Mexico: Sending In The Marines

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December 15, 2010: Mexico-U.S. cooperation in running counter-drug operations has increased over the last 18 months. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been providing intelligence to Mexican police and other security forces, including the Mexican Navy's elite marine commandos. The Mexican marines have carried out several very high profile (and successful raids), beginning in 2009. The strikes often target drug cartel leaders and senior drug cartel enforcers (hit men). 
 
Critics are arguing that the DEA is going around Mexican police because the U.S. is concerned about corruption in the police forces. That is very true, but the conspiracy theorists seem to ignore the fact that just about every other day the Mexican government points out that it is concerned about police corruption. Unreliable or corrupt police forces is one reason it began using military forces – the other reason being the drug cartels have more firepower than local and state cops.
 
Several of the more spectacular Mexican marine operations in northwestern Mexico are special operations raids, both strike raids and snatch (arrest) raids. The marines treat the cartelistas as an insurgent force and the cartel leaders as insurgent commanders. Mexican and US media have been speculating that US government agencies (like the DEA and the Department of Defense) think more highly of the Mexican marine raids than they do of Mexican Army operations. That may well reflect the opinion of key US security personnel. Some classified cables released by Wikileaks reflect this point of view and there is one cable making the rounds (written by a US diplomat) that notes that after seeing the marines' success. the Mexican Army is now asking for more special operations training.
 
There is a little bit of apples and oranges going on. The Mexican Army is largely a conventional force that has a conventional defense mission. The Mexican Navy's marines are specially trained and special ops oriented. The Mexican Army also has high caliber airborne and airmobile forces that are trained for special operations, there just aren't a lot of them. Another cable indicates that the marines have received training from U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). This is not a surprise. The U.S. Department of Defense has acknowledged that it has supported military training for Mexican military forces, it just did not say which ones. Now we think we know, but anyone who is really surprised by the revelation just hasn't been paying attention.

December 10, 2010: Security forces killed a senior commander in La Familia drug cartel in a gun battle in Michoacan state (western Mexico). The firefight occurred near the town of Apatzingan. Mexican paramilitary police and Mexican Army troops were conducting a major operation in Michoacan state, which included use of transport helicopters. One battle involved a December 9 shootout with cartel gunmen at a roadblock outside of Morelia (the state capital). Subsequently, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez (whose nickname is The Craziest One) and several cartel gunmen were located in Apatzingan and trapped. Three civilians, five policemen and three cartel gunmen also died in the firefight. Moreno allegedly wrote a philosophical tract that justified the murder of La Familia's opponents while also urging members of La Familia to avoid using narcotics.

December 4, 2010: U.S. diplomatic cables illegally released by Wikileaks claim that the Mexican Army is outclassed by cartel gunmen. One cable (also described as a memo) said that the government could lose entire regions of the country. Well, yes it could, but it isn't. The cable said that Mexican officials had expressed this worry. That makes sense, for it was this worry that led the government to launch the Cartel War (in 2006) I the first place. The cable goes on to say that honest government officials and security personnel suffer from a siege mentality because of corruption. Now that is likely very true.

December 3, 2010: Mexican police have arrested a 14 year old they have identified as a cartel gunman. The boy, named Edgar Jiminez, is also implicated in the beheading of cartel victims.

December 2, 2010: The government reported that security agencies have seized $10.9 billion worth of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin since the Cartel War began in 2006. The government has also recorded 82,450 drug convictions in the same time period.

 

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