Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clinton says Mexico drug wars starting to look like insurgency

Relatives carry the coffin of Edelmiro Cavazos, mayor of the tourist town of Santiago, during a public homage there last month. Mexican security forces found the body of the slain mayor near Mexico's richest city of Monterrey days after he was abducted by gunmen. (Tomas Bravo / Reuters / August 18, 2010)

By Paul Richter and Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

Mexico's violent drug cartels increasingly resemble an insurgency with the power to challenge the government's control of wide swaths of its own soil, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

Clinton's comments reflected a striking shift in the public comments of the Obama administration about the bloodshed that has cost 28,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006. They come as U.S. officials weigh a large increase in aid to the southern neighbor to help fight the cartels.

Clinton compared the conflict in Mexico to Colombia's recent struggle against a drug-financed leftist insurgency that, at its peak, controlled up to 40% of that country. She said the United States, Mexico and Central American countries need to cooperate on an "equivalent" of Plan Colombia — the multibillion-dollar military and aid program that helped turn back Colombia's insurgents.

"We face an increasing threat from a well-organized network, drug-trafficking threat that is, in some cases, morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency," Clinton said in response to a question after a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

As recently as last week, a senior State Department official staunchly denied that the drug war could be accurately described as an insurgency.

And although the administration has regularly praised the cooperation of Mexican authorities, some U.S. officials are beginning to show uneasiness about the partnership.

Top American officials have noted that the Mexican government does not always act on intelligence shared by the U.S., and some suspect corruption is sometimes the cause of the inaction.

"There is some frustration," Alonzo R. Pena, deputy director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. U.S. officials may pinpoint a particular house where a cartel figure is believed to be, and no operation ensues to capture him, he said.

Pena said that the Mexicans, who have lost an "astronomical" number of police officers and soldiers, may be simply cautious when they decide not to use U.S. information to attack the gangs. But at other times "it is completely corruption," he said.

He said that he believed Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his close aides were trustworthy and committed to taking on the cartels. But U.S. officials are wary about cooperating with other elements of the Mexican government, fearing they can't be trusted, Pena said.

The Calderon government quickly disputed Clinton's assessment. Unlike Colombia, Mexico is acting "in time" to save its political system from being penetrated by the cartels, and to reform important institutions such as the police, the government's spokesman on security matters, Alejandro Poire, said at a news conference.

"There is a very important difference between what Colombia faced and what Mexico is facing now," Poire said. "Perhaps the most important similarity … is the extent to which organized crime and narcotics-trafficking organizations in both countries are fed by the enormous and gigantic U.S. demand for drugs."

Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said in a radio interview that leftist rebels in Colombia had a political agenda, and established ties with organized crime to obtain resources. In Mexico, the cartels have no political agenda, she said.

Still, senior U.S. officials have grown increasingly alarmed in recent months at the expanding power and influence of the cartels, which now dominate swaths of the country. They battle one another and seek to cow Mexican citizens with violence that includes assassinations, beheadings and car bombings.

Authorities said Wednesday that Mexican marines had arrested seven gunmen suspected in the August massacre of 72 migrants from Central and South America, whose bodies were found on a small ranch near the town of San Fernando in Tamaulipas state. An additional suspect was captured earlier, and six have been killed in shootouts with authorities.

The seven are suspected of belonging to the Zetas cartel. They are thought to have kidnapped the migrants to force them to work as mules or fulfill other menial roles, and then allegedly shot them when they refused.

The two lead investigators in the case, who went missing a day after the bodies were discovered, have been found dead, officials said.

Also Wednesday, the mayor of a town in the relatively tranquil state of San Luis Potosi was gunned down in his office, the third Mexican mayor to be executed gangland-style in three and a half weeks. Alexander Lopez, 35, was shot to death midday by a man who burst into City Hall in the town of Naranjo, where Lopez had served as mayor for 11 months, local officials said. He was sitting at his desk when shot to death.

