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)

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Cartel city: terror in Torreón

September 17, 2010

I’ll grant that subject line sounds like it should be the title for a roleplaying game adventure or the next Grand Theft Auto release, but, sadly, it’s all too true. In the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Rory Carroll reports on the nightmare that has become life in this northern Mexican city. Once a center of transportation, manufacturing, commerce, Torreón and its surrounding area by the 1990s was a prosperous place. But now, after several years of war among the drug cartels, it is a city in which prisoners are released from jail by the warden to massacre innocent party-goers:

For a country in the throes of a war that has claimed 28,000 lives in four years it is perhaps little surprise that a transport hub such as Torreón, intersection for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines, is grim. Murders among the population of 550,000 average three per day. Two massacres in city bars preceded the attack on the Italia Inn party, a bloodbath made worse by the fact the victims had no connection to drug trafficking.

The atrocity’s apparent motive was a display of strength by the Sinaloa cartel in its battle to oust a rival group, the Zetas, from Torreón. “It’s a turf war, and they’ll kill anyone,” says Carlos Bibiano Villa, Torreón’s police chief. The day after the attack, the Zetas, keen to show they still controlled the city, left four human heads with a note saying the massacre’s perpetrators had been punished. Decapitation, once unheard of in Mexico, has become routine.

What came next, however, was new. The Zetas, after killing the four probably random and innocent unfortunates, really did investigate the massacre. The result was a harrowing video uploaded on YouTube. Rodolfo Nájera, bruised, swollen and stripped, gazed into the camera with a confession. The 35-year-old kidnapped policeman, flanked by masked gunmen, must have guessed how the video would end. Asked by an off-camera interrogator about the Italia Inn massacre, Nájera said the killers were Sinaloa members allowed out of prison for nocturnal hits. Guards lent them guns and vehicles. “Who let them out?” barked the voice. “The director,” replied the doomed man. The video ends minutes later with a shot to the head.

The entire article is one paragraph after another of eye-popping facts and vignettes that one would think could only happen in a movie, but are part of everyday life in Torreón. Here’s just one: the entire police force of 1,200 was fired and replaced for corruption. As the mayor says,

“The police relaxed their ethics and discipline and just gave in. In the end they weren’t working for them (the cartels). They were them.”

Carroll briefly discusses possible solutions, ranging from the libertarian “legalize drugs” to “let one cartel win.” The former strikes me as a pie-in-the-sky academic solution that would do nothing to end cartel violence; they’d fight over the legal trade as much as the illegal commerce. On the other hand, allowing one or the other gang to win in the hope of regaining peace seems to be the definition of a dying republic, one that admits the gangs are the real sovereign power.

It may not be a genuine failed state yet, but Mexico seems to be coming awfully close.

Read the whole thing.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Cartel Wars: 25 dead in Ciudad Juarez

September 15, 2010

…in three hours:

Drug-related violence continues to consume Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. Last Thursday’s toll of 25 killed over a three-hour period rattled a city that is already accustomed to numerous deaths a day.

It was the highest single-day toll recorded in the border city since the violence erupted there more than two years ago. Victims in Thursday’s shootings range in age from 15 to 67. They were mostly ambushed inside their homes, reports the El Paso Times.

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said the killings were believed to be acts of retaliation by the Juarez cartel for an alleged kidnapping of a child by the rival Sinaloa cartel. What’s not clear is what all those victims had to do with the alleged kidnapping.

Does it matter why, anymore? Public safety is all but nonexistent in several Mexican cities thanks to the gang wars and the government’s failures to rein them in. Reynosa, at the other end of the Texas-Mexican border from Juarez, is described as being under the open control of the Gulf and Zeta cartels, which are battling over the city like pirates over a captured woman, while the Mexican Army sits by, impotent.

Not only is there the human tragedy of people living in fear of their lives from bloodthirsty criminals, but what happens on their side of the border affects us, too. Not just from illegal immigration as people understandably look for a safer place to live, but also physical security. Already cartel violence is spreading into our cities. Do we have to wait for another raid on Columbus to take our border problems seriously?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)