelter in the school cafeteria.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Charles Pascual then cautioned employees of the Monterrey consulate to keep their children home, “while we assess the risks and what measures can be taken to reduce it (sic.)” Pascual gave that recommendation even though there was no hard evidence that the children of consular personnel had been targeted.Following the incident, the U.S. consulate in Monterrey also posted an advisory on its website, directed to Americans living in the area. “The sharp increase in kidnapping incidents in the Monterrey area, and this event in particular, present a very high risk to the families of U.S. citizens,” the message read.

Three days later, the State Department escalated its warnings and issued a stunning edict. “U.S. government personnel from the consulate general are not permitted to keep their minor dependents in Monterrey,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman stated. “As of September 10, no minor dependents, no children of U.S. government employees will be permitted in Monterrey.” That was the kind of restriction, designating the Monterrey consulate a “partially unaccompanied post” for U.S. diplomats, is normally imposed only in war zones and other extremely high-risk areas. It underscored just how seriously the State Department took the surge in fighting and the extent of the kidnapping danger.

While the State Department travel warning couches it in much softer language, the message is clear: the cartel wars have made previously safe Monterrey too risky.

And it’s not just the children of diplomats: Caterpillar has told its executives to move their families out of the city, and well-off Mexicans are doing the same. The lack of security was accentuated by the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of what are assumed to be cartel victims, and the kidnapping and murder of the mayor of a neighboring town.

Mexico’s third-largest city and an economic powerhouse, the descent of Monterrey into “cartel chaos” would be devastating to Mexico. With the growing inability of local authorities to provide security in such an important city, the reflex reaction would be to “send in the Army.” But that hasn’t worked out so well in other Mexican border cities. In fact, in many cases, the Mexican Army is part of the problem.

Take a look at this map:

(Click to enlarge)

Monterrey is dead center. To the west is Torreón, while to the east is Reynosa, both of which I’ve written about before. North lies Nuevo Laredo, where things have become so rough that they spurred crazy rumors about ranch takeovers in Texas. And we’ve all heard about the problems in places farther west, such as Juarez and Tijuana.

It’s plain that Mexico has more than just an organized crime problem in its northern territories: there is a growing challenge to the government’s authority there. While I don’t believe there’s any realistic danger of a state failure in Mexico City, it is not inconceivable that Mexican state and federal authorities might find it easier to throw up their hands and surrender de facto control of the area to the cartels, much as Colombia did with the FARC in the 1990s. The risk of that and the potential threats it would hold for our border regions makes Mexico’s internal security a vital interest for our national security.

More than just increasing border security itself (and worthwhile as that is), the Obama administration* needs to intensify cooperation with Mexico to bolster its capacity and resolve to restore its crumbling writ in its northern states. Perhaps some variant of the highly successful Plan Colombia would work. Just as important, the Mexican government** has to be brutally honest with itself and its people about the problems they face; no more trying to distract attention by lecturing us over a minor state immigration law. Their current efforts are a failure; no progress has been made. It’s time for both countries to admit there’s a serious problem and deal with it before it goes critical.

*More like “the next administration.

**Call me a cynic, but I have doubts Calderon has it in him to do this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico, a failing state?

September 19, 2010

One of the marks of a dying polity, at least in my estimation, is when the criminals no longer fear the police. When that happens, the government can no longer enforce law and order and a state of anarchy prevails. Mexico may not be a failed state –yet– but there are numerous and growing signs of breakdown, such as the kidnapping and murder of the police, themselves:

Police in Mexico say eight officers who were abducted by gunmen in the southern state of Guerrero on Friday have been found shot dead.

A ninth member of the unit has been found alive with wounds to his head. The bodies of some of the dead officers are reported to have been mutilated.

The police patrol was investigating a murder when it was ambushed.

Guerrero state has been a focus of the drugs-related violence that has killed more than 28,000 Mexicans since 2006.

The nine agents from the federal investigative police had travelled to the Teloloapan district after a man was reported shot dead.

As they went in pursuit of the suspected killers they were stopped by a large group of gunmen.

