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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Drug War to Combatting Terrorist Insurgency



Mexican military burning marijuana in drug-war public relations event.

“This is a terrorist insurgency,” says Connie Mack, the Republican who chairs the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mack, who introduced the Enhanced Border Security Act in mid-December, believes that the Merida Initiative has failed and that the administration needs to revamp the counterdrug assistance program to include a “counterinsurgency plan.”

Adopting the language of the Obama administration’s new strategy to “combat transnational organized crime,” Mack warns that both Mexico and the United States are facing a “terrorist insurgency” waged by transnational criminal organizations “along our southern border, with operations across Mexico and Central America as well as in over 1,000 U.S. cities.”

Five years after President Felipe Calderón launched Mexico’s drug war in December 2006 and three years into the Merida Initiative counterdrug assistance program, there is widespread anxiety in Mexico that the government is not gaining the upper hand on the drug cartels and that the drug-related violence, which has left a toll of 50,000 dead, will continue into the next sexenio, the six-year presidential term.

Whatever their politics, most close observers of the drug war in Mexico would agree with the Republican firebrand from Florida congressman that the last five years of Mexico’s drug war have done little to increase governmental security and social stability. Most assessments of the Merida Initiative’s impact on Mexico and Central America are similarly negative.

The basic facts of the drug-related crisis in Mexico are clear enough, but what’s not so evident is its character and identity.

As President Calderón’s sexenio draws to an end and as the U.S. government evaluates its involvement in Mexico’s drug war and its border policy, new questions are being asked about drug threat and about the proper response.

Mack insists that traditional counternarcotics strategies are insufficient and out of step with the changing character of the drug trade in Mexico and in Central America.

What we are seeing in the region is not simply the business and violence of drug-related crime, says Mack. Instead, Mexico and the drug transit countries of Central America are facing insurgency and terrorism that threatens the security of region and of the United States.

Mexico has vociferously rejected Mack’s contention that the drug cartels represent an existential threat to state power.

But the basic facts of the drug war – widespread territorial loss of effective governing power, the involvement of local drug bosses in politics, the massive deployment of the military, the increasing firepower of the cartels, the war-level loss of life, and the use of horrific violence to make statements – seem to support Mack’s contention that Mexico is facing what he variously calls a “terrorist insurgency” and a “criminal insurgency.”

The inability of the Obama administration’s expanded border-security operations to significantly obstruct the crossborder flow of drugs from Mexico also points to the inadequacy of the U.S. response, whether at home or in Mexico.

Mack is, of course, not alone in his characterization of the Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) as insurgents and narcoterrorists. Nor is he the only major public figure who is raising alarm about an increased threat to U.S. national security. 

Two retired U.S. generals, including the former chief of the U.S. Southern Command, came to similar conclusions in a recent report commissioned by the Texas state government alarmingly titled Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment.

There’s no disputing the severity of the drug-related violence in Mexico and Central America. Yet the increasing discussion of the security implications of illegal drug trade also relates to the Obama administration’s own attempt to redefine the domestic and international drug problem as a battle against transnational criminal organizations.



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