A Mexican Standoff with Reality
WASHINGTON, DC – Flanked by the embattled President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon and the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, a weary looking President Barack Obama used a press conference to angrily denounce as “Alarmist and inflammatory” a recent report issued by the conservative Heritage Foundation that declared the massive chain of UN administered Mexican Refugee camps in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as “a bottomless well for narco-insurgency” and “a threat to the territorial integrity of the United States”. The camps, home to at least 2.5 million Mexican nationals, are dominated by the “Zetas Confederales”, a loose and ultraviolent umbrella militia aligned with the feuding Mexican drug cartels that now control upwards of 80 % of Mexico.
President Obama’s political fortunes have been reeling recently in the wake of high profile incidents that include the kidnapping of his Special Envoy for Transborder Issues, former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, and the car bombing assassination of popular California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that killed 353 people in Sacramento last month. Both events have been tied directly to factions of Zetas “hardliners” who operate with impunity on both sides of the US-Mexican border. President Obama used the conference to point to the “clear and hold” COIN strategy that has recently restored order and even a degree of tourism to Las Vegas, once the scene of bloody street battles between Zetas, local street gangs and right-wing American paramilitary groups, as a sign of the success for his administration. Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill remain skeptical and say that it is likely that President Obama will face a primary challenge next year from Senator Jim Webb (D- Va), a former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, who called the president’s COIN strategy “The right course of action” but ” Two years too late”….
That fictional scenario above is offered as a thought experiment.
Thursday, in a statement that was issued in part for public diplomacy purposes, DNI Adm. Dennis Blair, dismissed any strategic implications regarding the strength of Mexico’s drug cartels that the Mexican government is struggling to suppress:
Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. [Let me] repeat that. Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. The violence we see now is the result of Mexico taking action against the drug cartels. So it is in fact the result of positive moves, which the Mexican government has taken to break the baneful influence that many of these cartels have had on many aspects of Mexican government and Mexican life.
While it might be tempting to ask what the good Admiral is smoking, Blair is neither a naif nor a fool but a very experienced and saavy intelligence manager who is engaged in pushing a political line of the Obama administration, in deference to the wishes of the government of Mexico. The line is being peddled on many fronts; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has just declined offers for increased appropriations for improving border security in favor of “surging” Federal agents on a temporary basis (i.e. a political show that will accomplish nothing). Here is SECSTATE Hillary Clinton on the same subject on the same day as Adm. Blair while on an official visit to Mexico:
On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton noted that no official of the Obama administration had ever used the phrase “failed state.” She said Mexico faced a “public safety challenge,” likening it to the surge of drug violence in American cities in the 1980s. And she lavished praise on the Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, for taking strong measures against the drug cartels.
This line that Mexico is fundamentally sound, while helpful to President Calderon’s political standing when expressed in public, is analytically speaking, sheer nonsense, and if enforced in private, counterproductive to having sober USG interagency planning sessions to make certain that worst case scenarios, like the one imagined above, never come close to materializing. Such politicized groupthink also interferes with effective cooperation with Mexico to address a 4GW type problem that has already mestastasized to a dangerous degree into American territory. Earlier, while still free of Mexican diplomatic and political pressure, the U.S. military accurately assessed the potential threat of Mexico devolving into a failed state in this JFCOM planning document (we won’t be seeing anything like this in public again, barring leaks):
In terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.
….The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.
Banning terminology like “failed state” or admission of adverse data points from Mexico or the Southwestern U.S. (!) into an integrated analytical picture because the self-absorbed and greedy oligarchy that rules Mexico heatedly objects, is a recipe for policy failure and “snowballing” interrelated problems as each new development is inadequately addressed for political reasons. This new eggshell to tread carefully upon is going to be added to our longstanding, politically determined, refusal to contemplate our own drug policy honestly in light of it’s effect on our national security interests (We are turbocharging guerillas, Islamist insurgents, terrorists and criminal networks all over the globe with billions of American narco-dollars and corrupting and demoralizing our own allies in the process).
