Mexico drug war lacks clear strategy
MEXICO CITY: Mexico's 4-year-old assault on drug cartels lacks a clear strategy and a modernized military, and suffers from infighting among security agencies, according to U.S. State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks.
The classified and secret memos posted on several media websites Thursday stand in stark contrast to the public declarations by Mexico and the U.S. about the success of the war on organized crime. The cables call into question many of the efforts publicly touted by the two countries, from the use of the Mexican army, which is described as outdated, slow and risk averse, to the United States' $1.4 billion Merida Initiative, which is seen as ill-conceived and doing little so far to fight drug traffickers.
In one cable, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asks about how the stress is affecting President Felipe Calderon's "personality and management style," while a cable by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual notes that Calderon has admitted to having a tough year and has appeared "down" in meetings.
"Calderon has aggressively attacked Mexico's drug-trafficking organizations but has struggled with an unwieldy and uncoordinated interagency and spiraling rates of violence that have made him vulnerable to criticism that his anti-crime strategy has failed," reads a Jan. 29 memo called "Scenesetter for Opening of the Defense Bilateral Working Group" that also criticizes competition among Mexican security agencies, corruption and Mexico's abysmally low prosecution rate.
In a memo date Oct. 5, 2009, then-Undersecretary for the Interior Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez, who oversaw domestic security, "expressed a real concern with ' losing' certain regions."
"It is damaging Mexico's international reputation, hurting foreign investment, and leading to a sense of government impotence, Gutierrez said," according to the memo.
"If we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration," the memo quotes him as saying.
Calderon has insisted that the spike in violence that has killed more than 28,000 people since 2006 is a sign that the drug cartels are on the ropes and that the government controls all areas of the country.
U.S. officials stage public ceremonies for the handover of helicopters and other Merida Initiative equipment and talk about Mexico's reform from a closed to an oral trial system a key tool in fighting the drug war.
Privately the U.S. notes: "Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; 2 percent of those detained are brought to trial. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime." -Ap