Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The On-Going Slaughter in Mexico

Mexican troops in Cancun

Sunday, 12 bodies were discovered along the streets of the Mexican town of Chilpancingo, Guerrero. All had been decapitated. The heads were found in plastic bags a short distance away. Most of the victims were soldiers of the Mexican Army. This was the latest outrage in a wave of drug cartel-related violence that has swept the country for decades. It has never been worse than it is now.

President Felipe Calderon, in trying to crack down on the cartels, has increasingly relied on the Mexican Army as opposed to the historically-corrupt Mexican Federal Judicial Police (MFJP). For decades, the US has poured billions of dollars in money, training and equipment into Mexico in a futile effort to stem the flow of drugs coming out of that country. As a DEA agent, I participated in three training seminars in the 1990s for the supposed "New Breed" of newly-hired Federal officers. Two of those seminars were held in the Mexican National Police Academy in Mexico City. It was all an exercise in futility.

Nothing has really worked. Corruption has triumphed every time. The system is so ingrained in Mexico that no one can really change it. The money coming from the US into Mexico to pay for our drug consumption is simply too great. It is one of the country's main sources of revenue along with tourism, petroleum and funds sent home by Mexican citizens in the US to their families.

Yet, while mentioning the corruption (which every Mexican will acknowledge), we must not forget those who have actually tried to fight the cartels and have paid with their lives as result. Several police chiefs and their subordinates have been assassinated in recent years. This is the same country where DEA Agent Enrique Camarena was kidnapped and tortured to death by drug lords in 1985. The 12 victims Sunday are just the latest.

I can only hope that this time, Mexico will be swept by a wave of outrage that will ignite a meaningful backlash against the criminals who are terrorizing a country of overwhelmingly decent people. It is truly time for drastic measures. They know who the cartel bosses and their henchmen are. Surely, President Calderon knows better than I how to fight this scourge, but if he launches a so-called "guerra sucia" (dirty war), I am fine with that as long as it doesn't carry over into innocent people (as it did in Argentina a few decades ago). It is clear that to fight the cartels is to put your life on the line-just as it has been in Colombia. I don't think Mexico can rely simply on honest cops, soldiers and their courts (which can also be easily corrupted).

The US Government also has a moral duty to its people to do their part. A Travel Advisory seems to be the obvious place to start. Effectively securing our border would also be in order-if for no other reason than to slow the flow of drugs and beat back violent crime that spills over our border. The Mexican Government has to know that its tourist trade is on the line. It is not enough to simply congratulate the Mexican Government on this or that symbolic victory against drug trafficking as we have done over the years. Calderon has shown encouraging early steps in using the Army to try to combat the cartels. Yet, we have been disappointed in the end by virtually every past Mexican president as they retire with vast fortunes stolen from the Mexican people and treasury. Will Calderon be the same?

If Mexico continues to conduct business as usual and not make a determined effort to rid their society of the most vicious elements, then the horrible deaths of those Mexican soldiers will have meant nothing.


Anonymous said...

I think one big thing we need to do in this country is reduce the demand for the drugs, through rehab programs and drug counseling.

Gary Fouse said...


Absolutely correct. It is a 3-pronged issue-education (which worked phenomonaly with cigarettes) rehab and enforcement focused against the traffickers and dealers.