Mexico: Invade Us, Please

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September 7, 2011: The gruesome August 25 attack on a casino in the city of Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state) which left 52 people dead was a terrible crime. The government, in the attack’s immediate aftermath, called it an act of terrorism, albeit an attack committed by criminals. Numerous commentators suggested this was the first time the government had called a cartel attack a terror attack. That may be literally true but it’s misleading. The government has preferred to characterize its struggle with the cartels as crime fighting. Terror, however, is a tactic. The cartels use terror to intimidate competitors, make the government look weak, and to frighten the public. The cartels have used car bombs in the past, and car bombs are definitely a terror tactic. The government knows it. The use of the term terrorism does suggest a political angle. The cartels do not want political power per se (at least not yet), but do want the freedom to make billions without interference from police and judges. That means buying off government security officials and controlling politicians. The cartels have done that for years; their bribes, murders, and other acts of intimidation do have a political aim. Little wonder the language gets confusing at times. Several of the cartels do function as a fuzzy type of criminal state. They have extensive communications capabilities; they have financing arrangements and allegedly own banks. They have their own militias (gunmen and hit teams) and their own special forces (like the Zetas elite strike teams, which use commando tactics). You can make the case they have their own foreign policies of a sort, given their cross-border relationships with non-Mexican gangs and with drug distribution networks in other countries (especially the U.S.).

The U.S. list of terrorist-sponsoring nations could be framed as a list of criminal states (it includes Sudan, Cuba, and Iran). Cuba allegedly has arrangements with several drug cartels (eg, over flight rights of aircraft smuggling dope, for a price), though the Cuban government disputes it. The city of Algiers, when it was run by the Bey of Algiers during the Barbary pirate days, is arguably a historical example of a state dependent on crime (piracy) as its primary source of income. The emirates we now call the United Arab Emirates were once referred to as the Pirate Coast. The same might be said for the un-policed seaports on the Somali coast. These are arguably examples of criminal city-states. Drug cartels, in league with Marxist guerrillas, carved out separatist duchies within Colombia. The Mexican government feared the growing power of drug cartels and their corrosive corruption, which is why it launched the Cartel War in 2006. Mexican cartel leaders could develop more robust political agendas, including regional separatism financed by billions in criminal cash. Drug lords are already little Napoleons psychologically; one cartel jefe might decide political Bonopartism is the next step. Sinaloa’s official name is already Estado Libre y Soberano de Sinaloa (Free and Sovereign State of Sinaloa). A Napoleonic Sinaloa cartel commander could rename his organization the Sinaloa Liberation Front. At the moment this is pure fancy, but let’s add a few other wrinkles and develop the scenario. Suppose the drug lord wants to bait the U.S. into military intervention, with the goal of inciting Mexican nationalist reaction, and thereby ending U.S.-Mexican cooperation against drug gangs? Re-hashed Marxist liberation front rhetoric might serve as a political mask. Controlling a state would give him a political base. Signing an alliance with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez would serve as additional incitement. Yes, we’ve a Hollywood script, but one with a few reality-based plot twists that stone cold sober Mexican security officials can’t completely dismiss. (Austin Bay)

September 6, 2011: The federal government has asked the governor of Nuevo Leon state and the mayor of the state capital to resign as a corruption investigation reveals connections between criminal gangs and major state political figures. There is also a connection with last month’s deadly casino attack.

September 5, 2011: Federal police discovered a smuggling tunnel running from Nogales, Mexico, beneath the border to Nogales, Arizona. The tunnel used a storm drain near the border as camouflage. The illegal tunnel connected laterally to the storm drain.

September 4, 2011: Cartel gunmen attacked two police vehicles outside a football (soccer) stadium in Torreon (Coahuila state). Three policemen died in one attack. In the other, stray gunfire from the cartel hit men killed three civilians. Authorities believe the attack was well-planned. The gunmen drove up to the stadium at high speed in three vehicles, opened fire, and then escaped.

