Mexico: The Lessons Of Al Qaeda


August 18, 2009: the government is breathing easier, not because the drug war is going particularly well (the fighting is tough) but because the U.S. government has backed off on demands that NAFTA (North American Free Trade Association) be renegotiated. Mexico has its own anti-NAFTA activists, and they can be violent. For example, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) launched its rebellion on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA went into effect. The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which likes to blow up pipelines, is anti-NAFTA and very anti-economic liberalization. The EPR has recast itself as the PDPR-EPR, Popular Revolutionary Democratic Party-Popular Revolutionary Army. The national left-wing party, the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), has a vociferous anti-NAFTA faction.

With all of the opposition duly noted, a number of Mexican economists and some social progressives --particularly those who believe endemic political corruption means Mexico's political and justice systems will be slow to change-- see economic integration with Canada and the U.S. as a way to move Mexico into the 21st century's global market. A number of Mexicans (including key members of the Calderon administration) believe NAFTA has helped nudge forward social and judicial reform.

August 16, 2009: The government has fired 700 customs inspectors. Well, not quite fired. The inspectors' employment contracts have ended and the government is not renewing the contracts. But that's rhetorical cover. The replacement customs personnel have been specially trained to combat narcotics smugglers and identify smuggling techniques. They have also been through military-like security checks to insure they do not have criminal records. Still, the issue of pay remains. An inspector can make a lot of cash by "looking the other way." The government upped military pay shortly after the Cartel War began. As new police and customs agents are hired, the government has to consider pay increases.

August 15, 2009: A prison riot in Durango state has left 19 inmates dead. At least 20 people were injured. The government says "drug cartel rivalries" led to the riot.

August 12, 2009: A lot of people suspected this was going on, since the drug cartels are increasingly "branching out" into other illegal businesses. First off, PEMEX (Mexican national oil company) reported that it had discovered several hundred illegal "taps" in its pipelines. This means someone was stealing oil. In May, an American court convicted a U.S. citizen of fronting for illegal oil sales from Mexico. The U.S. has paid Mexico $2.4 million it seized as "illegal profits" when police uncovered the scam and arrested the American executive. According to both U.S. and Mexican authorities, most of the oil is smuggled across the border in tanker trucks. Gasoline and aviation fuel shipments have also been seized.

August 11, 2009: A senior leader at the U.S. Department of Homeland security said that the U.S. recognizes "border violence" is a problem for both the U.S. and Mexico.

August 8, 2009: The army has taken control of a "drug ranch" in Durango state. The 600-acre property (not really a ranch, but still a large tract of land) served as a vast warehouse for storing illegal narcotics and producing methamphetamines. A security agency report said the site had quarters for workers and "luxury quarters" for the senior commander.

August 7, 2009: The U.S. government said that it will not renegotiate the NAFTA treaty. The U.S. president, Canadian prime minister, and the Mexican president will be meeting in Mexico at what is billed as a "NAFTA summit." The summit concluded August 10. A statement by the U.S. government indicated that NAFTA provides "stability" to the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican economies. The U.S. government, however, says it remains concerned about labor standards and environmental standards enforcement in NAFTA.

August 6, 2009: "Several thousand" soldiers continue to operate in and around the western state of Michoacan. The government crackdown continues after a dozen federal policemen were murdered in Michoacan in July.

August 5, 2009: During the past two days 17 people were slain in gang-related violence in and around Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua state).

July 29. 2009: A senior city police commander and his family (wife and four children) were murdered in an attack on their home in Veracruz (in Vercruz state). Drug gang violence around Veracruz has been increasing. The police commander was in charge of a "joint police force" (likely a counter-narcotics strike force) in the Veracruz (city) region. The government calls these attack "desperate, violent reactions" by the narcotics traffickers. They are that, but are also "pinpoint terror attacks" intended to scare Mexican police and military. Al Qaeda and former members of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime used these tactics in Iraq to attempt to intimidate pro-democracy Iraqis.





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