If the current situation in Mexico existed anywhere else in the world, our national security elite would already be discussing the potential for a mass exodus of refugees at given levels of escalating violence. The United States government conceives of the border in terms of an economic immigration problem not as a political mass-migration problem; such an event, spilling over into the hot deserts of the American border states, would very likely overwhelm the capacity for adequate humanitarian response. A Katrina moment in the cacti.
Recall the difficulties the Carter administration had with the relatively minor refugee influx in 1980 known as the Mariel Boatlift when 120,000 Cubans were permitted by Fidel Castro to flee the Communist paradise for life in the United States, along with imprisoned criminals and mental patients whom Castro deported along with the boatlift. A full blown civil war in Mexico could generate 20 to 30 times that number of refugees, among whom narco-guerillas or terrorists or independent bad actors could operate freely, much as refugee camps elsewhere in the world have been breeding grounds for militias, criminal organizations and terrorists.
SECSTATE Clinton, at least, should know all of this very well. The handling of the Marielitos issue by Jimmy Carter probably cost her husband the governorship in Arkansas and led him later as President to enforce a very tough line against Haitian refugees, fearing a deluge of desperately poor Haitians fleeing dictatorship and internecine political violence. It would be far better to prioritize Mexico as a national security issue today, than let it evolve into a transnational powder keg tomorrow. There are, I must observe, far more Mexicans than Haitians in this hemisphere.
But proper response requires empirical investigation and analytical clarity, followed by sensible and determined policy designed to short-circuit negative trends, not empty political assertions designed to tread water, obfuscate and delay action. We have time, but not unlimited time.
(Special thanks to Morgan, Pundita and John Robb for their insights, concerns and/or suggested links yesterday on this issue which were helpful in clarifying my thoughts).
State of Siege: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (Full PDF Article) Stratfor reports on Mexico, news ignored by our mainstream media
Latest Academic Mexico Trip Report “Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?” Mexico’s Instability Is a Real Problem
Mexico – Failed State/Failed Policies? Among top U.S. fears: A failed Mexican state Why Vicente Fox is going straight to Hell
MEXICO’S BAZAAR OF VIOLENCE What if A State Failed and Nobody Cared? American Narcotics: $10 Billion In Mexico
Mexico: Growing Terror and Close to Collapse The effects of our drug war in Mexico
Mexico is not a poor country Assessing the threat at our southern border Mexico’s Columbian Exchange State of War
Look who’s sneaking into the country using known drug routes Mexico plagued by myriad interlaced netwars – a TIMN analysis
SWC Thread (Slapout) w/ Links Mexico’s Struggle with ‘Drugs and Thugs’ (Full PDF Article)
Sites Linking to this Post:
Soob – Top shelf analysis of Mexico’s civil war and the looming cross border nightmare NEW!
Newshoggers.com (Hynd) – Is Mexico A National Security Threat? NEW!
TDAXP – Recommended Reading NEW!
Fausta’s Blog – The “Who painted it?” Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean
RBO – Zenpundit: A Mexican Standoff with Reality
MountainRunner – It sure is quiet around here… a few links and musings during the silence
Threatswatch.org (Schippert) – Exposición Perro y Caballo de la Administración Obama
John Brown’s Public Diplomacy – March 30
Peace Like a River – Cables, dispatches and memoranda
SWJ BLog – A Mexican Standoff with Reality…
Committe of Public Safety – Cartel War Zen
Pundita – Washington continues to plays ostrich about Mexico (Riehl World View – Viva la Revolucion ; Wretchard – Our Southern Neighbor)
HG’s World – Zenpundit Channels Orson Wells in War of the Narco-Cartels
Chicago Boyz – A Mexican Standoff with Reality
More as they develop….
March 29th, 2009 at 6:11 pm
Wow. This should be required reading for every senior policymaker in Washington. The leadoff scenario was the most powerful passage I’ve read on the Cartel War.
