Saturday, April 18, 2009

Former Mexican Intelligence Director: "We've Lost Half the Country" to Organized Crime

Ex-Intelligence Directors and Attorney General Medina Mora Contradict Clinton and Calderon on Drug War

In January, a Pentagon study declaring that Mexico is at risk of "rapid and sudden collapse" made waves in the international press. US and Mexican officials, namely Hillary Clinton and Felipe Calderon, came to the Mexican government's defense.

President Calderon was the first to lash out against the report. He told the AP that the Mexican government has not "lost any part--any single part--of the Mexican territory" to organized crime.

During US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent visit to Mexico, she told reporters "I don't believe there are any ungovernable territories in Mexico."

Well, Secretary Clinton and President Calderon, former Mexican intelligence directors, including current Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, beg to differ. In a book entitled Cisen: 20 Years of History, former directors of Mexico's intelligence agency, the Investigation and National Security Center (Cisen in its Spanish abbreviation), give frank interviews regarding Mexico's current security situation. The book, whose distribution was restricted to government officials and security experts, was leaked to the press.

La Jornada reports that in the book, Medina Mora, who in addition to being the former Secretary of Public Security* was also the director of Cisen during the Vicente Fox administration, says that drug trafficking and organized crime challenge the State's authority "of exclusive and legitimate use of force and the exclusive right to charge taxes" and the exclusive right to create laws and regulations. This statement likely refers in part to drug trafficking organizations' practice of imposing mafia-style taxes on both legitimate and clandestine businesses, as documented in the earlier Narco News article "Wall of Violence on Mexico's Southern Border."

Medina Mora goes on to say that "in some zones of the country, above all on the northern border" organized crime and drug trafficking "undoubtedly challenges these state authorities."

Gen. Jorge Carrillo Olea, Cisen's first intelligence director, goes one step further: he argues that the Mexican State "is beginning to lose territoriality" to drug trafficking. Directly contradicting Calderon and Clinton's claims that the government is in control of 100% of its territory, Carrillo Olea specifies that the states "where drug trafficking rules are Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, etc.... You have to recognize that the government doesn't govern in these states. If you've stopped governing, if it doesn't govern there, then we've lost half the country.... [T]hey kill people, kidnap them, or rob them. So I say that we are in a scenario of ingovernability."

The Elephant in the Room

Clinton and Calderon's have so vehemently argued that the Mexican government is in complete control of its national territory not simply because they wish to defend the Calderon administration's international reputation. They're also defending a drug war that is increasingly unpopular in the US, but also increasingly worrisome for US officials. As Mexico drug war headlines are splashed across US newspapers with increasing frequency, US officials are finding themselves constantly defending failed drug war policies such as the Merida Initiative and Plan Colombia.

While admitting that "clearly, what we have been doing has not worked," Clinton called Calderon's drug war "courageous" during her recent trip to Mexico, reports the LA Times. Unfortunately, Clinton's admission that US drug policy isn't working is likely referring to the idea that the US hasn't done enough to support the Mexican government in its "war on organized crime." Rather than announcing a new and innovative strategy to quell drug trafficking-related violence, Clinton announced that the US would send $80 million worth of Blackhawk helicopters to the Mexican government.

The former Cisen directors' dire statements, combined with the Pentagon study, should be a wake-up call to lawmakers on both sides of the border that the last thing that Mexico needs is more of the same failed strategy. Attorney General Media Mora's argument that drug trafficking and organized crime challenge the State's authority "of exclusive and legitimate use of force" alludes to the State's roll in drug violence. Drug trafficking organizations police themselves and defend their territory with violence because they lack a viable alternative. The Institute for Policy Studies' Sanho Tree explained to Drug War News: "You can't really go to a judge and say 'Your Honor, I've been dealing drugs in this city for 15 years, and here comes this upstart gang from across town moving in on my turf.' So the way they settle that is with violence or threats of violence, and you can see that on the macro level in Mexico." If the State wants to regain its exclusive authority over the use of force and lawmaking, it must recognize that prohibition encourages lawlessness rather than prevent it.

With over 10,000 dead citizens in just over two years, half of its territory reportedly lost to organized crime, and drug trafficking organizations armed with increasingly sophisticated military weaponry like grenade launchers, armor-peircing bullets, and anti-aircraft machine guns, the burning question remains: is a drug war really in Mexico's best interests?

* Medina Mora isn't a likely critic of his own government. While Medina Mora was head of Public Security, the Ministry of Public Security's Federal Preventive Police carried out brutal repression against social organizations in Atenco and Oaxaca in 2006. Human rights advocate and Mexican senator Rosario Ibarra called his Attorney General appointment "Pinochetism" because he was the "brain" of repression during the Fox administration.


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