The Mexican Drug War – Updated (Part Two)

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In the first part of this short series, we discussed why efforts being undertaken by the Mexican government won’t have any lasting impact, and why the Americans don’t care.

Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto
The ruling PRI political organization and its traditionally nationalistic prejudice against foreign encroachment on matters of state security, along with that party’s desperate desire to re-establish hegemony by capitalizing on the electorate’s weariness of a now-stratospheric death toll, led to Peña Nieto’s call for a new strategy, the goal of which is not a large-scale interdiction of narcotics and the capture or killing of drug lords, as the U.S. wants, but rather an amorphous and politically expedient platitude of “reducing violence.”

Mexican President Peña Nieto’s government (to their credit) stopped taking money from the same narcos that the Calderon government favored. They picked different winners. During the presidential campaign and his first months in power, Peña Nieto promised to de-militarize the war by creating a civilian paramilitary gendarmerie along Colombian lines, and though he has appointed former Colombian general Oscar Naranjo as his security adviser, the proposed force’s status remains, and is likely to remain, in limbo. As the country’s economy grows at an impressive annual rate of approximately 3.8%, the unprecedented violence unleashed during the previous presidential administration has not abetted in any real way. In fact, in many parts of Mexico it is spreading and increasing, becoming more uniform throughout the country, even though various cartels’ territorial lines have remained largely static. 

President Peña Nieto is not a puppet of the narcos, but he is clearly acting out an agenda that favors one group over another, as the PRI did back in the 1980’s when they did their best to ‘organize’ organized crime.

US – Mexican Relations Deteriorated

On December 15, 2012, two weeks after Peña Nieto was sworn-in as the new president, a tense and premonitory meeting took place at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City between the new government’s national security team, including the new interior minister, attorney general, and various Mexican intelligence officials, and agents of the FBI, CIA, DEA, as well as representatives from the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Maintaining a subtle calmness, the scandalized Mexican grandees were briefed on the extent of U.S.-Mexico cooperation in the hemispheric struggle to stem the tide of narcotics into American streets.

The Mexicans were informed that as the violence escalated in quantity and degree, the two countries’ partnership and fierce determination also deepened. By 2011, there was an intelligence fusion center run by the CIA in Mexico City, one run by the DEA in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, as well as massive American infrastructure development inside CISEN, the Mexican intelligence agency. While American spies aided the various branches of the Mexican military in real-time during raids and intelligence gathering expeditions, U.S. spy planes were given full rights to patrol the skies, and unarmed drones provided Mexican Special Forces with information on the daily patterns of activity of targeted kingpins and their henchmen. To stem the constant threat of cartel intelligence agents’ penetrating the Mexican security services, the CIA’s then-classified program SCENIC was training the Mexicans on vetting methods, as well as on successful asset recruitment. President Calderon had come to rely so much on drones, that he decided to not only purchase some, but also asked the U.S. for armed drones to strike at the traffickers, a request that was turned down due to the immense political risk of collateral damage in politically volatile Mexico. President Calderon had also given U.S. agents the rather exceptional privilege of actually choosing which branches of the Mexican military, and further, which units, received the actionable intelligence, thereby also implicitly agreeing to the Americans’ assessment of the reliability (read incorruptibility) of specific units and officers.

Four months after the above mentioned meeting, President Peña Nieto’s team delivered the first changes to the U.S.-Mexico anti-drug efforts. The PRI appointees declared that Americans would no longer be allowed to work inside the intelligence fusion centers, and that direct communication between civilian CIA and DEA agents and their contacts in the Mexican military was now prohibited.

The PRI needs to be able to organize the narcos under the party’s banner and with party control over large shipments north. They can’t do that with the US flying drones overhead or with US spies reporting on what’s going on both on the streets and in the seat of power.

From an American point of view, the war ended.

(h/t Christopher S. Ljungquist for portions of the information contained in this report to you, the reader)

Coming Soon: Sinaloa Federation Pivots Toward Canada

The Canadians are starting to care about this. But they’ve been warned about it for over two years now and said nothing but “cheers – eh?”

18 thoughts on “The Mexican Drug War – Updated (Part Two)

  1. Local and provincial police are useless in the narcotics enforcement effort. Too scared or too involved. Without the Federales/military taking an even harder stance this is not going away.

    I know this is really a simplistic view, but there's just too much money at stake and too many greedy politicians. Same in the USA.

  2. The elements of narcotics related offenses are generally the simplest to prove, but the money involved has embedded multi-generational networks so deeply that they are very difficult to ferret out. With Mexico having given up on the effort in all but name, you're right. It's become exceptionally difficult to combat without resorting to extraordinary means.

