Car­tels use chil­dren to breach bor­der

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY SARA A. CARTER

Drug car­tel mem­bers are us­ing a va­ri­ety of fronts and sub­terfuges — from fake tamale stands to child de­coys — to gather in­tel­li­gence about en­hanced U.S. bor­der se­cu­rity and ex­ploit weak­nesses to send in peo­ple and drugs, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

The find­ings, by the U.S. Army’s Asym­met­ric War­fare Group, un­der­line the grow­ing threat to U.S. se­cu­rity from a por­ous bor­der. Mex­i­can drug car­tels con­tinue to probe for gaps in bor­der de­fenses while fight­ing one an­other and Mex­i­can au­thor­i­ties in a vi­o­lent con­flict that has killed more than 7,000 peo­ple in Mex­ico since the beginning of 2008. U.S. au­thor­i­ties also worry that ter­ror­ist groups could ex­ploit vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in bor­der se­cu­rity.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port in May by the war­fare group about the San Diego-Ti­juana bor­der area, the car­tels are find­ing novel ways to move con­tra­band and peo­ple into the U.S., in­clud­ing wedg­ing chil­dren into gaps in the ce­ment py­lons at bor­der bar­ri­ers.

“The smug­gling fa­cil­i­ta­tor or fam­i­lies of the il­le­gal mi­grants will use chil­dren to lodge them in the gaps of the ce­ment py­lons, at which point a U.S. fire depart­ment is called in to free the child,” the re­port said. “This tac­tic re­lies on the U.S. first re­spon­ders’ ini­tia­tive to res­cue or save a hu­man life and sub­se­quently cre­ates a phys­i­cal gap — which gen­er­ally takes two weeks to re­pair — to use for bor­der breach­ing.”

The car­tels also use torches in back­packs to cut through fences and tamale stands and per­sonal wa­ter­craft for sur­veil­lance, the re­port said. They ship drugs through sew­ers and may be plan­ning to send them into the U.S. on the backs of men parachut­ing out of planes.

Car­tels al­ready have used hang glid­ers and other ul­tra­light air­craft to move nar­cotics into the U.S. Th­ese craft can carry about 200 pounds of drugs.

The re­port sug­gested that the car­tels were looking to up­grade the tech­nique by us­ing newer equip­ment, al­low­ing them to bring in big­ger loads.

“Civil­ian or mil­i­tary trained tan­dem jumpers could de­liver a pay­load of 750 pounds, while the de­liv­ery air­craft would be able to avoid United States airspace,” the re­port said. “The jumpers would be able to land suc­cess­fully at de­sired lo­ca­tions us­ing off the shelf GPS and equip­ment, and at lo­ca­tions pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble to ul­tra-light air­craft. This tac­tic also will per­mit mul­ti­ple jumpers to con­verge on a lo­ca­tion in­creas­ing pay­load de­liv­ery.”

It is es­ti­mated that Mex­i­can car­tels earn more than $25 bil­lion a year from nar­cotics traf­fick­ing in the U.S. alone, mil­i­tary

“The smug­gling fa­cil­i­ta­tor or fam­i­lies of the il­le­gal mi­grants will use chil­dren to lodge them in the gaps of the ce­ment py­lons, at which point a U.S. fire depart­ment is called in to free the child,” the re­port said. “This tac­tic re­lies on the U.S. first re­spon­ders’ ini­tia­tive to res­cue or save a hu­man life and sub­se­quently cre­ates a phys­i­cal gap — which gen­er­ally takes two weeks to re­pair — to use for bor­der breach­ing.”

of­fi­cials said. A good por­tion of the money goes to pur­chase equip­ment such as semi-sub­mersible boats, sub­marines and air­planes as well as to pay for spot­ters, hired to watch U.S. bor­der se­cu­rity per­son­nel.

Mil­i­tary and law en­force­ment of­fi­cials also have gath­ered in­tel­li­gence that sug­gests car­tels are con­tin­u­ing to build tun­nels along the San Diego corridor and to use “sew­ers and storm drains un­der the south­west bor­der to smug­gle per­son­nel and cargo into the United States.”

A road­side tamale stand was part of a strat­egy to alert mid­dle­men and smug­glers to open en­try points along San Diego’s bor­der fence with Ti­juana.

U.S. mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel “ob­served a woman set­ting up a road-side tamale stand on the south side of the pri­mary fence with the nose of her ve­hi­cle point­ing to­wards known fence breach points,” the re­port said. It added that the woman did not have a sin­gle cus­tomer all day in the sparsely pop­u­lated area.

In ad­di­tion, car­tel mem­bers used taxis and le­git­i­mate busi­nesses to smug­gle peo­ple and drugs without arous­ing sus­pi­cion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The war­fare group con­ducted the op­er­a­tion with Joint Task Force North, part of the De­fense Depart­ment’s coun­ternar­cotics and anti-ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tions, from Feb. 15 un­til March 31. U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, the U.S. Coast Guard, and state and lo­cal law en­force­ment in the San Diego sec­tor helped the group “ob­serve asym­met­ric in­fil­tra­tion op­er­a­tions and emerg­ing asym­met­ric threats” from the car­tels.

The re­port, “Asym­met­ric Ob­ser­va­tions Along the U.S.-Mex­i­can Bor­der,” was tasked with iden­ti­fy­ing en­emy vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and to mit­i­gate ter­ror­ist threats as car­tel vi­o­lence escalates. The op­er­a­tion “will pro­vide in­sight rel­e­vant to U.S. Army op­er­a­tions world­wide,” the re­port added.

“We’re go­ing to have to pay very, very close at­ten­tion to Mex­ico and cer­tainly for this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” a U.S. De­fense Depart­ment of­fi­cial told The Times on the con­di­tion that he not be named be­cause of the sen­si­tive na­ture of the is­sue. Mex­ico “clearly un­der­stands their prob­lem. They, like us, are try­ing to fig­ure out ways to solve it.”

The of­fi­cial added that the U.S. and Mex­ico are co­op­er­at­ing closely to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pre­car­i­ous in­no­cence: Chil­dren play in Zi­tacuaro in Mex­ico’s Mi­choa­can state prior to a May 27 demon­stra­tion to de­mand the release of the town’s mayor, An­to­nio Ixt­lahuac, who was taken into cus­tody by fed­eral agents for al­legedly pro­tect­ing one of Mex­ico’s most vi­o­lent drug car tels.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.