[In 2006] Bush agreed to help [new president Felipe Calderon], and the Merida Initiative, a $1.9 billion aid package for military training and equipment and judicial reform, set the framework for a new level of U.S.-Mexican cooperation. In a little-noticed move, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence took a leading role in the U.S. effort to defeat the cartels, signaling the importance of intelligence in combating organized crime. By then, cartels had begun employing assassination squads, according to Guillermo Valdes, who was CISEN director at the time. CISEN discovered from a captured videotape and a special analytical group it set up that some of the cartels had hired former members of the U.S.-trained Guatemalan special forces, the Kaibiles, to create sociopathic killers who could behead a man, torture a child or immerse a captive in a vat of acid. Anxious to counterattack, the CIA proposed electronically emptying the bank accounts of drug kingpins, but was turned down by the Treasury Department and the White House, which feared unleashing chaos in the banking system.
U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on the cartels | The Washington Post
Two things to note here. First, the blowback from “US-trained Guatemalan special forces” going on to “create sociopathic killers” - old story, new setting.
Second, preventing the CIA from blocking the bank accounts of kingpins for fear of “unleashing chaos in the banking system” speaks volumes about the priorities of the U.S. government.
From the Guardian, April 2nd, 2011 “How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs”:
… At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to banks on the brink of collapse. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade,” he said. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”
Going back to the Post piece, we see the results of the Merida Initiative:
… In deference to their visitors, the U.S. briefers left out the fact that most of the 25 kingpin taken off the streets in the past five years had been removed because of U.S.-supplied information, often including the location of top cartel members in real time, according to people familiar with the meeting. …
Also unremarked upon was the mounting criticism that success against the cartels’ leadership had helped incite more violence than anyone had predicted, more than 60,000 deaths and 25,000 disappearances in the past seven years alone.
Meanwhile, the drug flow into the United States continued unabated. Mexico remains the U.S. market’s largest supplier of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine and the transshipment point for 95 percent of its cocaine. …
So, in order to avoid “unleashing chaos” in the banking system by freezing the assets of the cartel kingpins, i.e. admitting that some of the nation’s largest banks were insolvent but for laundered drug money, Bush and Calderon pursued a military/paramilitary and assassination policy, continued under Obama, resulting in the deaths of at least 60,000 people and 25,000 disappearances over a 7 year span which did nothing to stem the flow of drugs into the United States.
But at least the banks are OK.
Meanwhile, ending prohibition - the main driver of violence - isn’t even on the table.
(The drug war sounds insane because it is insane.)
› NAFTA at 20: The New Spin | FPIF
Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job.
Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”
But this spin is based on superficial assumptions. The small signs of economic recovery in Mexico are grounded largely on the return of maquiladora factories from China, where wages have been increasing as Mexican wages have stagnated. Under-cutting China on labor costs is hardly something to celebrate. This trend is nothing but the return of the same “free-trade” model that has failed the Mexican people for 20 years.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was touted as the cure for Mexico’s economic “backwardness.” Promoters argued that the trilateral trade agreement would dig Mexico out of its economic rut and modernize it along the lines of its mighty neighbor, the United States.
The story went something like this →
› Study: 250,000 U.S. Guns Smuggled into Mexico Each Year
The U.N. global arms talks come as a new study has revealed that about 2 percent of all U.S. gun sales are made to groups that smuggle them into Mexico. More than 250,000 U.S. guns head into Mexico each year as part of an illegal trade worth nearly $130 million annually, according to researchers at the University of San Diego. In fact, thousands of U.S. sellers depend on the illegal sales and would go out of business without them, the report found.
› Mexico drug war leaves 20,000 missing: report
More than 20,000 people have disappeared in Mexico over the past six years of a brutal crackdown on drugs during the government of former president Felipe Calderon, a civic group said.
Propuesta Civica (Civic Proposal) released a database on its website Thursday listing 20,851 people who went missing from August 2, 2006 to February 29, 2012. It said the figures were based on official data.
Among the missing were 11,201 men and 8,340 women, and about 500 others for whose gender is unknown.
Young people between the ages of 10 and 17 account for about a third of those who disappeared. About one-quarter of the victims was between the ages of 18 and 30.
The report also found a spike in the number of those who went missing last year — 7,813, up from 6,766 the year before.
Propuesta Civica said it obtained the figures thanks to a leak from a Los Angeles Times reporter.
The group warned that it could not distinguish between victims of possible violence at the hands of the government and those who perished in Mexico’s brutal drug war, which it called a “humanitarian tragedy.”
