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Column 032210 Brewer

Monday, March 22, 2010

'Spillover' Violence ranges beyond the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Jerry Brewer

As the knee jerk and handwringing starts with officials pondering the continued graphic violence in Mexico, the geographic analysis of the spillover into the U.S. demands much more centralized direction than simply sugarcoating the obvious effects.

One of the curious signs of government rhetoric has been in the attempts to define the new phenomenon known as “spillover.”  The interagency community, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), defines the spillover violence as follows:

“Spillover violence entails deliberate, planned attacks by the cartels on U.S. assets, including civilian, military, or law enforcement officials, innocent U.S. citizens, or physical institutions such as government buildings, consulates, or businesses. This definition does not include trafficker on trafficker violence, whether perpetrated in Mexico or the U.S.”

A generic, well-manicured and spoon-fed explanation of spillover makes it extremely difficult to swallow, whether we are actually being spilled on, saturated, or could expect flood stages.  The U.S. at bare minimum deserves a better threat assessment by at least accurately standardizing the true measurement process.

Drug violence and murder with impunity is what it is, regardless of where it takes place.  Are we so na´ve as to believe that the 2,000 mile USA/Mexico border is the dividing line where transnational drug traffickers check their manners, respect the locals, and simply go after the competition?

While government officials in Mexico have been quick to describe a figure of 90% of murders in Mexico targeting members of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), the numbers morally fail the test of humanity. 

In fairness, the recent targeted assassinations of three people tied to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez are an exception, albeit DTOs are suspected of the hits.  Far more incidents demonstrate the ritualistic murder style of these brazen murderers that go far beyond the retaliation mentality.  In late January, 13 high school and college students were killed by gunmen.  It is believed that approximately 500 women were murdered in the state of Chihuahua since the late 1980s.  Who are those attributed to? 

Much of the U.S. violence from DTOs is rationalized away as essentially being confined to the border areas where drug production links up with smuggling.  In fact, in 2006 it was reported that the Tucson (Arizona) Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol had reported "more than a hundred" attacks against Border Patrol agents along the border by "paramilitary-looking attackers."  It was further reported that the narcoterrorists had placed bounties on the lives of U.S. law enforcement officers. 

The ritual slaughter of police, government officials and media representatives by DTOs within Mexico is, by definition, out-and-out terrorism.  UN Security Council Resolution 1566 delineates terrorism as "… criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the … purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or [other] persons, intimidate a population or compel a government … to do or abstain from doing any act….” 

The U.S. memory must not fade from prior murderous events on U.S. soil by DTOs.  In 2005 a report in Dallas, Texas described “execution-style murders, burned bodies and outright mayhem.”  Phoenix’s huge kidnapping rate has also been linked to human smuggling operations.  Narcoterrorists have been blamed for killings in many other U.S. cities, including Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as for operations in at least 230 U.S. cities.  Those are just the hub networks, with expansion dispersed from urban, suburban, and rural areas to cover supply efforts to meet the demand for drugs and other contraband.

The simple fact is that DTOs have been on U.S. soil for quite some time.  They have established highly sophisticated smuggling infrastructures within the country.  And for distribution they utilize, among others, U.S. street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs. Much of this assimilation by Latin American gangs has been from within U.S. prison walls.

As well, competition retaliation is going far beyond routine execution.  Homicide experts know the definition of the term “overkill,” and displayed beheadings, torture, and burned bodies are just that.  Moreover, it has certainly been disturbing to hear U.S. Border Patrol agents report that they were not prepared to fight an enemy "this sophisticated and well armed.”

The U.S. threat dilemma, having gone unchecked without viable attention and strategies, or simply due to misdiagnosing or ignoring the symptoms of this plague and the need to interdict the narcoterrorism threat, has graphically worsened due to associated violent street gangs in major metropolitan areas such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles.  The "mega cartel" is continuing to merge as many rival factions fuse together in a unified effort of superior power and weaponry.   

There are an estimated 100,000 gang members in greater Los Angeles alone.  Perhaps our “spillover” is a little out of check.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in Miami, Florida.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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