The fate of the Cartel War will be the lens through which the success or failure of the Iraq War will be evaluated. The re-emergence of COIN in the Army and Marines may justify the Iraq War all by itself.
March 29th, 2009 at 6:28 pm
Thank you very much! I thought it might be interesting to frame this from a creative scenario rather than the usual news-link -comment blog post format.
COIN ideas are, I have been reading, becoming part of the law enforcement intellectual/professional journal world and I think that is for the best.
March 29th, 2009 at 6:40 pm
Wow is right…. I began to worry that my pack-out and still-in-progress move to Colorado had me inside the Schwartzchild Radius of an information black hole!
Hey, with April 1st coming up in a few days (and my 14th anniversary with CINCHOUSE Renee), this would be a great Onion headline!
March 29th, 2009 at 6:44 pm
I second Joseph’s impression of this post. You could do another blog tank on this subject, whose participants I imagine would be well served by reading yours for inspiration and insight.Politically (and I mean in Mexico, not the US), the relationship and impression of the US is very messy. There are more aggrieved nerve centers that can easily be triggered by the slightest misunderstood statement from US officials. If you do it secretly and word gets out, Calderon will be facing hundreds of thousands of protesters outside his office who hate the US passionately and blame it for most of their problems. Then he’s faced with the choice of continuing on whatever path he is on with the US NSC or embracing the blame the yanqui narrative, especially given our citizenry’s role in bankrolling most of the cartels. How the OA figures this out, I have no idea, especially since we are going to have to spend tens of billions of dollars soon in Mexico on a variety of fronts. Whatever aid we are giving to Pakistan, we should double or triple it for Mexico immediately, from social aid that hits things like the failed education system there to jobs and military aid that includes training, equipment and broad support in any way possible of their operations. We need to consider them our 51st state, no matter how expensive the consequences, since as you ably point out, if they fail, we certainly fail.
March 29th, 2009 at 6:58 pm
On an NPR broadcast recently, a commentator suggested that much of the uproar over "border problems" is inspired by the defense contractors who are trying to sell hardware for border surveillance, or probably the contracts for building those walls as well.
I live in a border state, and we simply are not seeing the level of violence that the national media keep implying. Yes, there’s a problem with drug gangs in Mexico. But I suspect that what we’re hearing is greatly exaggerated.
[Not to worry, Shane, I’m much closer to the border than you’ll be, and there’s no problem in my town.]
So I’d like an accurate assessment of the problem first.
Should we pay more attention to Mexico? Indeed. Should we be concerned that it’s US demand that is driving the drug traffic? Indeed. Maybe we should start thinking about legalization…
March 29th, 2009 at 7:01 pm
I haven’t been following this story, but I’m curious as to what is being proposed by the folks who are. Is there a consensus about what the U.S. policy towards Mexico should be vs what the Obama Administration is doing?
March 29th, 2009 at 8:07 pm
Or Calderon is trying to do what they did in Columbia, and we are seeing the violent blow-off before the federal govt defeats the narcos. That would be the best case. I don’t see why it’s obviously less likely than is the worst case.
Reinforcing our border would help. Legalizing drugs in the USA would help but we aren’t going to do it anytime soon. The outcome is probably going to be a function of the Calderon govt’s resolve.
March 29th, 2009 at 8:10 pm
I too would like to hear more from the bloggers who are experts on Mexico as well as on transnational criminal organizations. I added a link to David Ronfeldt of RAND and "netwars" fame a moment ago.
Regarding Cheryl’s comment: there is a weird juxtaposition here in the Cartel Wars of extreme violence (beheadings, assassinations of national police officials) with relative placidity nearby. My data free analysis of that would be to speculate that a) the violence trail follows the decentralized network structure of the cartels themselves and that, b) the cartels are trying to keep matters "strictly business" north of the Rio Grande and not provoke a massive reaction from the USG that duplicating their actions here would cause.
