The Mexican Narco-Revolution

My 2006 article about a possible coming revolution in Mexico was both correct and incorrect. At that time, I focused on the highly emotional and heavily contested presidential election. I thought the forces of the left might launch a national revolution, but they did not, seemingly content to work within the system, at least for now. Nevertheless, an ultra-violent, albeit somewhat quiet, heavily armed insurgency is already well under way. The key players are the drug cartels and the rightist Calderon government. On one front, the cartels are warring among themselves for dominance in the lucrative multi-billion dollar drug trade, made possible by ridiculously inappropriate and ineffective U.S. laws. On the other front is the war against the Mexican government, the cartels hoping to dominate, or at least to intimidate and coerce the system to make their work even easier. This is just what has happened in Colombia and other drug-producing countries, and is resulting in what many are calling the Colombianization of Mexico.

What is happening is largely ignored by the American “mainline” media. Since I live in South Texas, I occasionally look at Spanish language newspapers. I wish I could relay some good commentary, but other than matter-of-fact reports on the violence, little is said. The American press has chosen by and large to ignore the issue as it might impinge on tourism, oil imports, the lucrative outsourcing of our industrial jobs, etc., but the Mexican media has a better reason for avoiding it. Some of the main targets for narco-assassins are journalists. Of course, the stories that doomed them most often involved clear and direct exposés of criminal activity and widespread public corruption. Let’s pause a moment to honor these brave reporters and commentators. How many writers, including myself, would be willing to risk death to make a statement? Not only that, some of them continued even after the deaths of their colleagues. Of course, the narco-terrorists eventually had their way.

On a related front, how many American police officers would keep on going against the seemingly untouchable cartels after their colleagues are openly and brazenly slain? Scores of police officers and public officials have fallen to the bullets of the narco-terrorist forces. Naturally, prudent resignations have been rampant, leaving police forces short of personnel. With the overall climate of corruption in Mexico, the few brave officers who wanted to enforce the law and get rid of the narco-terrorist gangs never really had a free hand or any assistance. So, who would want to be a cop, other than an opportunist or an infiltrator? Even then, very few recruits are coming forward. It’s the same thing with the military. Always held to a higher moral standard by the Mexican people, they too are losing to the narco-revolution. No, not on the battlefield, but within their own ranks, from top to bottom. Highly trained Special Forces units with heavy duty weapons and intelligence gear have gone over to the cartels. The best known, but certainly not the only one, are the Zetas. This is the equivalent of U.S. Army Rangers or Green Berets deciding to join the enemy in Iraq! Sometimes we hear reports of Mexican Army troops crossing our border or even firing at the Border Patrol. I believe that most of this involves rogue units or cartel gunmen who simply donned the garb. And, the corruption spreads across the border as well. Down here in South Texas, some sheriffs, other law enforcement people and county officials have already been arrested and indicted for conspiring with and aiding the traffickers.

This may remind you a bit of what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. The same Fourth Generation Warfare non-traditional tactics are being used. No flags or marching troops. No uniforms, or even if you see them, you really have no idea who is wearing them. No car bombs or Improvised Explosive Devices so far in Mexico’s narco-wars, but they are not needed. The narco-terrorists are well-armed and well-equipped. By the way, almost all of their sophisticated state of the art weaponry is smuggled in from the U.S. A rocket propelled grenade or an assassination in a hail of bullets is just as effective as a car bomb or an Improvised Explosive Device and the perpetrators rightly feel they can act with virtual impunity. The Mexican police and military only rarely seem to be around, even though almost all of the assassination targets have been openly warned by whichever cartel they had offended. In Ciudad Juarez and other border cities, cartel gunmen routinely and randomly fire at their enemies on main public streets! Mexican troops are stationed along the border as well as in other areas to augment the police, but there is little positive impact. A year or so ago, Army and Federal Police units were sent to Nuevo Laredo, a border city I used to visit often. Several police chiefs and other officers had been killed, so the feds were there to “protect” them. Shortly thereafter, the people of Nuevo Laredo openly complained that all that the soldiers and the Federales really did was get drunk, eat for free in the restaurants and get the local girls pregnant! Did you know that drug cartel violence took over 4,000 lives in 2008? I remind you, both in the Mideast and in the narco-wars, there are no “civilians”.

And, there is another important likeness. As we know, the new police and army forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are not very effective because they are heavily infiltrated and corrupted. It’s the same thing in Mexico. In a Nov. 2008 article about the resignation of the national chief of the Federal Police in a corruption scandal, the Associated Press tells us more. “Last week, five officials in the federal attorney general’s organized crime unit, which is separate from the federal police, were arrested for allegedly passing information to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. The Reforma newspaper reported that officials had found a list of soldiers who were allegedly being paid to work for the drug lord. And on Friday, the Defense Department said four other officers and one enlisted man are under investigation for alleged links to one of the country’s most powerful drug cartels. The scandals are the most serious reported infiltration of anti-crime agencies since the 1997 arrest of General Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo, then head of Mexico’s anti-drug agency. Gutierrez Rebollo was later convicted of aiding drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes. President Felipe Calderon has long acknowledged that corruption is a problem among the federal police and soldiers charged with leading Mexico’s anti-drug campaign, but this week’s announcements were nonetheless a major blow to his nationwide campaign to take back territory controlled by cartels.” What chance does the government and honest Mexican officials have? Modern-day warfare techniques and widespread corruption seem to be an unbeatable combination, both in the Mideast and in the Americas.

