Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Some Question US Training of Mexican Forces

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 |

By Ramon Bracamontes
El Paso Times


El Paso -- In the mid-1990s, the United States began training Mexico's soldiers in hopes of stopping the flow of drugs through Mexico and ending corruption.

Some of those trained by U.S. forces formed the Zetas, a criminal organization that works as assassins for one of the drug cartels fighting in Juárez, Mexican law enforcement officials said.

Today, the United States is again trying to help Mexico with its drug-cartel problem, and part of the solution could include training Mexico's military and law enforcement officers.

Money for training Mexican soldiers is in the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative that was approved by Congress in 2008. The second phase of the initiative, which is being formed right now, will also include money for training Mexican soldiers and police, according to two public-policy groups that monitor U.S.-Mexico relations.

Given the history of the program, some question the effectiveness of that policy.

"You can train someone, but that still doesn't affect their morals," said Richard Newton, a former federal customs agent in El Paso, now a member of the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which favors legalization of some drugs.

"I don't care how good the training is. The problem is that these people can be bribed and they may go to work for the cartels."

Others agree, and as a prime example of training gone wrong, they point to the Zetas. The group was founded by Mexican army deserters, including officers trained by the United States at the military School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The Zetas, according to the Chihuahua attorney general's office, are thought to be behind some of the brutal killings in Juárez, which have surpassed 4,700 in two years.

An international human- rights organization that monitors the former U.S. military School of the Americas, which is now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, says that training foreign soldiers has worked against the United States in the past, so it may in the future. The human-rights group is called School of the Americas Watch, and its mission is to stop the training of international soldiers and law enforcement at the former School of the Americas.

U.S. officials counter by saying that this time they would be doing more than just training soldiers. According to the latest proposals of phase two of the Merida Initiative, the United States would vet the Mexican soldiers who are to be trained. Previously, in the 1990s, the Mexican army chose those who came to the United States to train.

"I think both the U.S. and Mexican governments are starting to see the limitations of militaryÐpolice solutions to the problems of drug trafficking and related crime and violence," said

Howard Campbell, a University of Texas at El Paso professor who specializes in Mexican cartel research.

"Training new officers better might help, though it has not done much good in the past. But perhaps what is needed more, as many analysts now realize, is greater attention and money to improve the Mexican judicial system, more oversight and control of cops and the military."

The United States also has to help Mexico with more social programs and educational opportunities for youths, and a stronger economy, Campbell said. Money for those programs is also included in the Merida Initiative.

"The U.S. can help support such initiatives with funds, expertise and political backing," Campbell said.

Aurolyn Luykx, a UTEP associate professor of anthropology and education, said she opposed U.S. forces training Mexico soldiers or police officers.

"I don't see it as a good idea because I don't see that there is a military solution to the drug violence," she said. "They've been trying that for a long time, and it hasn't helped."

If training occurs, she said, she hopes it does not involve the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

"That place has been implicated with human-rights abuses, and the Mexican military has already been accused of human-rights abuses," Luykx said.

Luykx was a panelist last week at UTEP conference that focused on the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador in 1980. He was killed by people who had been trained at the School of the Americas after speaking out against military abuses, according to a 1993 United Nations report.

The School of the Americas opened in Fort Benning in 1984 and has trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen, according to the U.S. Department of State. Among those trained at the Department of Defense school was Manuel Noriega, the commander of the army in Panama and its former dictator, who was later indicted in the United States on drug charges.

In 1999, Congress stopped funding the School of the Americas.

The school's name was changed to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, and international training continues there.

Share it:

4 Borderland Beat Comments:

RiseMakaveli said...

Wow, how some people can really be total fucking baboons.. A 6th grader could of told you that without being a researcher.. Mexicos corruption can easily be battled with better pay, better training and some morale classes. The US has brain washing shows and movies since one is a kid.. Sit the soldiers down and teach them about right and wrong, I know this sounds funny and perhaps you all think it's stupid.. but trust me, just think about the infomercials.. You sit there, and laugh when it barely starts tryin to pitch an idea at you, but once you sit there and watch it for 15 minutes, you end up almost tyin yourself down not to call and order it.. Brainwashing is a big part of the US Military.. Implement that into Mexican Millitary and I guarantee you that you will see the difference.. Please
RiseMakaveli, brains to teach a whole nation.

Comp said...

I agree 100 % with you Risemakaveli.As I too am very very familiar with Mexican life.You were right on one of your interviews you are born into that life.You are either involved directly or have family involved or know someone involved in the drug trade but everybody knows a drug dealer down there.If Mexico had a way to spread morale at a young age like they do here in the states and have better paying jobs,That would really help alot with the corruption down there..Just my 2 cents..Start the brainwashing at a young age like they do here....

Gerardo " a common citizen" said...

Mexico's corruption in the military and law enforcement is, I believe, a reflection of the corruption in the government and political parties. In an economy where according to Forbe's magazine in 2009 there were 9 billionares (including "el Chapo Guzman") and hundreds of millionares (while millions of the poor literally starve) the U.S. is asked to provide more funds in the Merida Initiative for social programs and educational opportunities for youth? Yes we need to assist in training the Mexican military and law enforcement to become more professional, better educated and more respectful of human rights but the most important problem of corruption will never be solved until the powerful of Mexico end their corruption.

RiseMakaveli said...

They go hand by hand, you're correct. See, corruption in politics leads to poor supervision and low economical support from the government. Alot of this politics make more than american politics. Corruption seems normal, citizens grow up wishing to become members of a certain cartel instead of growing up wanting to be a fireman or a police, they want to be a killer. Understandable though, why risk your life everyday for pennies, when you can risk it for the good high life. Although Zetas this days donot get alot of money, I'm talking about basic sicarios, they don't get paid that much.. The ones that get paid well are the ones that get assigned to the trafficking section. Here in the US they have tons and tons of videos, commercials, tv shows, adds, banners you seem them everyday without even knowing.. Pride in your country, right, wrong.. This is all incrusted into the brain of normal citizens everyday, although it doesn't get sucked in by every person, but overall as a society alot of people turn out ok. I don't think that Mexico could get better as far as growing as a country, I don't mean just getting rid of the zetas, because they can do that and still be like before, corrupt and overun by poor people, I mean truly change, truly grow as a country better jobs, better pay, implementing a minimum wage would be a start, removing everybody from the current office and holding actual none prejudice elections.. Where citizens can actually vote, because what they do now is not vote.. LOL If you think the Mexican elections are honest, or not rigued.. I laugh in your face, I mean BUSH had people voting for him who had been dead for a while, that came up on TV and even so nothing was done, that fucking bastard, I hate that motherfucker..

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;

borderlandbeat@gmail.com