Although San Luis Potosi has not been engulfed in the same bloodshed as other states, Naranjo is located on the northeastern edge of the state bordering violent Tamaulipas. Intelligence sources say the Zeta cartel has been steadily moving into that part of the region.

There has been a growing outcry from officials in U.S. border states such as California, Arizona and Texas as the carnage has edged ever closer.

Some U.S. officials are questioning whether their Mexican counterparts are willing to stand up to the cartels as strongly as Colombian authorities. Clinton praised Calderon for his "courage and his commitment" but also called on Mexico to increase its "political will" to fight the cartels.

She said defeating the gangs will require stronger civil, police and military institutions, "married to political will, to be able to prevent this from spreading and beat it back."

In Colombia, billions of dollars in U.S. aid and the policies of hard-line President Alvaro Uribe beat back the FARC rebels. Expanded police ranks have sharply reduced violent crime in the cities. Foreign investment has tripled, fueling a growing economy.

But Plan Colombia has drawn criticism for its heavy use of military force, the presence of hundreds of U.S military advisors and for human rights abuses. The program brought not only the military advisors, but also U.S. special forces personnel and a large numbers of defense contractors.

Clinton acknowledged that Plan Colombia was "controversial … there were problems and there were mistakes. But it worked."

George Grayson, a specialist on Mexico at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, said Clinton's remarks were a sign of U.S. officials' growing alarm at the effects of the drug war.

He said that while President Obama didn't even mention Mexico in his State of the Union message in January, more and more law enforcement and military officials see the situation as a top priority national security threat.

"It's not like Afghanistan or Iran, but it's suddenly on the national security radar," he said.

Even so, he said he was skeptical that Mexico, with its nationalist sensitivities, would consent to a far more active U.S. role, even should Congress be willing to appropriate the funds.

Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Mexico Institute said he senses from conversations with administration officials that "the administration still seems handcuffed by the lack of reliable partners at the operational level."

Olson said that although he was reluctant to be alarmist, "I don't think anybody thinks this has gotten to the bottom."

Administration officials have said in recent days that despite the financial burdens of two other wars, they are considering a sizable increase in spending on the anti-drug war, as well as other improvements to the U.S. counter-narcotics security program.

A White House official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the subject said last week that the joint effort with the Mexican government "remains a top administration priority.... We are constantly evaluating our efforts to make sure we are doing all we can on this issue."

U.S. officials have been deliberating for some time how to follow up the Merida Initiative, a three-year, $1.6-billion program started in 2008 by President George W. Bush to provide equipment and training to the Mexican, Central American and Caribbean governments.


  1. "Starting to look like an insurgency," is a complete understatement.

  2. So, the mexican government continues to thumb it's noses at the offer of help from the United States. It is time for the US to withdraw it's economic interests from this country, clean house of every illegal alien, button up the borders and say good luck.

  3. The US holds up on funding with human rights concerns,then you hear this claim that more $ shold go to Mx?? Why in hell doesen't the US just follow thru with what it has already promised,instead of getting tripped up in its oun political BS. Mexico needs help now the tide is turning,journalist need to write about success help generate enthusiasm, the US needs to come to the aid now.

  4. I would hate to believe that Mexico will not let the US in on this battle more is because they want the revenue from these Cartels. I just cant believe the goverment would be that corrupt.

  5. UH DUH...71 % Mexican towns are controlled by narcos...that is not an insurgency is when the power is still being contested...the power of the narcos is is common knowledge that the political partys in Mexico are just fronts for the cartels... the war is over....Mexico is a narcocracy....

  6. Narcocracy = when the political partys in a country exist, serve and are controlled by drug cartels

  7. Its not insurgency, its not the citizens attacking order and law. its the workings of a political party called P.R.I.that wants the presidency and COUNTRY back in its grip just where it had been the last seventy years.

  8. The real war on terrorism should be in Mexico, the not in Afghanistan or Iraq. Is the U.S going to wait until the carnage spills over the border? They should spend troops to Mexico even if the Mexican Government doesn’t want US intervention. There should have been a “plan Mexico long time ago”.

