If Americans think about Mexico at all it’s usually in the context of illegal immigration and/or the looming battle between Arizona and the federal government. No one, it seems, at either end of our caustically polarized political system is giving much thought to the relentless disintegration of democracy happening on our doorstep. Our next door neighbor nation is increasingly controlled by organized crime and the best we can do is build a fence and loudly chant ‘Stay Out.’ So much for “homeland security,” ”national defense” and “don’t tread on me.”
Recent elections in Mexico were riddled with corruption; most of it instigated by the increasingly powerful drug cartels. The government of Felipe Calderon appears powerless to put an end to the bloody rule of the cartels in many parts of Mexico. Cops, prosecutors and judges who try to fight the power of the cartels usually lose, and many times they lose their lives in the process.
Guillermo Valdes, the director of CISEN, Mexico’s national intelligence agency, put it bluntly two years ago in an interview with the U.K.’s Financial Times. The drug cartels “are trying to take over the power of the state,” Valdes said. His view is increasingly shared by others on both sides of the border.
Writing in Small Wars Journal in 2008, Lt. John P. Sullivan, a specialist in terrorism, counterinsurgency and urban operations co-authored a piece which begins: “Mexico is under siege…”
He cites the routine daily bloodshed in border cities like Tijuana and Juarez. In recent months Juarez, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, is said to be averaging about seven killings a day and about 5,000 murder victims over the last two years.
Sullivan argues the extreme violence in Mexico is likely to seep across the border into the United States, but even more worrisome to Sullivan is the possibility global terrorists of the Al Qaeda flavor may see it as fertile ground for the relentless war against the Great Satan to Mexico’s north. Think of Osama bin Laden’s sojourn in Sudan about fifteen years ago, then think of Mexico disintegrating to the point that it is similar to Sudan – a lawless nation open to the likes of the Al Qaeda leader.
Here’s a sample of the fertile ground Middle East terrorists would find in Mexico:
- The armed private security business is booming in Mexico as official law enforcement becomes increasingly ineffective. In many places the police are powerless to stop the drug gangs or they are on the payroll of the drug lords and sometimes commit the execution murders they are supposed to investigate. Increasingly, law and order in Mexico is a business, not an essential government function.
- Mexican school children are now taught warfare survival techniques. There have been nearly a dozen drug war shootouts in Mexican school zones in less than a year. Some schools now conduct “shootout drills” for their students.
- The cartels have established counterintelligence operations in U.S. southern border states. U.S. Border Patrol agents say the cartels have surveillance outposts in the hills of southern Arizona that are used to monitor the patrols of U.S. agents. Couriers re-supply the lookout posts with food, water, batteries and other essentials so the cartel’s spies can remain on duty for extended periods.
- In Laredo, Texas, federal agents have been told to be on the lookout for “cloned” Border Patrol vehicles operated by cartel gang members. They use the Border Patrol lookalike cars to aid smuggling operations and allow hit teams to get closer to federal agents targeted for assassination.
- The Mexican drug cartels have gone so far as to tap in to the oil pipelines of Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company and they are selling Mexican crude in the U.S.; the value of the stolen oil is believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Industry analysts say drug cartel pipeline taps quadrupled from 102 in 2004 to 462 last year. Drug cartel oil rustlers use powerful drills and sophisticated valves so a drop in pipeline pressure can’t be detected at pipeline monitoring stations.
- Stealing oil would be of little value without a market. In Texas, at least five oil companies have been charged with selling oil stolen from Pemex by drug cartel operatives. Pemex recently filed suit against petrochemical giant BASF for being one of the companies knowingly buying petroleum stolen from the Mexican state oil company. BASF denies the charge.
Regardless of how the Pemex/BASF dispute plays out, the fact remains the Mexican drug cartels are diversifying into petroleum and politics and our neighbor to the south is on the verge of becoming a criminal state.
While America is gearing up for a national battle where we will fight ferociously among ourselves over illegal immigration, a much bigger, much more dangerous threat to our national security is seeping across the border and very few Americans are paying attention.