Only four short years ago, it seems Felipe Calderon had no idea how insidious the corruption had become. In a leaked diplomatic cable from the U.S. embassy in Madrid, a conversation in 2007 between the Mexican president and the visiting former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar reveals that Calderon had admitted that the Mexican government had completely miscalculated the corruption in Mexico and the influence wielded by the drug cartels:
Aznar had just completed a trip to Mexico and believes that President Calderon is doing a “credible job.” Aznar said Calderon admitted to having completely misjudged the depth and breadth of corruption in Mexico and that the pervasive influence of narcotics in the country was beyond comprehension.
The “credible job” Aznar referred to is debatable when you consider that three years later the drug war in Mexico has only gotten worse, and the corruption that has permeated the Mexican government has grown and continues to provide aid and shelter to the criminal rings that operate virtually unchallenged within the country. It is estimated that 90% of the cocaine that is brought into the U.S. comes through Mexico, and while close to 40,000 Mexicans have been killed by drug violence in the past four years, only 2% of the crimes committed are ever punished. This gives the drug lords an immense advantage not only over the Mexican president, but over the Mexican population as well, which is powerless to combat the violence.
What hope for a normal and safe existence can a law-abiding Mexican have when he or she knows that for every 100 of their fellow countrymen beaten, raped, or murdered, only two will see justice prevail?
Even when the Mexican government manages to capture one of the capos, as they refer to the drug kingpins, too often these ringleaders go free due to lack of evidence, legal errors, or unlawful actions committed by government law enforcement officials during their investigations. Blog del Narco (www.blogdelnarco.com), a popular Mexico based blog run by two anonymous bloggers reporting on the drug-related violence happening throughout the country, reported recently on five high-profile cases of captured capos who ended up going free:
Whenever the federal government captures a capo they display them like collected trophies, going as far as showing them on national television. However, when the time comes to prove their guilt to judges, all the sub-secretary of the Organized Crime Special Investigations department (SIEDO) collects is defeats.
Five cases of accused high-profile drug traffickers, some included in government television spots, have been thrown out by the judicial authorities this past year for lack of evidence, omissions or errors in the case files, or for illegal actions undertaken by the investigative authorities.
As the violence increases and the drug lords gain control of more cities, the Mexican government finds itself struggling to defeat an enemy that seems to grow stronger with each passing day. This reality calls into the question the stability of the country itself: how much longer can the government of Mexico continue to hold power while it continues to lose control?
A nation sharing a border with the U.S. descending into anarchy is a frightful thought for Americans, and the obvious implications of such an event should be causing concern throughout the halls of the White House and the State Department. To complicate matters further, consider that Mexico is home to over 112,000,000 people and is an important trading partner to the U.S. And in spite of the corruption and mismanagement, the country is one of the world’s top producers of petroleum with an impressive trillion-dollar economy. A collapse of the government there would not only cause a security threat on our southern border, it would also send harmful shockwaves through the American economy and the world economy as well. And that would only be the beginning.
The corruption within Mexico does not only manifest itself in the drug trade, it is apparent in society as well. With its trillion-dollar economy and petroleum production, Mexico still manages to have 47% of its population living below the poverty line according to 2008 figures. This makes the narcotics trade not only a viable and acceptable option for many Mexicans, but in some cases an unavoidable one.
Nothing illustrates the societal shift away from the rule of law that appears to be taking place south of the border better than the latest trend among Mexican children. Instead of emulating superheroes and sports stars during playtime, children are now emulating drug cartel assassins.
In another report from Blog del Narco, we learn that Mexican children have given up playing typical children’s games such as soccer, and have traded in their soccer balls for toy weapons in order to play “assassins”:
It may seem incredible to some that the children no longer play soccer on the streets as before. Now they pretend to be assassins. They form teams, just as before, but now they arm their mini commando units to engage in imaginary battles that perhaps in the future will be their reality.
The girls too form part of this game, leaving their dolls to the side to turn themselves into assassins. Some are even the commanders in these play groups of children.