Two officers were found shot dead close to where they were abducted. The other six bodies were found about 15km away after a search by police and troops.

Note that these were federal cops, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI or Justice Department investigators. Imagine if a group of FBI agents were kidnapped and executed in the US. This isn’t just criminal activity; it’s insurrection. These cartels are not just running drugs, they’re denying the authority of the government itself and saying they rule, instead.

In one of the rare times I’ll ever agree with Hillary Clinton on anything, she was right to say Mexico more and more resembles Colombia as it was 20 years ago.

Only this time the problem is right on our border, rather than 3,500 miles away.

LINKS: The AP has an earlier article on the kidnapping and murder.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Residents abandoning Juarez

September 16, 2010

From an article in Borderzine, a student journalism project of the University of Texas at El Paso. The war between the drug cartels has grown so serious that residents are abandoning the city:

According to newspaper records, a historical record was set for monthly and annual homicide totals was in 1995 with 34 victims in the month of August and 294 for the whole year. Fifteen years later, homicide rates have increased nearly ten fold. In 2008, 1,623 murders were recorded, with a much larger number of 2,754 in 2009.

“No longer is the violence in Juarez out of our lives but intricately part of it,” said Diego Acosta, a junior at UTEP.”

“I miss my old life very much, a city one that was once my home. I have built my life here [El Paso], my friends are here, or they come over often, and most importantly I feel safe here; I cannot say the same about Juarez,” lamented Esmeralda Zazueta, a current UTEP sophomore.

Despite the fact she misses Juarez, Zazueta explained that after violent threats to her family, they “panicked, began packing that afternoon, and were living in El Paso within two weeks.”

The violence in Juarez has also affected the housing market. According to Brandi Grissom of The Texas Tribune, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz reported an estimate of 20,000 homes have been abandoned since 2008, with the estimates of those who fled, and continue leaving the city, ranging from 100,000 to half a million or 38% of the city’s total population.

“While some have fled north to seek safety and prosperity in America, many more have gone back to their homes in southern Mexico,” Reyes Ferriz said.

According to a survey by the Observatorio de Seguridad y Convivencia Ciudadanas, seven out of ten Juarez citizens reported they have modified their everyday lives and routines due to the intolerable fear. This study showed 63% of the Juarez population perceives the city as dangerous and citizens of the downtown area reported feeling more at risk.

When does “illegal immigration” become a “refugee problem?”

(via Latina Lista)


Gee, ya think there might be a problem?

June 5, 2010

So, in the annals of our porous southern border, we’ve had problems with illegal migrants, drug smuggling and human trafficking, vulnerability to terrorists, and even Americans being murdered on their own property.

Now we have to worry about the dam bursting. Literally.

Agents feared Mexican drug cartel attack on border dam

An alleged plot by a Mexican drug cartel to blow up a dam along the Texas border — and unleash billions of gallons of water into a region with millions of civilians — sent American police, federal agents and disaster officials secretly scrambling last month to thwart such an attack, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

Whether or not the cartel, which is known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and dynamite, could have taken down the 5-mile-long Falcon Dam may never be known since the attack never came to pass.

It may have been derailed by a stepped-up presence by the Mexican military, which was acting in part on intelligence from the U.S. government, sources said.

The warning, which swung officials into action, was based on what the federal government contends were “serious and reliable sources” and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm to first responders along the South Texas-Mexico border.

Mexico’s Zeta cartel was planning to destroy the dam not to terrorize civilians, but to get back at its rival and former ally, the Gulf cartel, which controls smuggling routes from the reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, head of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition, as did others familiar with the alleged plot.

But in the process, massive amounts of agricultural land would stand to be flooded as well as significant parts of a region where about 4 million people live along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

A local Texas police captain discounted the threat, but bear in mind that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 15 guys with box-cutters. And isn’t it comforting to know they weren’t out to get us, really; they were just after other drug smugglers. The Zetas were even courteous enough to warn residents on (the Mexican side of) the border to clear out.  Bad guys fighting bad guys! Win-win!

Speaking of holes that need plugging, Mr. President…

(via Allahpundit)

LINKS: More from Fausta.