March 29th, 2009 at 9:01 pm
Take a day off, and look what you come up with.
A supercharged and provocative, a post that cross-breeds Tom Clancy with George Friedman of Strafor, to ignite a lively debate.
We have always treated our sougthern neighbor like the poor stepchild that never measured up to our expections. Even during their 20th century revolution when millions died, we took a hands off policy except for guarding our southern border by the 1st Cavalry from 1921 to 1943.
I second the suggestion that more input from experts who know the lay of the land in Mexico is required to seperate the convergent takes on this subject.
The events in Mexico have even spread to Afghanistan where Michael Yon weighs in.McCaffrey on Mexico – 23 March 2009
March 29th, 2009 at 11:52 pm
[…] posted a fantastic look at Mexico’s Cartel War: A Mexican Standoff with Reality. He begins with a chilling look at a future that could be coming soon to a neighborhood near you: […]
March 30th, 2009 at 12:52 am
Thanks, Mark. Great post; let’s hope it lights a fire in Washington. Here’s my riff on your post; it focuses on Mexico’s economic situation and tosses in a scary campfire tale about Hezbollah in Mexico. http://pundita.blogspot.com/2009/03/washington-continues-to-plays-ostrich.htmlMeanwhile I’ll keep shipping your post around the blogosphere.
March 30th, 2009 at 4:08 am
Hi Zen, I just updated the the threat about Mexico on the SWC website. If you remember I made this prediction back in 2006 and no one took it very seriously for sometime….but they are now. I will make post my version of where I think Mexico is going in a few days. Later Slap
March 30th, 2009 at 4:13 am
Could you send me a link to your old post ( was it SWC or SWJ ?) I’d like to run it here with your new one when it goes up, if you do not mind. The issue of Mexico needs to be amplified in the blogosphere.
March 30th, 2009 at 5:02 am
Zen, I think this will get it. If not let me know. Bed time.
March 30th, 2009 at 5:46 am
[…] Zenpundit – This line that Mexico is fundamentally sound, while helpful to President Calderon’s political standing when expressed in public, is analytically speaking, sheer nonsense, and if enforced in private, counterproductive to having sober USG interagency planning sessions to make certain that worst case scenarios, like the one imagined above, never come close to materializing. Such politicized groupthink also interferes with effective cooperation with Mexico to address a 4GW type problem that has already mestastasized to a dangerous degree into American territory. […]
March 30th, 2009 at 5:58 am
Sullivan and I are revising and revisiting our original Small Wars Journal paper on Mexico. Hopefully we will submit a new analysis sometime this or next week. It’s a very complex issue.
March 30th, 2009 at 1:33 pm
I’m with Cheryl to an extent: what’s the real scope and scale of the violence? Having said that however, we would be wise to keep in mind that, at least in theory, this isn’t a banana republic. How does the quintessential first-world country tolerate such activities on its borders, against its people, for any length of time? If we can set aside the outrage and see this for what it is – a rare opportunity – we could come out ahead on a number of fronts; – It would be great if the ‘national guard’ could actually guard the nation and not spend all its time fighting overseas. Willing to be retention and recruitment would not be issues and deployments not seen as such dramatic hardships, if you had to pull a tour where it is hot and sandy and they have Circle-Ks. – Put all this new-found (re-discovered?) COIN skill to the test closer to home. Willing to bet we could field excellent, skilled human terrain teams, civil affairs, etc. to deal with the softly-softly part of this business. Why not get the kinks out and refine your system close to home? – Keep the old school happy. Wide open spaces for maneuver warfare geeks to get their tank on? Check. No, I don’t mean mass tanks on the borders; you can keep your skills fresh and show a little force without going overboard.
March 30th, 2009 at 2:17 pm
AE – glad to hear it ! With Slapout having one in the works, there might be a groundswell of interest for a "blog tank" on Mexico as numerous commenters have called for.