September 1, 2011: U.S. Border Patrol investigators reported that Mexican federal police shot at a group of America hunters who were hunting on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande River southeast of El Paso, Texas. The Mexican police fired from the Mexican side of the border then entered vehicles and crossed the border. The Mexican policemen, according to one witness’ report, stole some chairs that belonged to the American hunters. The U.S. police investigation did not support this allegation, but confirmed that the Mexican police had crossed the border, and then returned to Mexico. American authorities said they were in contact with Mexican federal police about the incident.

August 29, 2011: There is more news about the Sinaloa cartel’s (also called the Sinaloa Federation) move into the methamphetamine business. Mexican police have made two major methamphetamine busts in the state of Queretaro (central Mexico). Both incidents were tied to the Sinaloa cartel. Mexican authorities say the Sinaloa cartel leaders are trying to fill a void left by the government’s successful attack on La Familia cartel, which used to be a major player in meth production and smuggling.

The Mexican Navy is taking delivery of three brand new UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters. The helicopters and their support package are worth about $35 million. The Blackhawks are modified to have a crew of four and carry seven Mexican marines. They also have an extra fuel tank which extends their range from 440 kilometers to 600 kilometers.

Mexican security personnel arrested five members of Los Zetas drug cartel who they believe were involved with the attack on the Monterrey casino that left 52 people dead. The police are seeking two other Zetas gang members who may have participated in the attack.

August 28, 2011: Police have found a grave containing five bodies in Almoloya de Juarez (near Mexico City). They believe another 18 murder victims may be buried in the area.

August 27, 2011: The government deployed an additional 300 soldiers in Monterrey. The reinforcements arrived in the wake of the attack on a casino that left 52 people dead. Another 1500 police will soon deploy to the city. The government now believes the attack was launched by members of Los Zetas cartel.

August 25, 2011: Cartel gunmen attacked the Casino Royale, a gambling casino in Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state). The gunmen left 52 people dead and eight survivors wounded. Seventeen of the victims were men, 35 women (and one of the women was pregnant). The gunmen fired upon casino customers then began dousing the building with gasoline (or solvent) from containers they brought with them. Most of the fatalities resulted from burns and smoke asphyxiation. Initial reports suggested that the gunmen tried to rob the casino but subsequent investigation indicated the attack had a media (and hence political) angle. From seven to nine gunmen participated in the attack. Mexican president Felipe Calderon issued a statement about the attack. “…I express my solidarity with Nuevo Leon and the victims of this abhorrent act of terror and barbarism. These reprehensible acts require us all to persevere in the fight against gangs of unscrupulous criminals…"

August 23, 2011: Though the Mexican federal government has managed its debt, government officials are increasingly worried about the debt load of several states. An international rating agency recently discovered that the state of Coahuila’s debt is actually four times greater than what state authorities reported. The government of Greece did this and precipitated a crisis in the European Union.

August 17, 2011: U.S. police and other law enforcement agencies have been providing specialized training to Mexican federal police for several years. The Federales have found the training to be very useful. As a result, the government has asked the U.S. to provide similar training for municipal and state police, and the U.S. State Department has agreed. One of the first training projects may involve local police and sheriff’s deputies from the Texas town of Laredo training their counterparts in Nuevo Laredo. The training programs are speculative, but one of the benefits, especially for border towns, is closer personal cooperation between neighboring police departments.

August 16, 2011: Soldiers patrolling near the town of Tacambaro (Michoacan state) encountered a group of drug cartel hitmen. The soldiers killed eight gunmen in the resulting firefight.

August 12, 2011: The new commander of U.S. Northcom is a U.S. Army general and an infantryman. Northcom’s area of operations includes Canada, the continental U.S., and Mexico. Northcom has traditionally been commanded by an Air Force general or a Navy admiral with an air and space defense background. That’s the legacy of NORAD (North American Air Defense command) and the Cold War. U.S. media are speculating the reason an Army general is now in command is to enhance cooperation with the Mexican military in its fight against drug cartels.

August 11, 2011: Mexican police arrested Oscar Osvaldo Garcia Montoya, a military deserter who became a bodyguard for major drug cartel commanders. He now allegedly runs his own drug organization in Mexico City (the so-called Hands With Eyes organization). Garcia, according to investigators, may be personally involved in over 600 murders.

 

 

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