Tag Archives: mexico

Strafor looks at Mexico: “The Struggle for Balance”

More about what might be the greatest threat to American sovereignty.  At the end are links to other articles about our crisis to the south.

Mexico: The Struggle for Balance

By Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 6 April 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

This week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report provided a high-level assessment of the economic forces that affect how the Mexican people and the Mexican government view the flow of narcotics through that country. Certainly at that macro level, there is a lot of money flowing into Mexico and a lot of people, from bankers and businessmen to political parties and politicians, are benefiting from the massive influx of cash. The lure of this lucre shapes how many Mexicans (particularly many of the Mexican elite) view narcotics trafficking. It is, frankly, a good time to be a banker, a real estate developer or a Rolex dealer in Mexico.

However, at the tactical level, there are a number of issues also shaping the opinions of many Mexicans regarding narcotics trafficking, including violence, corruption and rapidly rising domestic narcotics consumption. At this level, people are being terrorized by running gunbattles, mass beheadings and rampant kidnappings — the types of events that STRATFOR covers in our Mexico Security Memos.

Mexican elites have the money to buy armored cars and hire private security guards. But rampant corruption in the security forces means the common people seemingly have nowhere to turn for help at the local level (not an uncommon occurrence in the developing world). The violence is also having a heavy impact on Mexico’s tourist sector and on the willingness of foreign companies to invest in Mexico’s manufacturing sector. Many smaller business owners are being hit from two sides — they receive extortion demands from criminals while facing a decrease in revenue due to a drop in tourism because of the crime and violence. These citizens and businessmen are demanding help from Mexico City.

These two opposing forces — the inexorable flow of huge quantities of cash and the pervasive violence, corruption and fear — are placing a tremendous amount of pressure on the Calderon administration. And this pressure will only increase as Mexico moves closer to the 2012 presidential elections (President Felipe Calderon was the law-and-order candidate and was elected in 2006 in large part due to his pledge to end cartel violence). Faced by these forces, Calderon needs to find a way to strike a delicate balance, one that will reassert Mexican government authority, quell the violence and mollify the public while also allowing the river of illicit cash to continue flowing into Mexico.

An examination of the historical dynamics of the narcotics trade in Mexico reveals that in order for the violence to stop, there needs to be a balance among the various drug-trafficking organizations involved in the trade. New dynamics have begun to shape the narcotics business in Mexico, and they are causing that balance to be very elusive. For the Calderon administration, desperate times may have called for desperate measures.

The Balance

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Freidman of Stratfor writes about “Mexico and the Failed State Revisited”

Another brilliant analysis from Stratfor, about (as Martin van Creveld foresaw two decades ago) one of the major threats to America.  This is a another perspective to the recent articles about the “end of Mexico.”  At the end are links to other articles about Mexico. 

Mexico and the Failed State Revisited

George Friedman, Stratfor, 6 April 2010 — This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

STRATFOR argued March 13, 2008, that Mexico was nearing the status of a failed state. A failed state is one in which the central government has lost control over significant areas of the country and the state is unable to function. In revisiting this issue, it seems to us that the Mexican government has lost control of the northern tier of Mexico to drug-smuggling organizations, which have significantly greater power in that region than government forces. Moreover, the ability of the central government to assert its will against these organizations has weakened to the point that decisions made by the state against the cartels are not being implemented or are being implemented in a way that would guarantee failure.

Despite these facts, it is not clear to STRATFOR that Mexico is becoming a failed state. Instead, it appears the Mexican state has accommodated itself to the situation. Rather than failing, it has developed strategies designed both to ride out the storm and to maximize the benefits of that storm for Mexico.

First, while the Mexican government has lost control over matters having to do with drugs and with the borderlands of the United States, Mexico City’s control over other regions — and over areas other than drug enforcement — has not collapsed (though its lack of control over drugs could well extend to other areas eventually). Second, while drugs reshape Mexican institutions dramatically, they also, paradoxically, stabilize Mexico. We need to examine these crosscurrents to understand the status of Mexico.