    Some of those measures (both legal and effective) with almost no political downside were available, but rejected by the Obama Administration simply because of lack of interest.

  3. Ack! I was hoping for at least a decrease in violence from all the Mexican "Hope and Change".

  4. Have things slipped far enough that Mexico is simply a narco-state? From this update it would seem that the President of Mexico is more interested in a solid relationship with the cartels than us – if true, where do you see things going over the next 10 years? I suspect with the new amnesty bill working through Congress we will be presented with the gift of thousands of new narco "representatives" among the influx of migrants. Not a pretty picture, no matter how you slice it.

  5. Taking the points one-at-a-time:

    *Mexico is an oligarchy (and the same is often said of the US) where a power elite calls the shots. There are a few different factions, but roughly two dozen people make all of the decisions that are made there, and they include the narco interests. The power struggle between various factions is fluid, but inter-marriage with both narcos and the power elite keep it inside of the broader family.

    *Mexico is gripped by change that has very little to do with politics. Women are entering the workforce and the economy is growing faster than that of the US. Family size is shrinking as Mexico enters a more modern world. With a declining population and more jobs, there will be far less migration north over the next 10 years.

    *The narcos are firmly in the US and have been for generations. Amnesty won't impact that at all. I realize that's not the stock conservative response, but it's true. In any modest size US city (200,000 or more), you'll find literally hundreds of narcotics pipeline nodes. Most of them move money or drugs – and don't ever touch the retail end. Each particular node is a "family" and move money or drugs down the road to other "family". Most of these people in the US are already legal.

    *The problem for Mexico is keeping the lid on the country. When the government decided to pick winners and losers in the narco war, the losers didn't agree with their status and started killing soldiers and police officers and still are. It's not a happy place.

  6. I think that at one point, he was. His wife is a soap opera star and together, they're sort of a TV family.

    I know one person in Mexico who used to be his boss. Before he became president, I asked him about Enrique. He said, "The man is an empty suit." I mused at the time that we had an empty chair.

  7. Thank you for the above clarification, and putting it in terms an average person can understand. I appreciate it.

  8. Empty suit and empty chair, guess that means the cartels are running BOTH countries… sigh…

  9. Re: Canada – The cops there have been at the narcotics – and the Asian Crime – problems for years. They were going at it hard, but many of the "powers that be" didn't see it was a major problem. Changing their mind are they?

  10. The Hell's Angels, Triads and Italian mafia were more manageable than the Sinaloa Federation is. Canada, long a haven for organized crime because of the liberal government's policies is finding that they may have bit off more than they can chew.

  11. Waiting for your "Sinaloa Federation Pivots Toward Canada" series with great interest, LL.

    We are right below Canada and there is a great deal of international trafficking passing through us. Throw in the St. Regis Indian Reservation (it encompasses both sides of the border over the St. Lawrence River) and it gets real crazy on the northern borders of NYS. Not much of it makes the papers. This nexus is boiler plate in all applications for narco-enforcement federal aid I write.

    As Wofat says, the cops have been going at it hot and heavy for years. But us local guys only smack the low- and mid-level distributors. The last time I was in patrol, my uniformed guys were targeting Hells Angels start up crews. We knocked the crap out of them (literally – we could get away with more shit back then) but that was in 1994. I now see that the Angels have finally set up shop here and the meth trade has taken off. The northern counties have an incredible problem with meth. Just handled a call from another DA north of us. They estimate that 90% of all crime in their county is meth based.

    Despite what many people think, northern NY is extremely rural – more like Utah. Times are hard in the North Country and many farms and housing went under and you can pick them up dirt cheap. Now factor in that law enforcement is spread very, very thin and you have a rich environment for meth labs. The Angels have dug in like ticks feeding off this.

  12. As some of the others who read this blog know, I was a patched member of a scooter club while undercover some years ago, circa 1992. That was at about the time that now NY Police Commissioner David Chong (good friend of mine) was u/c in the Flying Dragons in NY.

  13. Never worked u/c. Truth be told, never wanted to either. Closest I came to it was a stint in vice as a pigeon for the working girls. Were you NYPD?

  14. While the population isn't there, the market for drugs in Canada is great – and the borders, well, hahahahahahhahhahaha…

  15. No, but David and I got immunity from the same Federal System — David on the East Coast, me on the West Coast. The immunity was doled out in advance every day or every few days (in the event of a weekend) in case you had to do something "inherently wrong" because of your assignment.

  16. I think of the movie, "Wag the Dog" and Willie Nelson singing, "I guard the Canadian Border".

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