Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mexico is NOT Colombia

Thepolicies implemented by the Calderon Government in Mexico and backed by theUnited States under the Merida Initiative and elsewhere have met with verylimited success on the ground in Mexico. There have been many photographs ofsmiling Mexican soldiers and marines standing next to mountains of seizednarcotics, automatic weapons and US currency, but in a practical sense, theproblem persists unabated.

Theproblem 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 toseriously consider the eight hundred pound gorilla sitting in the corner. Thebig question is one of the extent to which the Mexican government operates asan extension of drug trafficking organizations. Efforts to determine this havelargely been superficial and concerted human intelligence collection programsin Mexico have yet to be considered as a serious option.

Oneday, the US will decide to address the problem of a DTO (mafia) run governmenton our Southern Border and when that happens, maybe elements of thesesuggestions could be dusted off and considered.

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

Will the Merida Initiative Work?

TheUS Army War College found that the Merida Initiative, “is unlikely to achieve the desired results in Mexico. Infocusing largely on security, enforcement, and interdiction, the Merida Initiative pays comparatively littleattention to the deeper structural problems that fuel the drug trade anddrug-related violence. These problems, ranging from official corruption inMexico to large-scale drug consumption in the United States, have so farfrustrated Mexican attempts to rein in the cartels, and will likely hinder theeffectiveness of the Merida Initiative as well.” (emphasis added) Jumping toDr. Brands conclusion, in part, “The costs of action are therefore high, butthe price of inaction would be exponentially greater. The effects of drug usein the United States and the potential for the economic and politicaldestabilization of Mexico make counternarcotics an immensely significantnational security issue.”[2]

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

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

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