Mexico’s Core Problem

Let’s begin by understanding the core problem. The United States consumes vast amounts of narcotics, which, while illegal there, make their way in abundance. Narcotics derive from low-cost agricultural products that become consumable with minimal processing. With its long, shared border with the United States, Mexico has become a major grower, processor and exporter of narcotics. Because the drugs are illegal and thus outside normal market processes, their price is determined by their illegality rather than by the cost of production. This means extraordinary profits can be made by moving narcotics from the Mexican side of the border to markets on the other side.

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National Drug Threat Assessment 2010

The Dept of Justice has published an update on one of our longest wars, declared by President Nixon at a press conference on 17 June 1971 (more explicitly to Congress here).  Only the War on Poverty (declared by LBJ on 8 January 1964) has run longer.  (I have not found a date for first use of  “War on Cancer”; it was not used by Nixon in 1971).

Excerpt from the Executive Summary of the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 (red emphasis added):

Overall, the availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing.1 In fact, in 2009 the prevalence of four of the five major drugs–heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)–was widespread and increasing in some areas. Conversely, cocaine shortages first identified in 2007 persisted in many markets.

… Although drug use remained relatively stable from 2007 through 2008, more than 25 million individuals 12 years of age and older reported using an illicit drug or using a controlled prescription drug (CPD) nonmedically in 2008. Each year, drug-related deaths number in the thousands, and treatment admissions and emergency department (ED) visits both exceed a million. These and other consequences of drug abuse, including lost productivity associated with abuse, the impact on the criminal justice system, and the environmental impact that results from the production of illicit drugs, are estimated at nearly $215 billion  annually.

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Stratfor looks at Mexico: The War with the Cartels in 2009

There are few if any foreign policy issues more serious for America than our relations to Mexico, and few foreign threats over which we have so little influence.

Mexico:  The War with the Cartels in 2009“, Scott Stewart and Alex Posey, Stratfor, 9 December 2009 — Reposted with permission.  Links to additional information appear at the end.

Introduction

There are 2 cartel wars currently raging in Mexico that have combined to produce record levels of violence in 2009.

  • The first war is the struggle between the government of Mexico and the drug cartels.
  • The second, a parallel war, is the fight among the various cartels as they compete for control of lucrative supply routes.

Shortly after his inauguration in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out effort to target the cartels, which he viewed as a major threat to Mexico’s security and stability. Over the past three years, the government’s effort has weakened and fragmented some of the major cartels (namely the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels), but this government progress has upset the balance of power among the cartels, which has resulted in increased violence. Former cartel allies have been pitted against each other in bloody battles of attrition as rival cartels have tried to take advantage of their weakened competitors and seize control of smuggling routes.

In this year’s report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations as well as a forecast for 2010. This annual report is a product of the coverage we maintain on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year.

Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations

(1)  La Familia

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Update about Mexico, the failing state on our border

Mexico continues to fall apart in slow-mo.  There seems to be little we can do to help, so our government pretends all is fine — rather than take defensive measures.

Contents

  1. Mexico Security Memo, Stratfor, 9 November 2009 — A typical week in Mexico, reported by one of the few agencies covering this important story.
  2. The Fall of Mexcio“, Philip Caputo, The Atlantic, December 2009
  3. FM recommendations about Mexico
  4. Other articles about Mexico
  5. For more information and an Afterword

Excerpts

(1)  Mexico Security Memo, Stratfor, 9 November 2009 — A typical week in Mexico.  Excerpt:

Gunmen posing as police officers entered the Amadeus strip club in Juarez, Chihuahua state and methodically executed six people in the early morning hours of Nov. 4, including U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Booher Montanez.

The Secretary of Public Security for the city of Garcia, Nuevo Leon state, retired Brig. Gen. Juan Arturo Esparza, was killed along with four of his bodyguards in a firefight that took place outside of the Garcia mayor’s home in the afternoon of Nov. 4. The mayor of Garcia, Jaime Rodriguez, exited his home to find a group of eight trucks with armed men outside. Rodriguez then issued a call for help; Esparza and his four bodyguards were the only ones to respond. The governor of the state of Nuevo Leon, Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, promptly relieved the remaining 70 officers of their duties and ordered the Nuevo Leon state Investigative Agency to investigate their inaction. … The inaction by the rest of the Garcia police department underscores the remaining corruption issues that continue to plague the Mexican security apparatus.