The data amounts to “one of the few sources of information to which civil society has access to begin to understand the true extent of violence in Mexico during the past six years,” Propuesta Civica said.
The database will help “build a historical memory of a process that is far from coming to an end: the violence in Mexico from the war against drugs,” the organization added.
During the Calderon government that lasted from December 2006 to December 1, the death toll from clashes between drug traffickers and between them and security forces was announced by the government on an irregular basis.
More than 60,000 people died in the war on drugs during the Calderon administration,
even though [because, ed.] he deployed the country’s armed forces to battle drug gangs.
The report showed that Mexico City and the western state of Jalisco recorded the most disappearances.
The group noted some inconsistencies that require official confirmation. For example, certain regions that have seen growing violence in recent years were shown to have a relatively low number of disappearances, including Nuevo Leon and Sonora.
› Zapatista March: The Deafening Silence of Resurgence | Upside Down World
Only the resonating echo of rain pattering down on the cobblestone streets of Chiapas’ colonial cities sounded as tourists from around the globe awaiting the end of the world in the center of the Mayan Civilization were surprised by the silent marches of more than 40,000 masked Mayan Zapatistas who descended on their apocalyptic misinterpretations of the Mayan 13 Ba´ktun.
A faint sound of a baby’s cry would occasionally emerge from a bundle beneath a plastic tarp on the back of a masked Zapatista in the endless lines of Mayan rebels who quietly held formation in the rain. They marched four file booted and bare-footed into the same cities they surprised on a cold new year’s eve night 19 years ago, shouting their first YA BASTA!
Yesterday’s weapon, differing from the 1994 armed indigenous uprising, was the Zapatista silence, their moral authority, the echo of a unified and deafening silence that shouted YA BASTA! once again. A silence that in their massive presence in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Altamirano, Las Margaritas and Palenque shouted without a word that the a new Mayan era has begun and the Zapatistas are present. A silence that was meant to remind Mexico’s recently inaugurated President Enrique Peña Nieto and his PRI party that the root causes of the Zapatista struggle are as prevalent today as they were 19 years ago: lack of health care, education, housing, land, food, indigenous rights, women’s rights, gay rights, dignity, and justice. A silence that reminded the returning PRI that there is a Mexico profundo, a Mexico jodido, a Mexico con hambre, and a Mexico dispuesto a luchar and in struggle. The Zapatistas and the EZLN need not say a word today, their actions and silence said enough. Aqui estamos!
As early as 4 a.m. the Mayan indigenous, Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Tojolobales, Choles, Zoques, and Mames began their mobilizations from their five cultural centers of resistance, known as Caracoles, emerging from the Lacandon jungle, the Chiapas Canyon lands, and the rain soaked highlands. They quietly moved along the mountainous, fog-bearing roads towards the same cities (plus Palenque) that they descended upon when these ill-equipped ragtag rebels launched their armed uprising on January 1st 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went in to effect.
Yesterday’s marches by the Zapatista National Liberation Army comprised of Mexico’s Mayan indigenous peoples was the first mobilization since their May 7, 2011 march demanding an end to the widespread violence and impunity in Mexico. That march echoed Poet Javier Sicilia’s movement for justice demanding the end to PANista President Felipe Calderon’s US-backed War on Drugs that has claimed up to 80,000 lives over the last six years. Calderon, who departs Mexico leaving a bloodstained country, will follow his predecessor Ernesto Zedillo’s footsteps to a safe haven in US academia, entering Harvard and moving to Cambridge, a town ironically that has one of the world´s lowest per capita murder rates, contrary to a Mexico ranking in the world’s top 10 country’s with major violent death tolls. Today’s Zapatista march, explains award winning Mexican Journalist Jose Gil Olmos, marks a symbolic moment being December 21st on the Gregorian calendar and 13 Ba´ktun, or the end of the 144,000 day Mayan long calendar, silently saying that this is beginning of a new calendar, a new era and the Zapatistas are present. [++]
… as [Mexican President] Calderón leaves office, the reality of life in Tierra Caliente offers a stark rebuke to his strategy. The flow of drugs northward appears to have continued unabated despite a string of cartel bosses being captured or killed in the years since [2006 when] he launched the offensive. In that time, at least 60,000 people – possibly 100,000 – have been killed in violence across Mexico. Thousands more have disappeared. Scores of judges, journalists, politicians and local mayors have been assassinated, and the armed forces have been accused of systematic torture and abuse. The number of deaths appears to have plateaued in the past year, but the experience of Tierra Caliente suggests a falling murder rate is not necessarily any indication that the government is winning.