Michael – I definitely think we do need some objective metrics on Mexico. OTOH while we want to make certain the analysis isn’t getting hyped, common sense says that when a country needs to call out the national army to suppress a group, they ain’t just criminals anymore. We didn’t need the U.S. Marines to tackle Al Capone or La Cosa Nostra. Your advice regarding the Guard and COIN is sage and bears repeating in detail in a larger forum than my comment section.
March 30th, 2009 at 2:30 pm
common sense says that when a country needs to call out the national army to suppress a group, they ain’t just criminals anymore.
But what about in instances where the national army is being called out because of problems organic to the police force — which is to say infiltration, corruption, and/or ineffectiveness — rather than challenges posed by the nature of the criminal threat?
March 30th, 2009 at 2:33 pm
If the criminal org has infiltrated the police and corrupted the government, then I would argue that the state is itself in serious jeopardy. The police are the "first line of defense" and they have been neutralized in Mexico.
March 30th, 2009 at 7:38 pm
Let’s extend the hypothetical a bit. If Mexico is able to deal with the situation effectively, possibly after a lengthy conflict, would it tend to falsify John Robb’s views about "global guerrillas"? If not, are they falsifiable and how could that be demonstrated?
March 30th, 2009 at 8:20 pm
So what are some of the potential responses of the U.S. to this situation?
Realistic: Increased border controls and patrols in an attempt to keep fallout from crossing into U.S. territory (very likely to happen, but not very likely to be effective).
Possible: U.S. military COIN advisors sent into Mexico as gesture of cooperation with Mexican government (could be effective, but probably won’t happen).
Outside the Box: U.S. offers fast-track asylum for those in danger from cartels/gangs (would it be a trickle or a flood?).
Waaaaay Outside the Box: preemptive and systematic annexation of Mexican territory to act as buffer zone with eventual result of adding new protectorates or states (really, really unlikely but I’ll bet there are some mil thinkers out there drooling over the possibility).
This all reminds me of the military/speculative fiction novel ‘Trial by Fire’ by Harold Coyle.
March 30th, 2009 at 9:38 pm
"If the criminal org has infiltrated the police and corrupted the government, then I would argue that the state is itself in serious jeopardy. The police are the "first line of defense" and they have been neutralized in Mexico."
I’d add to this that the number of "foot soldiers" serving the two largest cartels (who’ve been considering a strategic merger) rivals that of the Mexican military. If that’s not worrisome enough, the cartels have been recruiting from the Mexican army to a tune of 100,000 soldiers in the past seven years. That’s what, an entire battalion per year?
Great post Zen.
April 1st, 2009 at 10:49 pm
[…] Submitted By: The Glittering Eye – Zenpundit – Mexican Standoff With Reality […]
April 3rd, 2009 at 5:49 pm
[…] made this posting in context to the posting by Zenpundit about Mexico as a failed state. USNI Blog makes the point that the US military is able to handle failed states […]
April 3rd, 2009 at 9:47 pm
[…] Fourth place with 2/3 points – (T*) – The Glittering Eye – Zenpundit – Mexican Standoff With Reality […]
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June 25th, 2010 at 5:13 am
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September 17th, 2010 at 8:54 am
Interesting article.Though I think there´s a lot of exageration in the whole piece. You take Mexico as a whole as if it were a single unit, one city or state, that´s because what you don´t see is that you everytime there is violence you are being reported "in Mexico" while when 52 people are shot in Chicago like the other day the event is reported as "in Chicago". When you put it all together you see that there is far more violence in the U.S.Let us put things in perspective here, Mexico has thousands of cities and our border cities like Juarez, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo are unique cities sitting at the border of the largest drug consumption market in the world and while drugs and illegal aliens(more than a half of those non Mexicans) cross the US border everyday, guns and dollars cross the Mexico border back illegally. But a lot is being done, Mexico has arrested many drug lords, when will the US arrest one? Many Mexican police officers have died fighting the drug lords, when will we see a single US police officer die fighting the drug lords in the US? The