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Column 031912 Brewer

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mexico's War vs. Organized Crime, Goons and Savage Gangsters

By Jerry Brewer

It has taken many years for the U.S. to answer a wakeup call to the Mexican border.  As far back as 2005, when the sophistication of Mexican and other transnational organized criminals graphically manifested their superior tactics and armament on the streets of Nuevo Laredo, a nation scrambled to demand walls and fences regardless of the associated costs.

The "gang" culture of violence from Latin America had long since penetrated the U.S. border and set up shop in many major U.S. cities.  As well, these gangs had been building personnel infrastructures for years, assimilating with U.S. prison gangs -- particularly in southwestern states and California. People were later shocked to learn that there were well over 300,000 gang members in California alone.

While local U.S. police jurisdictions were valiantly working to interdict gang crime activities and violence at local levels, for the most part many remained narrowly focused on a continuing problem of illegal migrants.  Other astute strategic intelligence forecasters began to place their eyes on U.S. Border Patrol reports of being stalked along the border and mountainous regions, shot at, and speaking of tactical and military-like strategies in cover and concealment used against them, surveillance, and the use of radios in communication to "spot" law enforcement movements and patrols.

We would later learn that these new violent and cancer-like enemies, known as Los Zetas, were former Mexican tactical military troops that had abandoned their ranks and quickly became enforcers contracting to another drug cartel.  Many of those subsequently recruited into their ranks had similar military specialties, such as those from the tactical Kaibiles of Guatemala.

The evil criminal drug empire that remained in the shadows while pumping billions of dollars in drugs into the U.S. was now looking to build and expand drug routes, eliminate competition, and confront any police, government, or military interdiction effort head on.  They needed to graphically make their presence and strength known - and they did.

Now, seven years later, we continue to scratch our heads, stare in bewilderment, and try to figure where to stick our finger in the dike and plug the border.

Reportedly more than 50,000 people have been killed due to drug trade violence in Mexico alone since late 2006. This new culture of extreme violence goes well beyond a war on drugs.  The weary, as well as armchair quarterbacks are quick to offer easy solutions to end the massive violence and deaths. Their options range from legalizing drugs, to leave the traffickers alone and they won't bother anyone, let them work it out among themselves, and stop the extreme enforcement methods that are driving the violence.

The war on drugs is most definitely a war against crime.  The fact is that there will always be a war to confront murder with impunity, lawlessness, mayhem, and graphic examples of barbaric brutality.  Should the aggressive crime interdiction efforts be curtailed?

It was astonishing to recently hear, during a top military commander's testimony before the US Senate, the claim that the targeting of drug cartel leaders "did not have an apparent positive effect in Mexico."

U.S. Northern Command leader General Charles Jacoby told the Senate's Armed Services Committee that Mexico had successfully killed or captured 22 out of 37 of Mexico's most wanted drug traffickers, as identified by the Mexican government -- adding that the results had "no appreciable effect," as violence continues to escalate in Mexico.

What he failed to acknowledge is that violence has sky-rocketed in many of the nations of Central America -- some rising to world record homicide rates.

The United Nations joined the quick-fix pundits to urge "the withdrawal of military forces from public safety operations."  A noble thought but an impossible and unrealistic suggestion since the transnational organized criminal insurgents could easily defeat nearly any armed enforcement action against them, with their superior firepower and web of corrupting influences via their massive wealth. 

As it applies to a "drug war," much of the drug cartels' power is now centralized in low-level decision-making, and not consolidated in hierarchy or top-down accountability as was most prevalent before the aggressive enforcement interdiction. 

This fragmented nature has unleashed and relaunched traditional crime gangs in Honduras and Guatemala, and in some neighboring nations, where gang members have stepped-up acts of murder for hire, extortion, human trafficking, kidnapping, and other violent actions. Moreover, when it comes to drugs -- the Mara Salvatrucha gangs have been in U.S. cities since the early 1990s.

In essence, outside of a "war on drugs" there must be a war on crime in Mexico and Central America, with appropriate law enforcement and judicial processes overhauled.

Powerful street gangs are increasingly approaching a take-the-lead posture. And a Latin American culture of violence could experience a renaissance with these new "super-powered" street gangs.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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