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December 5, 2010
WikiLeaks And The Mexican Drug War
What do the WikiLeaks reveal about the ongoing drug cartel violence south of the border?
According to the diplomatic cables, the Mexican Army is behind the times, it's slow, avoids risks and ignores intelligence offered it by the U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is concerned with how the stress of it all affects Mexican president Calderon's "personality and management style". Pascual says that in meetings, the Mexican president seems "down."
Secretary Clinton also wants to know if Calderon's advisors challenge him, asking "Does he like to get into debates with people who disagree with him?"
Ambassador Pascual, in a dispatch sent in November of 2009, wrote that "Mexico's use of strategic and tactical intelligence is often fractured, ad hoc, and heavily reliant on the United States for leads and operations." Pascual also complained about turf wars between Mexican security agencies, and that these agencies "would rather hoard intelligence than allow a rival agency to succeed. "
Mexico's corruption and low prosecution rate are discussed. That's not exactly a shock.
A memo reports that "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."
Shortly before the leak release began, Calderon criticized "the spying of the Americans, who have always been very interfering in this sense". On the other hand, the cables reveal that Calderon has urged the U.S. to increase its political engagement with Latin America.
Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexico's Undersecretary of the Interior, was a fertile source of quotes. In October of 2009, Gutierrez "expressed a real concern with ‘losing' certain regions" of the country to the drug cartels. Looking at the big picture, the official said that "It is damaging Mexico's international reputation, hurting foreign investment, and leading to a sense of government impotence." And, Gutierrez looked ahead:
Sometimes a social event like a dinner can be revealing. One dispatch reports a dinner hosted by Mexico's Attorney General for officials from the U.S Justice Department. There, Gutierrez said that the Merida Initiative (the U.S. aid program for Mexico's drug war) was cobbled together too quickly to be effective.
A diplomat reports that "In retrospect [Gutierrez] 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 (drug-trafficking organizations)."
Gutierrez and Jorge Tello (National Security System Coordinator) described the pressure on Calderon to resolve the situation in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's most violent city:
Another part of the problem is Mexico's low prosecution rates. According to a diplomatic cable "Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal, 2 percent of those detained are brought to trial. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime."
It's not that the U.S. isn't willing to help Mexico, reveal the dispatches, but that requires "the development of strong trust through proper vetting". This cable seems to be referring to the problem of corruption within the security forces. "It would also be excellent to get to the point where there is no longer impunity for Chapo Guzman" the cables say of Mexico's most wanted man and Forbes Magazine billionaire.
It's depressing, that's for sure. So is there anything positive to note here ?
Well, according to the diplomatic cables, the Mexican Navy receives high marks in its performance. Pascual has reported that the U.S. had information on the whereabouts of drug kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva (chief of the Beltran Leyva cartel) and provided it to the Mexican Army. The Army however, didn't move fast enough. The Mexican Navy, however, moved faster and sent in the Marines who killed the notorious drug baron. During the struggle for power within the Beltran Leyva cartel after his death, the Marines took out Sergio Villarreal. They also killed "Tony Tormenta" of the Gulf cartel.
But, as an example of that inter-agency competition, there is friction between the Mexican Army and Mexican Marines, according to the cables. The diplomatic dispatches give higher marks to the Navy than the Army, reporting that Mexico's Navy "has shown itself capable of responding quickly to actionable intelligence. Its success puts the army...in the difficult position of explaining why it has been reluctant to act on good intelligence and conduct operations against high-level targets."
Now the disclaimers: The Mexican foreign ministry has condemned the release of the documents, because the content of the memos is "incomplete and inaccurate."
Carlos Pascual, American ambassador to Mexico says that the dispatches relating to Mexico (some that he himself authored) "do not represent U.S. policy."
Yes, well, both governments would feel compelled to say that, now wouldn't they ?
There is still plenty of WikiLeaks material on the way, which may provide more insight. But given the information leaked thus far, who can honestly say that it's wrong ? It does seem to fit with what we knew about the situation already.