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Thursday, September 9

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. State Department finds Mexico on a map

You remember Mexico; right? That place on the far side of the moon? Will wonders never cease; the United States Department of State has not only discovered Mexico's exact location on a map of the solar system, it's also learned there's an insurgency going on in the country. From the Guardian report today:
In a speech in Washington, [SecState] Clinton said drugs gangs were "morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency in Mexico and in Central America".

"It's looking more and more like Colombia looked 20 years ago, where the narco-traffickers controlled certain parts of the country." ...

The US secretary of state pointed to the use of car bombs, a tool once favoured by cartel-allied rebels in Colombia, as evidence that Mexican drugs gangs "are now showing more and more indices of insurgency". Her remarks came as the third mayor in a month became the latest victim of violence in Mexico. ...
The Beeb reported today that although similarities have been noted between Colombia's drug cartel problem and Mexico's "never before has a senior member of the US administration made such an explicit comparison."

So we're all very excited here in Washington that State has located another country on the moon. The bad news is that Mrs Clinton is behind the times; as this map clearly shows it's actually Mexico's President and the troops loyal to him that are the insurgency because the drug cartels already control the country:

But the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. At this fast clip it'll only be a quarter century before State discovers it's a bad idea to pander to Mexico's regime, which is not taking the Secretary's remarks lying down, I might add:
Her comments were dismissed in Mexico, but raised fears there that Clinton was preparing the ground to implement a Mexican version of Plan Colombia – a controversial anti-drug programme in the late 1990s involving US troops working with the Colombian army against the dominant Medellin drug cartel. ...

Mexico is strongly opposed to US troop involvement in dealing with the violence.

"We are not going to permit any version of a Plan Colombia," said Santiago Creel, a Mexican senator and member of Calderón's National Action party. Opposition politicians agreed. Senator Ricardo Monreal of the Labour party said US aid to Colombia hadn't stopped drug trafficking there.

"Whoever thinks Colombia is a cure-all, and if the United States thinks it is necessary to apply the same model to us they applied to Colombia, they are mistaken," he said.

Mexico's senior national security official, Alejandro Poire, said: "There are very important differences between what Colombia faced and what Mexico is facing now."

He suggested that US demand for drugs was the root of the problem. Both Colombian and Mexican drug gangs were "nourished by the enormous, gigantic demand for drugs in the United States", he told a news conference. ...
Just how successful is Plan Colombia and can it really be applied to Mexico? The Christian Science Monitor reported in January:
As Mexico struggles to contain ever-more-powerful traffickers, analysts say it could adopt lessons from Colombia. No one is claiming that Colombia has vanquished its drug cartels or stopped them from corrupting government officials. But its practices may provide a useful guide to Mexico’s own battles.

For example, says Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized-crime expert and professor at Mexico’s Autonomous Institute of Technology, Colombia has gone after the drug lords and their assets.

“Regardless of how many thousands of organized crime members you detain, the end result will always be determined by how much of the economic structure of organized crime you destroy,” he says. “This is exactly what you’ve seen in Colombia in the past five years. ... In Mexico, nothing like that has even started.”
Today's CSM, in reporting on Clinton's remarks, points up the extent to which corruption has stymied Mexico's war against the cartels:
US frustration has been mounting as authorities allege that corruption is a major hurdle in working with their Mexican counterparts to curtail the drug trade. In the Los Angeles Times today, Alonzo Pena, deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Mexican authorities do not always act on intelligence provided to them by the US. Though Mexican law enforcement agencies may not always be responsive to such leads due to a more cautious approach, Mr. Pena says that often times the delay is “completely corruption” at work.
Shlok Vaidya, who has noted similarities between Naxalite tactics and those used by Mexico's drug cartels, has good advice for dealing with one aspect of the corruption:
Mexico, in an attempt to regulate its struggling police forces, fired 9% of its officers for various degrees of corruption. While this is easy to do on paper (and a short term PR victory) it is not a sustainable strategy.

Pakistan tried to do the same thing with ISI. (In that instance, however, the spectre was radicalism rather than an allegiance to the drug cartels.) All it managed to do was turn loose a bunch of experienced operatives with the training, inclination, and imperative to take advantage of the opium money in Western Pakistan.

A better option is to keep those dirty cops on the books; at least that way you can monitor them to some degree, shape their actions, and use them in disinformation operations. By throwing them out, you lose the entire incentive/disincentive structure altogether, creating a huge void within which these actors thrive.
And Zenpundit has put in a few words about the Narcos Copycat Global Guerrilla Playbook.

Meanwhile, President Calderón is trying to push through a 'conservative' budget while the opposition howls that he needs to reduce the V.A.T. You'd think they were calling for the end of the world but they're just trying to get that crazy sales tax down by one percentage point -- from 16 to 15% -- in a slapdash pass at helping Mexico's poor. Calderón is viewing the idea with horror: what would happen to social services? If he'd collect the regular taxes he wouldn't have to ask that question.

Mexico's political class is not stupid; they know exactly what needs to be done but they won't do it. The upshot? Bloomberg, in their review today of Mexico's economic situation, reported:
Mexico needs to increase spending on security in order to train more policemen, fight corruption and more effectively take on drug cartels that pose a threat to governability, said Jorge Chabat, a political science professor who specializes in security issues at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City.

“Given the magnitude of the problem, they need to increase spending in a substantial manner,” Chabat said. “The government is overwhelmed at all levels.” ...
The government is going to stay overwhelmed until it gets serious about cracking down on tax evasion beep this is a recording.
How long ago should this have happened? snark
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