sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mexico is NOT Colombia

The policies implemented by the Calderon Government in Mexico and backed by the United States under the Merida Initiative and elsewhere have met with very limited success on the ground in Mexico. There have been many photographs of smiling Mexican soldiers and marines standing next to mountains of seized narcotics, automatic weapons and US currency, but in a practical sense, the problem persists unabated.

The problem as I see it is not so much that Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTO’s) supply drugs to a drug hungry America as it is that nobody wants to seriously consider the eight hundred pound gorilla sitting in the corner. The big question is one of the extent to which the Mexican government operates as an extension of drug trafficking organizations. Efforts to determine this have largely been superficial and concerted human intelligence collection programs in Mexico have yet to be considered as a serious option.

One day, the US will decide to address the problem of a DTO (mafia) run government on our Southern Border and when that happens, maybe elements of these suggestions could be dusted off and considered.

Mexico is not Colombia, and while the supply-side measures taken by the Colombians, supported by the United States were effective, simply cloning the Colombian strategy is not enough. I won’t dwell on the differences between Colombia and Mexico here and trust that the reader is sufficiently aware of those that they don’t need to be rehashed here. There has been considerable evidence that Mexican DTO’s are manufacturing methamphetamine products in Africa and Europe. To some extent these products find their way into the North American narcotics market as well.[1] Colombia acted as a way station for processing and distributing cocaine. The Mexican DTO’s have spread globally and the trend seems to be growing.

Will the Merida Initiative Work?

The US Army War College found that the Merida Initiative, “is unlikely to achieve the desired results in Mexico. In focusing largely on security, enforcement, and interdiction, the Merida Initiative pays comparatively little attention to the deeper structural problems that fuel the drug trade and drug-related violence. These problems, ranging from official corruption in Mexico to large-scale drug consumption in the United States, have so far frustrated Mexican attempts to rein in the cartels, and will likely hinder the effectiveness of the Merida Initiative as well.” (emphasis added) Jumping to Dr. Brands conclusion, in part, “The costs of action are therefore high, but the price of inaction would be exponentially greater. The effects of drug use in the United States and the potential for the economic and political destabilization of Mexico make counternarcotics an immensely significant national security issue.”[2]

Success in combatting internal corruption and the DTO’s in Mexico requires a concerted effort on the part of the US to assist those honest and trustworthy elements within the Mexican Government. The only way that this can happen is though the implementation of a genuine human intelligence effort within Mexico designed to ferret out DTO infrastructure. Arrests of high profile DTO members have done very little to impact infrastructure.  Seizures of arms, narcotics products and cash have had negligible impact on DTO infrastructure. As they grow into truly worldwide organizations, this will become increasingly difficult to accomplish. The longer the US waits on the sidelines, the more entrenched the DTO’s will become.

[1] Mexico Operations Group Reports pertaining to La Resistencia (Millennium Cartel) and Cartel Nueva Generacion Jalisco. For the most part, the Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) DTO has focused on smuggling cocaine to the European market through Africa and directly.
[2] Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, Dr. Hal Brands, May 2009