DEA Intelligence Chief: Sustainability is Key.
Come 2012, Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s six-year administration will give way to a yet-to-be elected successor who may or may not take up his declaration of war against what many consider an insurgency by the most dangerous drug gangs of modern times.
“Here’s the key,” said Gary Hale, the field intelligence manager in the Houston division of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “The key is sustainability.”
The DEA’s senior border intelligence agent said, “If you don’t maintain continuity of operations, then it means nothing.”
Hale said Calderon has brought down more notorious “command and control leadership figures” than any of his predecessors. Now that they are in custody, enemies and former allies are battling for control of the cartels and creating their own drug gangs in certain parts of Mexico.
Thousands of Mexican troops were dispatched by Calderon almost from day one of his administration to uproot the dreaded cartels and to counter the violent backlash.
However, outspoken critics say the troops have gone too far, victimizing innocent Mexican civilians. But Hale cautions many citizens and even many media reports in Mexico are being influenced and controlled by the drug cartels.
“They’re taking cheap shots at Calderon. Why? Because he’s being effective,” said Hale. “That’s why they’re attacking him.”
He said “the proof is in the pudding,” a reduced flow of cocaine into the U.S. Because it is worth more than marijuana, cocaine is the DEA’s leading indicator or barometer of Calderon’s impact on drug smuggling activities. Hale said DEA has seen smaller shipments of cocaine that are then cut again and again to boost the supply, while making it more costly to buy.
“All this happened post 2006” after Calderon took office, said Hale.
If the next president of Mexico does not pick up where Calderon leaves off, Hale said, “All of that would have been for naught.”
He predicts a loss in continuity will result in larger, better quality shipments of cocaine, sold at lower prices.
“We’ll see in the streets of the U.S., in Atlanta, San Antonio, wherever,” said Hale.
In a sense, Washington is anxiously waiting to see who will move in next door to take the helm in Mexico City in the next two years and even now. Given the torrent of bloodshed in Mexico, Calderon’s survival is due in part to what the DEA calls force protection.
“Obviously the president of Mexico is of interest to the U.S. and what happens to him, so we watch his back if you will,” said Hale.
Although he did not share specifics, Hale said there have been “several attempts or plans to assassinate” the Mexican president. Calderon’s war will be a top priority during this month’s upcoming visit with President Barack Obama and his joint address before the U.S. Congress.