Two updates below
The El Pais newspapar in Spain has begun to release State Department documents concerning Mexico’s drug war.
Here are the two stories the newspaper has posted in Spanish:
• El Gobierno mexicano admite que ha perdido el control de ciertas zonas (English translation: The Mexican government admits it's lost control of certain areas)
• México: un Ejército dividido incapaz de vencer a los narcos (English translation: Mexico: a divided army is incapable of defeating the narcos)
There are links throughout these two articles to the documents they refer to, and I'm reading those this afternoon. So far, this one from Oct. 5, 2009 out of Mexico City is the most interesting. It offers insight into what Mexican high-ranking officials think about the drug war and need for help from the U.S.
The document provides a summary of what was said at a dinner hosted by Mexican officials for visiting Department of Justice leaders from the U.S. The document quotes the undersecretary for governance of Mexico, Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez, as offering a stark assessment of Mexico’s situation:
“We have 18 months," he said, "and if we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration.
“He lamented the pervasive, debilitating fear that is so much a part of contemporary Mexican society, where even people in theYucatan, with "European levels of security" are afraid because of the instability in a few distant cities. He expressed a real concern with "losing" certain regions.
“It is damaging Mexico's international reputation, hurting foreign investment, and leading to a sense of government impotence, Gutierrez said.
According to the document, Gutierrez also said that, “in retrospect he and other GOM (government of Mexico) officials realize that not enough strategic thought went into Merida in the early phase. There was too much emphasis in the initial planning on equipment, which they now know is slow to arrive and even slower to be of direct utility in the fight against the DTOs.”
Gutierrez said that the U.S. and Mexico should focus on joint projects in a few key cities, rather than "doing a little of everything." National Security System Coordinator Jorge Tello Peon agreed, adding that there was no time to conduct pilot projects in safe cities before taking them to real challenges. He suggested the two governments confront the most unsafe cities.
"If we could turn around Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and one other city such as Culiacan, it would solve 60% of the violence, and send a signal to the Mexican people that the war can be won. Politically, he and Gutierrez said, Mexico must succeed in Juarez because Calderon has staked so much of his reputation there, with a major show of force that, to date, has not panned out. Even if it is not completely solved by the time Calderon leaves office, if they can get things moving in the right direction, setting the conditions for ultimate success, it will be enough."
I just read a cable dated Jan. 29, 2010 from Mexico City, which compliments President Felipe Calderon's resolve to stick to his fight against the drug trafficking organizations amid plunging popularity, but also details out the harsh reality of the difficult task he's facing:
“Calderon has aggressively attacked Mexico's drug trafficking organizations but has struggled with an unwieldy and uncoordinated interagency and spiraling rates of violence that have made him vulnerable to criticism that his anti-crime strategy has failed. Indeed, the GOM's inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides in places like Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere - the nationwide total topped 7,700 in 2009 - has become one of Calderon's principal political liabilities as the general public has grown more concerned about citizen security.
“Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency's success is viewed as another's failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of. Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among "clean" law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants.
“Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trail. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.”
The document says a failure to reduce violence in Ciudad Juarez led to a major course change in January, with the Mexican goverment handing over command from the military to the federal police.
“The military was not trained to patrol the streets or carry out law enforcement operations. It does not have the authority to collect and introduce evidence into the judicial system. The result: arrests skyrocketed, prosecutions remained flat, and both the military and public have become increasingly frustrated. The command change in Juarez has been seen by political classes and the public as a Presidential repudiation of SEDENA (Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense). When SEDENA joins you at the DBWG (Defense BilateralWorking Group), it will be an agency smarting from the very public statement of a lack of confidence in its performance record in Juarez.”
Update no. 2:
A cable dated Oct. 23, 2009 provides a summary of a 40-minute meeting between Mexico President Felipe Calderon and the Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair that focused on cooperation between the two countries.
This section about how to best fight the drug trafficking organizations caught my attention:
“Blair underscored that the fight against crime has to move beyond high-value targets. "Cut the head off this snake and new heads will grow." Blair said the key ingredient to success is generating community confidence to call in tips against drug traffickers. To get that, people need to feel secure -- they have to believe that the police can maintain public safety.
“And it also means that intelligence has to be used quickly, effectively, and responsibly. Intelligence, operations, and institutional capacity have to be interwoven.
“Calderon agreed. He responded, "You made it very clear. Without attacking the body as well, we can't win. And we have to create the capacity to take on the body."
When Blair asked Calderon about his perspective on political developments in Latin America, Calderon told him that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is active everywhere, including Mexico.
“He went out of his way to highlight that he believes Chavez funded the PRD opposition during the Presidential campaign nearly four years ago. Chavez uses social programs, including sending doctors, to curry political influence, and there are governors in Mexico who may be friendly to him.
“Calderon said that Mexico is trying to isolate Venezuela through the Rio Group. Calderon also commented that he is particularly concerned about Venezuela's relations with Iran, and that the Iranian Embassy in Mexico is very active. Calderon underscored that Iran's growing influence in Latin American should be of considerable concern to the United States, and Chavez is doing all he can to aid and abet it.”
Later, Calderon said that Chavez has no qualms about getting invlved in Latin American elections, and that he tried to do so in Calderon’s 2006 election. He said the region needs a U.S. presence to slow Chavez’ influence."
I'll post more tomorrow as I read the rest of the cables posted so far by El Pais . . .