Mexico drug war continues to rage in region where president fired first salvo
› Mexican Authorities Urged to End Torture Epidemic
The Mexican authorities must take decisive action to tackle the systemic and widespread use of torture and ill treatment documented across the country, which dramatically increased under the government of Felipe Calderón, Amnesty International said in a new report today.
The report Abusers known, victims ignored: Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico explores the increase of cases of torture and ill-treatment by police and security forces during the Calderón administration, the lack of effective investigations and the denial of justice for the victims.
“The Calderón administration has effectively turned a blind eye to the ‘torture epidemic’ we’ve been witnessing in Mexico,” said Rupert Knox, Mexico researcher at Amnesty International.
“The protection of human rights has been ignored or sidelined in favour of the government’s strategy of militarized combat of organized crime and drug cartels.”
They’re turning into the U.S.
› Mexico captures Zetas drug lord Ivan Velazquez Caballero | BBC News
Mexican security forces say they have arrested one of the country’s most wanted drugs traffickers.
Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known both as El Taliban and as Z-50, was a commander of the notorious Zetas cartel.
Police paraded their prisoner - who was arrested by marines in the city of San Luis Potosi - on national TV.
The arrest comes days after it was reported that Velazquez had split from the Zetas and joined the rival Gulf Cartel.
He is believed to have controlled some of the most important drug routes into the United States and ruled them with cold brutality.
› Americans shot in Mexico were CIA operatives | The New York Times @ NBCNews.com
The two Americans who were wounded when gunmen fired on an American Embassy vehicle last week were Central Intelligence Agency employees sent as part of a multiagency effort to bolster Mexican efforts to fight drug traffickers, officials said Tuesday.
The two operatives, who were hurt on Friday, were participating in a training program that involved the Mexican Navy. They were traveling with a Mexican Navy captain in an embassy sport utility vehicle that had diplomatic license plates, heading toward a military shooting range 35 miles south of the capital when gunmen, some or all of them from the Federal Police, attacked the vehicle, Mexican officials have said.
The Mexican Navy said Tuesday in a statement that an American was driving the vehicle and that during the attack the captain, who was handling logistics and translating for the men, remained in the back seat calling for help on his cellphone.
The men were wounded, the Navy said, when the rain of bullets managed to tear through the car’s protective armor. It was unclear if the Americans, who officials said were unarmed, were specifically targeted, if the shooting was a case of mistaken identity or if there was some other reason that the vehicle was ambushed. Mexican prosecutors have detained 12 federal police officers and have said no theory can be ruled out.
The C.I.A. declined to comment.
[…] The presence of C.I.A. employees, and indeed all American operatives, on Mexican soil has long been a prickly subject here.
In his nearly six years in office, Mr. Calderón has allowed a much larger role for American counternarcotics operations, including the use of unarmed American drones deep in Mexican territory. C.I.A. operatives and retired American military personnel have also worked with American law enforcement agencies and the Mexican military on training and intelligence-gathering.But Mexico has ruled out allowing the Americans to carry out arrests or deploy troops on its soil, and even their limited role has provoked a political outcry over whether the nation’s sovereignty has been put in jeopardy.
Lawmakers, instigated by the left, have hauled Mexican government officials before Congress for sometimes testy hearings and after the newspaper La Jornada first reported the C.I.A. involvement on Tuesday, some politicians said they would ask for a thorough explanation of the American role here.
“It’s is time to speak clearly and for us to know what institutions are intervening in what specific way in our country in regard to security,’ said Iris Vianey Mendoza, a senator from the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution.
› Mexican authorities find 11 corpses north-west of Acapulco | guardian.co.uk
› This Is Your War On Drugs | emptywheel
Of all the shootings that have happened in the last day, I suspect this one–of two US government employees in a diplomatic car in Mexico–may get the least attention in the US. The shootout occurred between what has been reported alternately as members of Mexico’s Marines and/or their Federal police (or not described at all) and the two Americans–whose names have been reported as Jess Hoods Garner and Stan Dove Boss. Mexico’s press say the vehicle carrying the Americans was hit by at least 60 bullets. The Americans are now in a hospital in Cuernavaca being treated for gunshot wounds. The site of the shootout–on the two-lane free highway between Mexico City and Cuernavaca–is being guarded by Mexican police and military forces. (… AP’s report on the shootout … doesn’t mention the reported involvement of Mexican personnel). [read]
› WikiLeaks and the War on Drugs (2) | The Nation
… the cables revealed Mexico not only as a country that is being controlled but as a country that has surrendered. The dispatches sent by the diplomats behind the large windows of the imposing US Embassy building at 305 Paseo de la Reforma illustrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the degree to which the Mexican state has relinquished sovereign decisions and defined who we are today: a polarized country in the throes of a crisis that, for the moment, appears unending.
