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)

Advertisements

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)