Some in US talk of surrender to Mexico cartels

NY Times:

An army convoy on the hunt for traffickers rolled out of its base recently in this border town (Reynosa) under the control of the Gulf Cartel — and an ominous voice crackled over a two-way radio frequency to announce just that. The voice, belonging to a cartel spy, then broadcast the soldiers’ route through the city, turn by turn, using the same military language as the soldiers.

“They’re following us,” Col. Juan José Gómez, who was monitoring the transmission from the front seat of an olive-green pickup truck, said with a shrug.

The presence of the informers, some of them former soldiers, highlights a central paradox in Mexico’s ambitious and bloody assault on the drug cartels that have ravaged the country. The nation has begun a war, but it cannot fully rely on the very institutions — the police, customs, the courts, the prisons, even the relatively clean army — most needed to carry it out.

The cartels bring in billions of dollars more than the Mexican government spends to defeat them, and they spend their wealth to bolster their ranks with an untold number of politicians, judges, prison guards and police officers — so many police officers, in fact, that entire forces in cities across Mexico have been disbanded and rebuilt from scratch.

Over the past year, the country’s top organized crime prosecutor has been arrested for receiving cartel cash, as was the director of Interpol in Mexico. The cartels even managed to slip a mole inside the United States Embassy. Those in important positions who have resisted taking cartel money are often shot to death, a powerful incentive to others who might be wavering.

This was a war started by Mexico, but supported — and in some ways undermined — by the United States. The template was made in the United States, a counternarcotics strategy originally designed for Colombia. Mexico is using American intelligence to track the traffickers and is awaiting a fleet of American helicopters and aircraft to pursue them, part of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid initiated by President George W. Bush and expanded in recent days by President Obama.

At the same time, American drug users are fueling demand for the drugs, and American guns are supplying the firepower wielded with such ferocity by Mexico’s cartels — a reality acknowledged by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her trip to Mexico last week.

With the prospect of a quick victory increasingly elusive, a rising chorus of voices on both sides of the border is questioning the cost and the fallout of the assault on the cartels.

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The United States Drug Enforcement Administration says Mexico’s battle against drugs is clamping down on supplies, citing the doubling of cocaine prices in the United States over the past two years.

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Even in normal times, when morgues are not overflowing, the bulk of Mexico’s crimes are never solved. One investigation found that only 24 of every 1,000 crimes reported to authorities resulted in suspects being sentenced. Of every 100 people taken into custody on suspicion of committing a crime, fewer than 4 were ever found guilty, the same study found. Evidence is mishandled, witnesses refuse to speak and the judiciary is manipulated.

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Mexicans long ago lost faith in their judicial authorities. One recent study found that about 90 percent of those who have been victims of a crime never reported the episode to the authorities, convinced it would do no good.

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There is much more. I think Iraq may have a more functional judicial system than Mexico. The lack of an uncorrupted police and judiciary certainly make the fight difficult. Right now, those who would present evidence against the criminal insurgents would be more endangered than the accused. That is why it is important for Mexico to develop a counterinsurgency operation that protects the people and does not just play whack a mole with the insurgents.

The US needs to tighten the cordon around the gateway cities of Juarez and Tijuana to deny access to US markets. Juarez is the gateway to half the drugs entering the country. Once they hit the I-10 corridor they are on their way to the East Coast and the Upper Midwest. Catching them before they leave El Paso should be a major objective. Tijuana feeds the West Coast trade up the I-5 corridor. Cutting them off in San Diego would ruin that business too.

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