› WikiLeaks and the War on Drugs | Blanche Petrich Moreno
In September 2006, just days before Felipe Calderón was declared president of Mexico in a disputed election fraught with fraud and corruption, the US Embassy sent a secret report to Washington titled “Strengthening Calderon’s weak hand.” Mexico’s new president would have “virtually no ‘honeymoon,’” the cable stated, so “we will begin vigorous transition planning across the board with the Calderón team.” Without aggressive involvement, US diplomats warned that “we risk stagnation on our highest-profile issues unless we can send a strong signal of support, prompt the Calderón team into a vigorous transition, and reinforce Calderón’s agenda and leadership.”
Now, as he leaves office after yet another disputed election, Calderón will go down in history as one of Mexico’s most discredited and unpopular presidents—in part because of the revelations in the WikiLeaks cables that exposed his “unprecedented cooperation” with Washington. Indeed, as Mexicans know from the documents published in my newspaper, La Jornada, Calderón’s failed agenda and leadership—particularly his top priority of winning the war against the drug cartels and protecting Mexican citizens from the gruesome, intolerable narco-generated violence that has taken the lives of thousands—is a failure he shares with the United States.
[…] Beyond the undiplomatic opinions … the WikiLeaks cables revealed the astonishing degree to which the United States exercised its power and influence at the highest levels of the Mexican government. In some cases it appears that an essential part of the decision-making process on matters of internal security is actually designed not in Mexico City but in Washington. For Mexicans, the cables have reinforced once again that famous adage “Pobre Mexico: tan lejos de Dios, y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.” Poor Mexico: so far from God and so close to the United States. [++]
The post-Civil War fourteenth amendment granted the rights of persons to former slaves, though mostly in theory. At the same time, it created a new category of persons with rights: corporations. In fact, almost all the cases brought to the courts under the fourteenth amendment had to do with corporate rights, and by a century ago, they had determined that these collectivist legal fictions, established and sustained by state power, had the full rights of persons of flesh and blood; in fact, far greater rights, thanks to their scale, immortality, and protections of limited liability. Their rights by now far transcend those of mere humans. Under the ‘free trade agreements,’ Pacific Rim can, for example, sue El Salvador for seeking to protect the environment; individuals cannot do the same. General Motors can claim national rights in Mexico. There is no need to dwell on what would happen if a Mexican demanded national rights in the United States.
Noam Chomsky, The Great Charter, Its Fate, and Ours | TomDispatch (via nickturse)
› Apologies to Mexico | Rebecca Solnit
I apologize. There are so many things I could apologize for, from the way the U.S. biotech corporation Monsanto has contaminated your corn to the way Arizona and Alabama are persecuting your citizens, but right now I’d like to apologize for the drug war, the 10,000 waking nightmares that make the news and the rest that don’t.
You’ve heard the stories about the five severed heads rolled onto the floor of a Michoacan nightclub in 2006, the 300 bodies dissolved in acid by a servant of one drug lord, the 49 mutilated bodies found in plastic bags by the side of the road in Monterrey in May, the nine bodies found hanging from an overpass in Nuevo Laredo just last month, the Zeta Cartel’s videotaped beheadings just two weeks ago, the carnage that has taken tens of thousands of Mexican lives in the last decade and has terrorized a whole nation. I’ve read them and so many more. I am sorry 50,000 times over.
The drug war is fueled by many things, and maybe the worst drug of all is money, to which so many are so addicted that they can never get enough. It’s a drug for which they will kill, destroying communities and ecologies, even societies, whether for the sake of making drones, Wall Street profits, or massive heroin sales. Then there are the actual drugs, to which so many others turn for numbness.
There is variety in the range of drugs. I know that marijuana mostly just makes you like patio furniture, while heroin renders you ethereally indifferent and a little reptilian, and cocaine pumps you up with your own imaginary fabulousness before throwing you down into your own trashiness. And then there’s meth, which seems to have the same general effect as rabies, except that the victims crave it desperately.
Whatever their differences, these drugs, when used consistently, constantly, destructively, are all anesthesia from pain. The Mexican drug cartels crave money, but they make that money from the way Yankees across the border crave numbness. They sell unfeeling. We buy it. We spend tens of billions of dollars a year doing so, and by some estimates about a third to a half of that money goes back to Mexico. [read on]