Likewise, it is not just corruption at higher levels; not at all. A NY Times News Service makes some apt observations. “And [the corruption] raises a question that is on the lips of many Mexicans: How does one know who is dirty and who is clean? ‘I’m convinced that to stop the crime, we have to get it out of our own house,’ said President Felipe Calderon, who has made drug trafficking a crucial part of his presidency. That house is clearly dirty. There is ample evidence that Mexicans of all walks of life are willing to join the drug gangs in exchange for cash, including the farmers who abandon traditional crops and turn to growing marijuana and the accountants who hide the narco-traffickers’ profits.”

Drug trafficking on this scale is a very big business, requiring the same personnel and skills just as it is with any large corporate structure. Lawyers, doctors, accountants, computer techs, office workers, maintenance people, chemists to work in the highly equipped drug labs, janitorial workers and any other categories you can imagine are involved. In a country where many of the people live on a third world scale, one sees the truth about what is going on. The people of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Mideast nations are even more in the same position. In another gruesome parallel, the narco-violence in Mexico already involves numerous beheaded victims, just as it is in the Mideast. Why oppose various militias and power brokers when you can preserve your life and those of your family by cooperating, not to mention earning money when most of your compatriots cannot? Is this an almost unbeatable combination? The results say so.

Of course, by this time in reading my article, you may already be bored, wondering what any of this really has to do with you, here in the great American superpower nation to the north. Blasé and dumbed-down Americans care little about Latin America and its problems, even though we are at the heart of most of them. But, get ready for a change in attitude and awareness. Again, as in the Mideast, Fourth Generation Warfare knows no borders. Another short but scary AP report comes dateline McAllen, Texas, a rather nice city in the Rio Grande Valley, less than 200 miles from where I live. An FBI intelligence report says the Gulf Cartel, one of the main protagonists, “may be preparing for possible confrontations with U.S. law officers.” This comes right in the middle of an effort to strike at South Texas drug smuggling routes. And, the rogue Mexican army special forces, the Zetas, are said to be “moving reinforcements to Reynosa, Mexico, across from McAllen, Texas”. An FBI spokesman said that “the Zetas are a significant problem in Mexico and have the potential to pose a significant problem to law enforcement on this side of the border.” They are armed with heavy assault rifles bulletproof vests, grenades and other powerful weapons, not to mention sophisticated surveillance and intelligence gathering devices. In other words, they are better trained and completely outgun any Texas police forces. Not only that, the Monitor newspaper story tells us that the narco-forces “are occupying safe houses throughout the McAllen area”!

Did you get that? Forget about “effectively patrolling the border” and most of all, forget about building the damned silly border wall! At best, it might deter a few would-be illegal immigrants, but most will just find other routes, as will the cartels. If you haven’t noticed, we have a huge porous border under the best of conditions. But beyond all of that, the Zetas are already in the country! What is more, if they are already here in South Texas safe houses, then they are in other U.S. cities as well. Why wouldn’t they be? I say it again. Fourth Generation Warfare knows no borders. Are you worried about terrorists and homeland security? The elite of the narco-forces, the very best they have, are already in our midst! Just as they act with impunity in Mexico, they will do the same thing here, when and if the need arises. And as we well know, there are no such things as civilians, a group in modern warfare with the heaviest casualties. It is already happening in Mexico, Colombia, etc., where civilian deaths from the narco-wars number in the thousands each year. And, as in the Mideast, it’s pretty hard to avoid the bullets, bombs and random violence once it begins. Is it on the horizon here? Well, its surely not impossible, to say the least! Drive-by shootings and other gang violence are already common in many of our cities and towns. Of course, all U.S. gangs are potential allies of the cartels.

Of course, all of this begs the question of how this situation came to be in the first place. Just as in the Mideast, we are mostly at fault. Let’s face facts. Americans love drugs, consuming billions of dollars worth of legal and illegal ones to ease our various aches and pains of the body and the mind. We use drugs to stimulate ourselves, tranquilize our widespread depressive neuroses, to sedate ourselves so we can sleep, to have more and better sex, lose weight, to create ambience and attitude and much more. And, I haven’t even mentioned alcohol! The stupid moralistic Prohibition debacle of the 1920s did nothing more than put lots of money in the hands of organized crime, making them a powerful force in our nation. Nowadays, the drug laws make it possible for billions and billions to flow into the coffers of the cartels (and their allies) because our drug laws are outmoded, old-fashioned and worst of all, rather ineffective. In another article, I proposed decriminalization of drugs, getting the feds out of the picture, leaving it up to the states under the tenth amendment. This was the position of most conservatives until the early twentieth century. But this will probably never happen because so much money is involved. Not only in the drug trade itself, but in the private prison systems that hold tens of thousands of non-violent offenders. This is a big money making enterprise, just as are the various treatment programs, which are often ineffective and expensive. Among other things, decriminalization would clear many American prison systems, and the money saved could be used to provide the finest and latest treatment programs, free to anyone who chose them. We don’t need the ever-growing “nanny state” to oversee our every move, but probably none of these populist reform efforts will ever take hold. Why? The answer is simple. It’s all about the money. Outside of some obscure state legislators and the Libertarian Party, no politician will touch these issues.

So, dear fellow citizens of the Superpower, through our ill-chosen leaders and ill thought-out policies, we’ve made quite a mess in the world! Through our misdeeds in the Mideast, we have made eternal and implacable enemies of the Muslim world, even among the more moderate factions, and created wars that may go on for decades. But much closer to home, our equally flawed and failed drug policies have mostly Colombianized Mexico, and now have brought the narco-terrorist revolution across our borders. It is possible that dedicated Americans could bring about some badly needed change. We can only hope so, but where are the forward-thinking lawmakers who dare to propose such things? Both in the Mideast and in Mexico, more people will die and most Americans will look away in disinterest. That is, unless the violence comes even closer to home, which it is doing while you read these words. Sadly, our track record is rather poor, so only time will tell.
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