Mexico: Men of Discipline


June 18, 2007: So far this year, over 1,200 people have been killed in the gang wars of northern Mexico. The government has had a hard time getting additional manpower into the fight. Using the military has not worked very well. Most of the soldiers assigned to help the federal police with anti-gang operations, soon disappear. The troops just leave. Desertion is a bigger problem in the Mexican army, than north of the border. The annual desertion rate is eight percent, more than ten times the rate in the U.S. Army. It's not just the danger that drives away the young soldiers (90 percent of the deserters are recent recruits), but the low pay. American troops get paid about five times as their Mexican counterparts. New recruits in the Mexican army make about $330 a month, and endure much lower living conditions that U.S. troops. The government has recently raised pay and is improving living conditions, but finds that it also has to provide more training before sending troops off to fight drug gangs. Bullets are not the only problem the troops face. The gangs prefer to bribe soldiers to look the other way, or work for them. A disproportionate number of gang members are former soldiers, who learned how to use weapons during their military service. The gangs prefer former soldiers, or even deserters, because of that training, and exposure to a disciplined life-style. The gangs want armed men who know how to shoot, will take orders and act with restraint. Meanwhile, the 195,000 man army provides over 20,000 potential gang recruits each year.

June 11, 2007: Three Texas National Guardsmen were caught, in uniform, helping Mexicans get across the border illegally. The large amount of money in the drug and people smuggling business always infects a certain number of the police and military personnel assigned to suppress it. The U.S. has been more successful than Mexico in coping with this corruption, but it remains a constant problem on both sides of the border.

June 10, 2007: The government has officially asked the U.S. for more assistance in fighting drug gangs. Mexico wants more sharing of intelligence, as well as training in the most modern intelligence techniques, and access to the latest technology (sensors and data mining and analysis software.) Some of this stuff is available commercially, but Mexico wants the versions American law enforcement agencies have already modified for use in going after criminals. American officials are hesitant to share too much with Mexico, because many Mexican police and military officials have been compromised by the gangs, and would put secret U.S. technology out there on the international black market.

June 6, 2007: The United States is cracking down on Mexican criminal gangs that have established branches in the U.S. Working with Mexican police (and other Central American nations), the career criminals who illegally cross the U.S. border are being identified, and sought out for arrest and prosecution in whatever country has the strongest case. Mexico sees these border crossing criminals as a major element in the arms smuggling that fuels the growing gang wars in northern Mexico. The strict arms sales laws in Mexico makes it attractive to buy weapons in the U.S. and smuggle them into Mexico. There, pistols and rifles can be sold for two or three times what they cost up north.

June 3, 2007: A truck full of civilians tried to run an army roadblock along the border. The soldiers fired, killing two women and three children.


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