  9. You're right 9:19, it's obvious to anyone watching what's happening that the mexican government is partnered up with these cartels. Hilary is one to speak, her dad was a Chicago crime lord himself. She and Bill have had people assasinated including Vince Foster. The Reagan, Bush, and Clinton families are known to have smuggled cocaine using the CIA. Right now the Obama administration is using the war in Afghanistan to smuggle heroin to the world by protecting both the poppy fields and the drug lords.

    Let us not forget that Al Qaeda was created by the CIA in efforts to pull Russia into its own 'Vietnam' war in the middle east that would destable and eventually ruin both the Afghani and Russian governments, which it did. We are led to believe that Al Qaeda was ignored and unsupported by the American government leading to their anti-western idealism. The fact is our government has been working with them ever since, using them to destabalize other countries and using them as scapegoats to take over and or ruin countries through political coups or occupations.

    This is exactly what's happening to Mexico and the U.S. now. The Zetas were created in Ft. Benning, Georgia by our own U.S. government. We are expected to believe that they defected over to the Gulf Cartel and then betrayed them by killing somebody they were not supposed to kill, leading to the ensuing rivalry between the cartels and the destabalization of the country of Mexico...but we've seen this before.

    It's obvious the middle east wars on unpopular. The people are seeing what's going on across the border and they want the soldiers to come back and protect our borders but what they don't suspect is that this is exactly what the government wants; another 'Vietnam' style occupation inside Mexico, bringing both countries to their knees. Destroying countries and reconstructing them will be a profitable business for both governments because it is our tax-payer money and the blood of our loved ones which will be used, not theirs. Problem, Reaction, Solution is their formula for reaping billions from populations across the world. Both governments created and allowed this problem to get to these monstrous proportions and are ready to destroy both countries.

  10. Anonymous said...
    So, the mexican government continues to thumb it's noses at the offer of help from the United States. It is time for the US to withdraw it's economic interests from this country, clean house of every illegal alien, button up the borders and say good luck.

    Hey Teabag, call your lowlife GOP Senator and ask them to quit stalling the Merida Initiative.
    its held up in comittee because someone doesnt like it.

  11. Narcocracy = when the political partys in a country exist, serve and are controlled by drug cartels


    so that makes the U.S. a DumbassOcracy?

  12. In a country where mayors, governor candidates, police chiefs and investigators are summarily executed, we should not think that Mexican authorities have a handle on the situation. From the socialist political agendas of Columbia we are now experiencing a drop in ideals and desire for power for the sake of power and control of government. These people will do anything to control the flow of drugs, money, guns, and political corruption of a country. Don't kid yourself--they know what they are after.

    When foreign investment in Mexico stops Pemex is taken over by the cartels which is already going on, the country will collapse fiancially. Is it up to Americans to funnel them money in the form of handouts, to prop up this corruption when they do not want our help.

    If they are so concerned with their "Nationalist sensitivities" then we should take that aide maney and use it to strengthen our borders and revamp our own drug policies.

  13. Anon 11:10 you need to stop side tracking issues and pointing fingers in the wrong direction based on speclation. Whatever corruption has gone on in the US is not the issue. Failed economies and failed states of Mexico are the issue with all the bloodshed and corruption that entails. If the people of America don't wake up and banter loudly to our elected officials, our public forums, or journalists etc. we will ultimately pay the price for Mexico's woes. The Mexican people are paying it now and they need to scream louder than Americans...We want help NOW!

  14. @Anon 11:43
    You've got it!

    Yeah, Teabag knuckle-draggers, a Vietnam/AfPak style anti-insurgency war model is exactly what the US needs to apply to MX and El Centro America! How'd that work out in Nam? More importantly, how's that WORKING OUT in AfPak? Not so good in both cases it appears?

    Let's envision for a moment a full spectrum dominance AfPak anti-insurgency model, complete with the latest in technology: drone warfare. Predators, Reapers, and Golden Hawks raining down bombs and missiles On MX, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, etc, periodically wiping out wedding parties of 90 and more, with that "pinpoint precision" they are so well known for? A technological "tour de force" or a monumental fiasco in the making?