(2)  The Fall of Mexcio“, Philip Caputo, The Atlantic, December 2009 — This is very much worth reading in full.  Excerpt:

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American fiddles in Asia while Mexico burns on our very border

While we squander our resources on the other side of the world, our neighbor to the South deteriorates — desperately needing aid.  In Mexico we see the decline of the State accellerating into what might soon become an advanced state of decay.  As Martin van Creveld said over a decade ago, Mexico might turn out to be the greatest threat to America’s sovereignty that we have even encountered.

Contents

  1. Desertion, Low Morale, and Readiness: Assessing the Mexican Army’s Involvement in the War Against the Cartels and its Impact on Capabilities for Traditional Responses“, Alejandro Schtulmann, RGE Monitor, 29 September 2009
  2. Mexico: Emergence of an Unexpected Threat“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 30 September 2009
  3. FM recommendations about Mexico
  4. Other useful articles about Mexico
  5. Afterword and other posts about Mexico

(1)  A rare in-depth look at the military of another nation

Desertion, Low Morale, and Readiness: Assessing the Mexican Army’s Involvement in the War Against the Cartels and its Impact on Capabilities for Traditional Responses“, Alejandro Schtulmann, RGE Monitor, 29 September 2009 — Excerpt:

The Mexican army’s increasing role in the war against drug cartels has prompted concerns about a potential overstretching of its deployed troops and the impact this could have on morale as well as the army’s capabilities for traditional responses, including natural disaster relief and stationary deployments for guarding strategic facilities and infrastructure such as oil pipelines.

During the Calderon era, the number of soldiers assigned to antinarcotics operations has almost doubled from 23,000 to 45,000. At the same time, the number of soldiers deserting the army has increased to unprecedented levels, without the Federal Government taking meaningful steps toward reversing this trend or making the army more efficient.

The army’s reputation as a professional, well-disciplined force is being eroded as respected watchdog groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, document escalating allegations of human rights abuses by the Mexican military.

Background

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Let’s blow the fog away and see what General McChrystal really said

Summary:  the McChrystal’s Assesment consists of layers of absurdity, piled high.  Future generations will study it as a prime example of early 21st century madness, when such a thing was taken seriously.

Essentials of the McChrystal’s Initial Commander’s Assessment of the Af-Pak War, released 30 August 2009.

  1. Amnesia is the essential requirement
  2. The key strategic element is that we have no strategy.
  3. Hope is the plan, cost is no object.
  4. Nation-building in Afghanistan today.  Mexico next?
  5. For more information from the FM site, and the Afterword

(1)  Amnesia is the essential requirement

Amnesia is the essential requirement to be an American geopolitical guru — or Amerian journalist covering geopolitics.  As described in How many troops would it take to win in Afghanistan? (15 September 2009), we are closely following the military’s playbook for escalating a small war — perfected in Vietnam.  This remains invisible to many experts, as in this excerpt from Stratfor’s “McChrystal and the Search for a Strategy in Afghanistan“, 22 September 2009:

This is a statement by an officer of the modern U.S. Army, an institution with a broad disdain for the legacy of Gen. William Westmoreland. As first commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (1964-1968) and then Army chief of staff (1968-72), Westmoreland’s legacy has come to be seen as that of having asked for more and more American troops without a winning strategy. In other words, he continued to commit more American soldiers to a conflict without a strategy that had any real chance for success. While one can debate the history, many in the U.S. Army’s officer corps today consider Westmoreland an officer who did the ultimate disservice to his country — and perhaps more importantly, to his men — by allowing a failed political and military strategy to continue to consume American lives. … With this report, McChrystal has clearly differentiated himself from this path.

Absurd.   For example, the report’s language on page 2-20 could come from DoD report about Vietnam written up to the very end:

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