AN Security

Why Mexico is important

In drug cartels in the us, drug interdiction, drug war in mexico, global war on terrorism, hugo chavez, national security, venezuela threat on December 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm

The U.S. must stay engaged with Mexico in the war on drugs

Mexico’s potential for fragmentation is a serious threat to US national security however, there is a low level of preoccupation that the phenomenon of OTM (Other than Mexicans) persons and the spillover of drug-related violence into the US. The threat of incursion by terrorist groups via the southern border is frequently downplayed in the media, such as the recent series of arrests in Mexico of several individuals suspected of being involved in terrorism have not inspired much of a response for action as would an arrest in the US. Mexico claimed that even though the men arrested are indeed tied to a terrorist group they were not actively identified as being part of a plot. US national security is threatened by this instability even more so as Mexico’s fate hangs on a fine line and has been infective in controlling its own borders.

This is a two-dimensional responsibility; the US has a duty to control human traffic through its borders yet Mexico’s inability to combat the drug cartels has opened the doors to intranational gangs, smaller pockets of indigenous insurgency movements and also invited groups linked to radical Islamism. The problem in dealing with Mexico is that it has been receiving help from the US at a lower level than that of Colombia’s drug war while Mexico struggled to contain its own problems. Basically Mexico has been relegated to a secondary place of relevance even though they are our closest neighbor. This is not to say that preserving Colombia’s side in eradication operations in a consistent manner will not at least slow the flow of drugs out of the country however Mexico holds a more relevant threat to the American way of life.

Stratfor reports of increase violence in Mexico’s Northern provinces (Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Chihuahua) posing a serious threat to individuals and tourism. The US State department has issued a warning for Americans to stay clear of these areas[i]. Kidnapping for ransom and contract killing cases are a huge problem and a source of anger held by Mexicans and recent public demonstrations show that the rampant violence must be dealt with but there are bigger problems ahead. Violence is believed to be almost as high as that of insurgent groups in Iraq and casualty numbers are rising, making Mexico’s national security problems our own. President Felipe Calderon has the right idea to slowly work a pull-out of military units from the troubled provinces and replace with capable police forces however this is a tough job. The only possible way this situation could improve is through comprehensive political reform, the modernization of Mexican police forces and removal of military forces from drug interdiction and law enforcement operations. Removing military troops from the drug war equation will help protect the armed forces from the same corruption found in police agencies but producing capable and a professional police force takes years and much critical time has been wasted. Calderon’s effort to purge the police of over 40,000 officers by conducting comprehensive background checks is commendable however if his new police and military operations do not handle the surge of violence that will have serious political consequences. For one, any new leadership following Calderon’s presidency could either choose to be friendly and receptive to US aid. Another possible outcome would be that Mexico could become more hostile just as Hugo Chavez’s foreign policy keeps the rest of Latin America from accepting that assistance does not mean a potential US invasion or political meddling and violation of their sovereignty.

Plan Mexico

Funding must be offered to rebuild or replace government services or programs and a more expanded law enforcement presence instead of focusing on modernizing the Mexican Army though there is a great need for Mexico to bring up their military standards. The drug war has been fought so that the military, even if it is successful in their interdiction operations, its image will suffer greatly as the public may see the Army as oppressors rather than saviors. At this point it appears the Mexican public just wants the violence to go away however the root of the problem is becoming more obvious to people. Organizational corruption and drug money are great impediments to achieving rule of law. Unlike the US many countries struggle to keep the parts from separating from the whole and are often the source of such violence; spilling across borders. In essence Plan Mexico will help augment police forces as well as military but more emphasis should be placed on continuing the long-term investigation of police personnel to include prosecution and incarceration. Increasing the number of officers on patrol cannot be accomplished quickly enough to contain the violence and illegal drug trafficking activities and restore order.

Policing in Mexico is not parallel to that in the US in spite of optimistic outlook from law enforcement experts. Bratton and Andrews conducted a study of law enforcement methodologies in Latin America which they believed compatible with US methods. It is doubtful that police-to population ratios can be achieved in Latin American countries as would NYC or any other modern US city. Mexican populations – as is the case throughout South America – are distributed in scattered patterns due to their unique topography and vast segments of land that are uninhabited and hard to reach which are prime areas for drug traffickers and armed insurgencies. These are hardly problems encountered in the US where there are more tolerable levels of law and order and policing large populations is a more achievable goal. Their assessment was not completely off the mark in identifying Latin American inability to establish good relations with the public and conduct investigations.

Their suggestion that police departments break down threats by sectors is a good idea consistent with their theory and could be applicable to the Mexican situation but we must bear in mind that the environment is completely different than that of the US and will require military support until these problems are resolved. This is more a social experiment than political reform which will have to continue in order to afford improvements in policing. The funding from Plan Mexico could supplement the State Department’s law enforcement academies already in place, help support background checks on officers and establish a platform for building pride and professionalism in police forces. Promotion boards and salary scales must be implemented to make the job more desirable to officers not just officials. Force protection measures are also an important consideration as many high-level officials are being targeted for assassination and a personnel security program should be established.

Our focus must be strong in keeping Mexico from falling apart so that its internal troubles do not reach the US is many years behind. The time and place for reforms in this sector must be undertaken now as Mexico’s problems are quickly becoming our own.

Sources consulted

Library of Congress Federal Research Division, Country Profile Mexico, http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/Mexico.pdf

White, Bobby, The Wall Street Journal, Pot Crop Infiltrates Vineyards, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122145024251835201.html?mod=hps_us_inside_today

William Bratton and William Andrews, Driving out The Crime Wave: The police methods that worked in New York City can work in Latin America http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_time-driving_out_crime.htm

Hall, Kevin McClatchy Newspapers online, Mexico’s drug traffickers set their sights on top officials, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/46971.html

Root, Jay, McClatchy Newspapers online, Mexican army can’t stop drug lords’ war on cops, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/36404.html


[i] Schilling, Chelsea, State Department Warns against Travel to Mexico, World Net Daily, online, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=78076

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