only time I have ever seen that was in a hollywood movie. If you belong to those who still believe that all mexican police officers are corrupted you are misinformed about Mexico and living in the past, you got a photography of the past and cannot see what is happening now. Our army and police officers are dying here trying to stop drug lords from shipping their nasty stuff to the border where american drug lords will distribute the drogs, ship them, storage them, deal them and finally put it in the hands of tens of millions of sorry drug addicted americans, and they are capable to do that in your own streets and under the very eyes of your infallible and uncorruptible policemen in many american cities. They fight for territories the same as they do in Mexico, the only difference is that american policemen don’t die, simply because they don´t fight them, otherwise they wouldn´t be dealing with those drugs in broadlight Chicago. The violence they cause in American cities is legendary but you have grown accustomed to it. Just read the news, nobody talks about violence in the US or if the US is a failed state, but read the Dallas Morning news, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune the LA times and you will find many many crimes being committed every single day. Worst than in Mexico.Violence is so normal in the US that American citizens stockpile all kinds of weaponry in their very homes. In Mexico more than 95% of the population doesn´t have guns, many of us, the great majority of Mexicans have never had a gun in our hands for a single moment so we don´t even know what that is only because of what we see in movies. You americans are experts at guns and weaponry, you have them in your homes, when we visit american friends in the US we are amazed at their love for guns and we feel sorry for those people who live in horror and esquizophrenic about having guns to defend themselves because the authorities cannot guarantee their safety.Mexico is not a failed state. Please stop that stupid idea. We are the 11th economy in the world, the US second trading partner, we buy 10% of all american goods exported from the US to the world and millions of good american jobs depend on Mexicans buying their cars, aircrafts, helicopters, medical equipment, electronic components, processed food, grains, etc. Mexico buys more American goods than any other country in the world except Canada, we buy more American goods than China. There are more than 2 or 3 million Americans living in Mexican cities and towns, many of them retirees, many of them employees, engineers, executives working in more than 18 thousand american companies established in Mexico and more Americans are coming, more are purchasing homes in tranquile, quiet Mexican cities so the number is expected to grow, and thousands of American workers in the US work at Mexican companies established in the US too. More than 15 million american tourists visit and spend their vacations in Mexico every year.Mexico is dealing with the drug war problem by ourselves, we spend tens of billions of dollars in this drug war, the US "help" is no more than a billion or a little more than that but we don´t need that, what we need is for the US to do their part too, to stop attacking those powerful networks that distribute, storage, ship and control the drug markets in the US, the largest in the world. We don’t want your police to catch teenagers please, catch the big guys like we are doing here in Mexico. It will cost you as much blood as it is costing us.Let us have an honest dialogue please.
September 18th, 2010 at 5:06 am
If it helps, I wrote this over a year ago because I was disturbed by what I was hearing from friends and acquaintences inside the Beltway that Mexico’s problems with the narcos were not being taken seriously at the NSC/DNI level. So yes, this is "scenario thinking" designed to provoke thought about worst-case scenarios and not a prediction. I would *not* want Mexico to fail as a state – though I fear that is possible – because the US will face steep spillover costs if that happens.
Jose, things have deteriorated in Mexico significantly since I wrote this post and the violence in Mexico, unlike violent crime inside the US, is highly organized and tactically directed. That acts as a force multiplier and raises the threat potential significantly.
Personally, I hope Calderone gets a grip on the problem and crushes the narcos. Just not sure he will do what needs to be done ( raise taxes on the rich, use the funds to build a robust "flying squad" professional commando force, organize armed people’s militias to take back the streets from narco thugs).
