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Vol. 72/No. 26      June 30, 2008

Mexico is torn apart by capitalist drug wars
(front page)
The intensifying warfare in Mexico between capitalist drug cartels and government troops has undermined the functioning of the government in that country, which has the second-largest population and economy in Latin America. Despite the deployment of thousands of police and army troops in the north and central regions, the powerful cartels have acted with increasing impunity, assassinating some top officials and controlling others through threats and bribes.

The government’s lack of control has heightened concerns in U.S. ruling circles, leading to headlines such as “Mexico at the Brink” and “Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?”—and to an increased role for U.S. federal cop agencies in Mexico.

Soon after his inauguration in December 2006, President Felipe Calderón’s government launched an offensive against several major cartels that have been at war with each other for control of the $40 billion drug trade—which represents almost 20 percent of all exports to the United States.

Some 30,000 federal cops and army troops have been mobilized to cities in several northern states, including those along the U.S.-Mexican border. In June 2007, Mexico’s public security secretary announced the deployment of 1,600 federal cops to the state of Nuevo León after the fatal shooting of state legislator Mario César Ríos in downtown Monterrey, the business center of northern Mexico. The previous month state cops walked off the job to protest the jump in killings of police by the cartels.

The drug lords have responded to the military offensive by intensifying their assaults. In the past 18 months more than 4,000 people, including about 450 cops, have been killed in drug-related violence.

Assassinations of high-ranking officials involved in anti-trafficking efforts have spread from the north to Mexico’s capital. Edgar Millán Gómez, who was responsible for overseeing most of Mexico’s counternarcotics operations, was killed May 8 in Mexico City. He was the highest ranking of four senior officers killed in the past two months.

Drug capitalists have used their influence to put government officials—from local cops to high-ranking state and federal officials—on their payrolls.

In Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, drug traffickers left a handwritten note threatening 22 city police commanders at a monument dedicated to fallen cops, the Associated Press reported. It was addressed to “those who still don’t believe” in the power of the cartels. Of the 22, seven have already been killed and three wounded in assassination attempts. Of the rest, all but one resigned their posts.

Los Zetas, a paramilitary unit of the Gulf cartel made up of former Mexican army commandos, have hung banners above highways with slogans such as “Los Zetas want you. We offer good salaries to soldiers,” a taunt about low army pay.

The raging gang warfare and related instability in Mexico are of no small concern to Washington. Mexico, which shares a 1,920 mile border with the United States, has a population of 110 million. Its economy is the 14th largest in the world, with $210 billion worth of exports to the United States and $136 billion in imports from the United States in 2007. Its gross domestic product was $886 billion in 2006.

President George Bush has urged Congress to approve a three-year $1.4 billion package to provide military hardware, spying equipment, police training, and “judicial assistance” for the Mexican government. U.S. police agencies have increased collaboration with their counterparts in Mexico.

On June 9, U.S. and Mexican officials unveiled Operation Armas Cruzadas, a joint effort to intercept U.S. weapons smuggled into Mexico for drug traffickers. Since at least 2002, U.S. cop agencies have also been involved in training and equipping special Mexican anti-drug-trafficking units.

The growing U.S. intervention in Mexico’s drug wars is being accepted more and more by ruling-class circles in Mexico that previously balked at being accused of accepting the violation of Mexico’s sovereignty.

A June 1 New York Times article headlined “What the Mexicans might learn from the Italians,” suggested that the U.S. and Mexican governments should seek a policing partnership similar to the one established by Washington and the Italian government to combat the mafia in the 1980s.

“The things we are seeing in Mexico today, we saw the same glimmers in Italy,” the beginnings of a crusade, a former FBI agent involved in operations at that time told the Times.

After decades of political and economic control of entire regions of Italy by the mafia since World War II, the Italian government launched a crackdown in the mid-1980s that ended with the arrest of hundreds of mafia leaders and government officials connected to them, including a prime minister.

The Calderón government has not limited the deployment of army troops and federal cops to fighting drug traffickers. His first move after his inauguration was to send 4,000 troops to the southern state of Oaxaca to crack down on teachers and other antigovernment protestors.  
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