Mexico: Terrorists Take Over


September 27, 2010: The government is losing control of many areas in the north, as the drug cartels use their thousands of gunmen to terrorize local officials and media. The army and police have been unsuccessful in regaining control. At the same time, the government has rejected any notion that it would agree to a truce with a drug cartel. The government said categorically that it will not negotiate or agree to a truce with criminals. A newspaper in Ciudad Jurez (Chihuahua state) floated the idea after two of its photographers were murdered. Negotiating with the cartels would suggest a political legitimacy of some sort. So far the Mexican cartels have avoided tying themselves to a political platform. They are about money, which is power enough.

September 25, 2010:  Police revealed that they had captured Soto Reyes,  a senior leader of the Sinola cartel, in Guadalajara, along with eight bodyguards.

September 24, 2010: The government now estimates that 29,000 people have been killed in Cartel War-related violence since December 2006. In Cancun, police arrested a senior leader of the Zetas cartel. Jose Angel Fernandez was caught with three bodyguards, lots of cash and incriminating documents. Jose Angel Fernandez was the chief of operations for the Zetas and believed responsible for planning and directing terrorist operations.

September 16, 2010: Security forces killed 19 gunmen in a battle near the city of Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state). The battle lasted almost seven hours. The gunmen had erected a roadblock about 100 kilometers east of the city. The Mexican Army claimed the gunmen were wearing military uniforms. The soldiers took fire from the gunmen at the roadblock, and counter-attacked. The gunmen tried to break contact and escape in a vehicle. The soldiers pursued, killing several, and cornered the rest near a ranch.

Mexico celebrated the 200th anniversary of its revolt against Spain.

September 13, 2010: Mexican President Felipe Calderon gave a controversial speech about the Battle of Chapultepec (Mexican War, 1847) on its 163rd anniversary. Chapultepec is just outside Mexico City. His speech called the war unjust and motivated by imperialistic interests. He also blamed deep divisions and personal jealousy among Mexican leaders as contributing to the U.S. victory.

September 12, 2010: Mexican marines struck once again at the Beltran Leyva cartel. The Mexican Navy announced that it had arrested a senior Beltran Leyva commander, Sergio Villarreal Barragan. He was arrested in Puebla state.

September 11, 2010: The U.S. FBI said that it has agents investigating an incident on the border. U.S. Border Patrol agents reported they were fired upon by armed men across the Rio Grande River. The agents chased a vehicle to a Hidalgo County, Texas, park located near the river. The driver abandoned the vehicle then swam across the river into Mexico. As agents inspected the vehicle they received weapons fire. The agents reported they returned fire and the gunmen fled. This incident in several aspects reflects the danger of spill-over violence. The fleeing suspect clearly had gunmen on the Mexican side of the border prepared to provide covering fire-- and in fact they did. It is likely there was some sort of radio or telephonic communication between the vehicle driver and the covering force. With good reason many security experts say that the big cartels want to avoid an incident where U.S. border agents or police are killed by cartel gunmen firing upon them from Mexico. It could trigger a major U.S. political reaction and result in reprisals involving U.S. special operations forces. However, no one completely dismisses the possibility that cartelistas might try and frame rival gangsters with such an incident, as Mexican special operations forces responded at the behest of the U.S.. There are other scenarios that are more outlandish but might serve a cartel leader who wanted to damage Mexico-U.S. relations with the intent of curbing bilateral police and intelligence cooperation. If larger U.S. security forces (SWAT teams, or, to really push the scenario, special operations forces) got involved in an incident like this, the conspirators might try and use the incident to spur a nationalist counter-reaction in Mexico. Here is the information warfare pitch: Yankee soldiers are attacking us again. This is highly unlikely in present circumstances, but see the September 13 post on Chapultepec. The passions the conspirators would try to exploit remain a political factor.

September 9, 2010: The government took issue with the U.S. State Department over comments that its anti-drug war had aspects of an insurgency. The U.S. Secretary of State compared Mexico's situation to that of Colombia three decades ago. The U.S. statement implicitly posed a theoretical: the organized drug cartels could change over time into organizations with political goals. This is a possibility, and it is not the first time the scenario has been suggested. It is, however, the first time a senior U.S. government official publicly stated it. There are, however, significant differences in the origins of Colombia's narco-guerrillas and Mexican drug cartels. The Colombians began as leftist revolutionaries and always had a definitive political agenda. The drug cartels don't really want to change the system, they just want to corrupt it so they can continue their illegal businesses and ship drugs north to the U.S..





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