September 18th, 2010 at 11:29 am
Hi Zen,Sorry about the long rant. I think a lot needs to be done about the drug cartels in Mexico, but reading about invading Mexico or things like in blogs it´s really disturbing sometimes for me. The war on drugs is a huge reality that affects the citizens in Mexico, nevertheless, some things are being done here to curtail the cartels and it is fact and the US department of state has recognized it and other international entities have also recognized it, that the cartels are moving out to other regions, to central and south america, precisely because of the pressure from our federal forces. The presidents of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Bolivia and other countries have already recognized that the drug cartels are moving out from Mexico and into their countries because of the pressure Mexico has put on them. The US department of state report included Costa Rica and other central and south american countries for the first time too.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/26/AR2010072605661.htmlhttp://www.rpp.com.pe/2010-09-17-carteles-mexicanos-se-desplazan-al-sur-para-sobrevivir-advierte-experto-noticia_295844.htmlhttp://www.tiempo.hn/web2/secciones/portada/20360-la-presion-en-mexico-empuja-a-los-carteles-de-la-droga-a-centroamerica-.htmlhttp://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/internacionales/29049Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, those cities are not representative of Mexico but of a regional problem we have with drug crime and inmigration, there thousands of towns and cities in Mexico that have not been affected by the narco cartels, Monterrey has been affected but life here is not hell as it is being reported in hyper media reports, life here goes on, the society here lives peaceful lives, there are a few sporadic violent events once in a while, we went through a series of violent event in previous months directly related to dismembering of the cartels in Monterrey, but things are coming back to normality. Those cities at the US Mexico border are not representative of what is happening in Mexico, they are suffering from a regional problem we have both the US and Mexico, there are drug gangs on both sides dealing and distributing drugs, the approach is different on both sides, but the American approach is far from being perfect.For your information, Mexico is working hard on creating a new unique police force for each state that will eliminate all the municipal police forces, in Mexico´s federative system, the municipalities are traditionally poor, their police is badly paid, uneducated, unprepared and highly corrupted. The narco cartels took advantage of this weakness in Mexico’s government system. The Adminstration of Felipe Calderon has recognized this fact and has got the state governors from all parties on his side, I think there is enough support in congress to and there is a bill that will eliminate all the municipalities to create a unique police force for each state, with higher salaries, higher benefits, certifications and trainings and that will have to comply to the best standards in the world, with a centralized command sharing information and cooperating fully with the Federal Police and the Armed forces. Nuevo Leon, my state has already begun the process to centralized the police forces, the governor of Nuevo Leon, Rodrigo Medina, has already implemented a series of increments in salaries and incomes for the state police forces, hundreds of policemen have been fired because they lacked the preparation to fit the new profile. There is resistance from many municipal mayors as it is natural, the municipal police is part of the corruption of many local politicians and to take that away from them is to take much of their income away, but some of them also support the changes.The Administration of Felipe Calderon has also instituted financial controls. It is well known that the narcos ship their drugs to the US and their counterparts in the US ship the millions of Dollars back to Mexico in clandestine forms too. The cartels´economy is in US dollars and it is in cash. Today, because of new bank and foreign exchange regulations citizens are limited to exchange a maximum of four thousand dollars per month in mexican banks and you have to provide and ID for a registration process linked to a government control national database. Tourists cannot exchange more than 1,500 us dollars a month too.http://www.occ.treas.gov/ftp/bulletin/2010-28.htmlIn addition, the government has also instituted a series of regulations governing the purchasing of any kind of ships or boats, of special chemicals and materials that can be used by drug cartels, of purchases of large quantities of jewelry, trucks and suvs sold are to be reported to the SAT too.The Administration of Felipe Calderon is also strengthening our southern border with Guatemala where his adminstration is even planning to build a wall along the guatemala border.http://www.agenciapulsar.org/nota.php?id=17908But the Mexican army has already been deployed to cover entire regions of the Guatemala border and more control check-points are being set up, specially at the Istmo de Tehuantepec, the narroest territorial region of Mexico. Hundreds of thousands of central and south americans pass through this border every year, this has