    Plus we can not overlook the effects of US counter-insurgency raids at 3 AM on houses and neighborhoods to dig out "the bad guys", based on faulty "intelligence" from paid informers. US troops rampaging thru these countries, kicking ass and taking names! THAT should put the fear of God into those Narcos! They wouldn't dare fight back, right?

  15. Asante, sounds like to have some experience with these issues. So what is you’re solution to the Narco-Cartels?

  16. Hey at least Clinton has the balls to admit there's a serious problem. Janet Napolitano is still in denial. Look who's working with Janet, Ray Borane. Friend to all the narcos in mexico !

  17. dear astante...have you ever been to Mexico..or have you always just played some djembe at the coffee shop on friday night...the bullshit in Mexico is real to miguel aleman tamps. across the bridge from roma ,tx ...spend the night ...then report back...ok?...

  18. you know ..i think Americans are the only people who hate their own country.....other people have a hard time understanding why anyone would hate their own country...some of you pendejos need to stop listening to radiohed and get out more ...mebbe even got to some ptra paises for a visit

  19. 11:37 i agree....time to make a move

  20. Just mine the Texas and Arizona side of the border with nice Claymore anti-personnel mines and set up a few Marine snipers with 50 cal Barrets to randomly kill the illegals crossing the border and the crossings would slow WAYYYYY down and very quickly. What was a nice easy crossing, suddenly becomes extremely deadly. Nice, simple and effective.

  21. We need to legalize drugs to stop this mayhem from continuing with our neighbor.

  22. Stalling the initiative? we have been making deliveries since 2008...

    If you would stop being educated by watching television or visiting blogs...with a bit of effort you can get the hard facts...

    & in reference to "teabaggers" exactly what of the platform they promote are you against? Be mature don't be an idiot and make it personal...
    I am trying to understand the hate...

    list three platform issues you are against

  23. Ever think how the drug war effects the children of Mexico? in Juarez alone 10K children have been orphaned by drug violence. That is a stunning fact..10K orphan children in one city. This is an excellent lengthy article about the children of mexico; drugs- death- fear

  24. These illegals are huge targets in Mexico for murder extotion and rape. yet they still keep on coming. What makes you think barrets and mines are gonna make any diierence u moron? At least that would be a quick death! U.s. Should
    occupy mex one state at a time and try to clean them up one by one. I'll bet the mexicans from other states would beg the u.s. Military to occupy their state next

  25. The "drug war" is beginning to sound a lot like the
    Mexico 1910-1920 and the war that brought about the confrontation between US and Pancho Villa. This was caused by Villa's attacks on American property on both sides of the border. General John Pershing was sent into Mexico with 4800 troops to capture Villa but in the 1 1/2 year chase, Villa was never caught. Fortunately for Pershing and US, the entry of the US into WW1 created a higher priority and the matter was dropped and Villa became a folk hero for his successful defiance of the Americans. It is only a question of time when in some fashion a Mexican narco trafficer, federale or soldier (due to the level of corruption, etc, can anyone really tell the difference) will menace American property or citizens and the US army true to historical form will be sent in after them with another inclusive result.
    P.S. 1910 to 1920, 1million Mexican citizens in fear of their lives fled Mexico for the US. sought refuge in the US.

  26. Wow I know those guys.......

  27. You guys read these blogs and assume you know everything about Mexico's drug war. Unless you have lived there you will never really know who controls this country even if the answers were in front of your face.

    You guys actually think the money the US government provides is used for the drug war? How naive is our government about the corruption in all levels of the Mexican government, including the president himself? All these idiots answer to the cartel bosses because of the alliances they have forged since their earlier years in their political campaigns.

    Mexico's only response has been to blame American consumption for its problems. The reality being that they have no way of stopping the violence or capturing the bosses unless the same government officials that protect them betray them. This was the case with Nacho Coronel.


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