The situation with the Mexican children has gotten so out of hand that parents have begun prohibiting their children from having plastic guns and weapons. Even the Mexican government’s consumer protection agency, PROFECO, launched a campaign during the Christmas season exhorting retailers to remove plastic guns, rifles, and machine guns from their toy shelves.
The drug war taking place in Mexico deserves the coverage it has received, but the corruption within the Mexican government and its inability to effectively combat the drug cartels merits as much or more of that coverage. It is a deadly combination that threatens to destabilize a nation with 112 million inhabitants to the point of anarchy. A nation bordering the U.S. with an out-of-control drug war is a serious threat. A nation bordering the U.S. in a state of anarchy, with the only authority being well-funded and well-armed drug kingpins, is a clear and present danger.
The violence rolling across Mexico continues to destroy everything and everyone in its path, threatening the further destabilization of an already besieged society teetering on the brink of anarchy. That wave is crashing on our border as Mexican drug cartel-related incidents increase in the United States.
This month’s murder of a U.S. ICE agent and wounding of another — when their armored Suburban was attacked by assailants on a Mexican highway — is just another example of the drug-related crime that has become commonplace in Mexico. The 83 shell casings found at the scene indicate this was a premeditated hit on U.S. agents trying to help the Mexican government in their losing battle against the cartels.
A quick recap of only a few of the other violent crimes that took place in Mexico just the past weeks:
- In Guadalupe, five youths believed to be drug dealers were murdered execution style. Their bullet-riddled bodies were then picked up from the scene of the crime, placed in a truck, and delivered to the victim’s homes in a final act of gruesome contempt.
- In the city of Juarez, 16 people were murdered in one single day. Five of them were young men traveling in a car who died in a hail of bullets after gunmen forced their vehicle to stop and opened fire. Minutes earlier, a young girl who had accompanied the murdered men had just entered her home after being dropped off, fortunate timing being the only thing that saved her life.
- In Acapulco, gunmen in at least ten trucks went on a terror spree through the city. Their indiscriminate gunfire knocked out power to some areas of the city, while they damaged twenty vehicles by setting them on fire or carjacking them to use as roadblocks. One witness described the melee as a war, with bullets flying everywhere. The early morning attack resulted in nine innocent people murdered, including taxi drivers, and many more wounded. Later in the day, five more victims were added to the death toll when their dismembered bodies were discovered by the police.
- In Veracruz, the dismembered bodies of six unidentified murder victims were thrown outside a surveillance post run by the Mexican Department of Public Safety. The six severed heads and associated body parts were spread about to form a message from the Gulf Cartel.
All of the above violent incidents took place over a few days. While the Mexican government is attempting to break the wave of violence that is overtaking the nation, it has not had much success in stopping the drug cartels who not only threaten the Mexican people but the stability of the Mexican government as well.
That same wave of violence is crashing on our southern border and sending a stream of mayhem into our border states. The drug cartels have no issue using the same brutal methods in the U.S. that they use in Mexico. The rising intensity has prompted Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Paul Babeu to state that armed conflict between U.S. police forces and heavily armed drug cartel squads is inevitable:
We’re expecting a conflict. I absolutely believe you’re going to see that happen in the next 30 to 60 days. It’s not like I’m trying to start a war with the cartels. They’re coming through like they own this place, and we’re trying to stop them. I pray that every time, they surrender.
And we’re not just talking about illegal immigrants. We’re talking about cartels that have almost toppled the Mexican government and believe they can come into our county and commit these crimes and acts of violence. This is not going to happen here.
Until our southern border is secured, there is little that law enforcement officers like Sheriff Babeu can do about these attacks. As police departments, they are trained and equipped to deal with domestic crime, not organized and well-funded militant drug cartels with military-style armament. They must do their best to protect civilians as well as their own officers from a formidable menace that comes and goes across the border at will — all with no help or sympathy from the federal government.
While Janet Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security continue to play politics with the border situation, refusing to admit there is a problem and proclaiming the situation to be improving, our border patrol and law enforcement officers are fending off attacks by soldiers of well-armed, well-funded, and ruthless drug cartels. Sooner rather than later, the wave of violence that is inundating Mexico will come crashing into the U.S. If we do not secure the border, the violence that has become commonplace in Mexico will become commonplace in our bordering states.