been an important part of the corridor of drugs and illegal inmigration smuggling developed by the Mara Salvatrucha, the MS13 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mara_Salvatrucha) to bring drugs and illegal aliens from central and south america to the US border, the MS13 extended its network of illegal activities through the Guatemala Mexico border and had conections in several Mexican states where drug cartels allowed them to pass by specially the CDG, the Cartel del Golfo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Cartel). The Zetas, as opposed to the CDG, tried to control or take over the MS13 network with resistance from them and has violently disrupted their operations, in fact it is believed that the recent killings of central americans in tamaulipas is a direct consequence of that conflict, after the massacre, the MS13 cannot guarantee the passage through Mexico to anyone in Central and South America anymore.In addition to all this, there are more transparency laws in Mexico, more auditing, to curtail corruption.As a Mexican, I have to be optimistic about all this, but I am also pragmatic, I know we are in a terrible uphill battle here, and we are fighting our very own long and deeply rooted inertia for corruption. We had seven decades of one party system and we are paying the consequences today. We have only had some ten years of democracy but a lot has been done in these years.Americans are proud of their institutions and way of life, but what you need to know is that Mexico is also modelling a new society precisely based on the American model, we have now an independent central bank, independent supreme court, independent and citizen control democratic institutions, transparency laws, banking regulations, anti-trust regulation entities, etc. We are trying to catch up, we lost so much time. Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concerns about the debate on Mexico´s war on drugs in the US.
September 18th, 2010 at 5:33 pm
joseangel, i’m pleased to see zen’s clarification and, even more so, your joining back with a further comment. it would be good to have an occasional voice from mexico on these matters at this blog as well as at others up here. two other security-oriented blogs i’d recommend to you are the “small wars journal” (swj) blog and the “rethinking security” blog. both feature posts on mexico once in a while. the swj blog can be particularly good for lively commenting.
i used to be a kind of specialist on mexico, and thus still have an interest. trends there have become worse than i used to imagine possible. it seems sometimes that “mexico lindo y querido” is being eaten alive by a return of “mexico barbaro.”
yet, as you point out, parts of mexico are just fine, and its president’s policy is trying to go in sensible directions. in the media i follow, only a few people up here really think mexico today is a “failed state,” and no one is calling for an invasion. but there is a lot of hyperness.
bloggers, including myself, do like to speculate about dire scenarios. but, at least at the blogs i follow, we also appreciate factual inputs that call for more balanced perspectives. so, thanks for joining in.
September 18th, 2010 at 6:40 pm
Hi David,Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to contribute with my personal opinion and perspective to the dialog that´s going on in the U.S. about Mexico´s war on drugs.Zen and you are right in that things have deteriorated quite a bit in Mexico. But as a Mexican I can tell that while we in Mexico are deeply depressed, discouraged, sadden by all that has happened to our country in the last few years and while we of course long for those times when we enjoyed tranquility and peace, in this war on drugs there are ups and downs, and there are many things that are also happening that are strengthening our resolution to continue, that we are growing as a country too, that our society is debating more about what´s happening to us, about our history, that all these things are also uniting us as a country and forcing us to make changes in our society that were long needed. Thanks.
November 20th, 2010 at 2:59 am
JoseAngeldeMonterrey makes total sense. That’s the truth he’s telling you right there. Our army and marines and many honest police are making heroic efforts to stop the narco-insurgency – for that is what it is. We need greater equality. The people at the top need to see that the poor are deciding between $15 a day working honestly and $150 a day as cartel cannon fodder. It’s a whole alternative economy. When Calderon decided to go after the cartels he declared war on part of a social class. Unfortunately for Calderon, they proved to have access to better weapons and training than the army has. Where’s it going to end – with American tanks in the streets?
August 27th, 2011 at 11:29 am
Excellent article. How long can our counry ignore what is going on down there?
August 27th, 2011 at 8:44 pm
"( raise taxes on the rich, use the funds to build a robust "flying squad" professional commando force, organize armed people’s militias to take back the streets from narco thugs)." and create an economy who will pay those who have served their government with honor a living wage when they get out, so they won’t have to decide, "between $15 a day working honestly and $150 a day as cartel cannon fodder."