government contends that its "war on the cartels" has weakened the drug gangs,
especially the Gulf drug cartel. However, the war is a long one; President
Felipe Calderon recently called it "a permanent battle." Endemic political,
police, and judicial corruption allows the drug gangs and "old left" rebel organizations
like the EPR "operational space." Put bluntly, money buys off the cops. This is
why one year ago Calderon launched a combined military and police offensive
against the cartels and associated gangs. Calderon judged, correctly, that the
Mexican military was the most professional and reliable force in Mexico. The
multi-state strike force included task-organized federal police units that
Calderon's government also rated as reliable Calderon's government decided to
fight the "war on the cartels" as an insurgency. This was a smart decision. The
cartels employ paramilitary forces that in many respects operate as "the armed
wings" of classic political insurgencies. Though there is no convincing
evidence that the cartels have co-opted political rebel organizations, there
are plenty of rumors. When the money is right, gangsters cooperate with
political rebels in the Balkans, South America and in the Middle East.
Afghanistan is an example of this phenomenon, where Taliban religious zealots
also protect opium smugglers.
A recent statement by the
Mexican attorney general's office reiterated a common complaint that Mexico
needs US cooperation to defeat the gangs. This complaint serves a political
purpose in Mexico, but the statement isn't pure spin. Smugglers bring US
weapons into Mexico that's a fact. The big fact is that the US has a huge
appetite for illegal drugs. Critics point out that the US and Western demand
for drugs often supports anti-Western guerrilla organizations (Afghanistan,
again). Mexican Marxist outfits like the EPR are definitely anti-US. The Gulf
drug cartel isn't anti US in a political sense (though it's anti-FBI and DEA),
but organized crime is a destructive force in American society. As far as the
Mexican government is concerned the illegal narcotics market in the US is
financing the "drug insurgents."
The Mexican military now has
around 22,000 soldiers and sailors involved in the counter-insurgent war.
During the past 12 months the military has at times deployed as many as 30,000
troops in at least ten Mexican state: Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Sonora,
Baja California (Norte), Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and
Durango. The military operations began in several western Mexican states the
moved north and finally to Mexico's east coast. Combined military and police
operations in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Chihuahua have been particularly
important, since these are the Gulf cartel's strongholds.
December 12, 2007: The
military announced that troops arrested three senior members of the Gulf drug
cartel. One of the men was identified as Marco Ramirez, allegedly the commander
of the cartel's "hit team" (paramilitary strike force).
December 7, 2007: Call it
"political shaping of the battlefield." president Felipe Calderon has told
Foreign Ministry consuls in the U.S. to
try to counter-act what he called "anti-Mexican" attitudes expressed by
presidential candidates. One quote in Calderon's statement was particularly
striking: Calderon said he wanted to "neutralize this strategy of confrontation
" Calderon said that he does not want animosity to harm the
"U.S. and Mexican bilateral relationship." Calderon is worried that Mexicans
will react very negatively to the highly-charged U.S. presidential campaign
debate over illegal immigration. That negative reaction will make it harder for
him to cooperate with the U.S. on what he believes are key bi-lateral security
issues. He also thinks (knows) this will harm U.S. border security efforts.
December 6, 2007: The Mexican
military reinforced its on-going operation in the state of Tamaulipas with a
combined task force of 3,000 army soldiers, Mexican marines, and federal
police. That brings the strike force operating in Tamaulipas to approximately
December 4, 2007: A police
commander in the town of Tecate was murdered by gunmen. Mexican officials
suggested the murder may have been linked to a police operation that discovered
a "drug smuggling tunnel" that ran under the Mexico-California border. The
Mexican police commander had played a central role in finding the tunnel.