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Column 012113 Brewer

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mexico Must Maintain Policies and Actions versus All Criminals

By Jerry Brewer

Mexico is preceding towards yet another crossroad that could ultimately result in escalated violence and a significant loss of productive continuity, this due to political vacillation and disunited strategies.


President Enrique Peña Nieto has promised what he believes to be an earnest attempt at countering “traditional street crime” and violence in lieu of countering narcotics and transnational organized criminal strategies. He seems to have rejected former President Felipe Calderon’s “kingpin” strategies, as well as what could be perceived as the U.S. and Mexico’s “war on drugs.”


The U.S. is finally transitioning into a mindset that more clearly identifies the modus operandi of transnational organized crime perpetrators in Mexico and the northern cone of Central America, and their strategic and sophisticated well-armed capabilities. This after missing the wakeup call in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico in 2005, which showcased the superior firepower and espionage-like tradecraft of the enemy that was, and is, reminiscent of terrorist groups.


The Pentagon has proposed “a new U.S.-based special operations headquarters to teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way special operations teams hunt al-Qaida.” Officials say they intend to “build on a commando program that has brought Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study U.S. counterterrorist operations,” to show them how special operations troops targeted al-Qaida, its mastermind, and loyal followers.


Peña Nieto has repeatedly said that the primary objective of his government is the decrease in violent crimes, in particular homicide, kidnapping and extortion.  Peña Nieto, however, says that his proposal does not mean that the government will not tackle other crimes or preventative actions against drug trafficking, but rather he has noted that “arresting drug bosses will no longer be the focus of his administration.”


The fact is that through cooperative actions, intelligence sharing, U.S. training, and other support 26 of at least 37 “most wanted kingpins” have been killed and captured.


Current Mexican officials in Peña Nieto’s administration have attacked the prior strategy of disrupting and dismantling the drug organizations as counterproductive, claiming that thusly kidnapping and homicide rates were increased, which in turn significantly increased the conflict. As well, Mexico's new Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, has said that “instead of the seven large trafficking groups, which were present at the beginning of the Calderon administration in 2006, the new administration faces approximately 80 smaller and more violent groups.”


This is where Mexico’s new administration lacks the expertise to understand much of the kingpin strategy and what has taken place. As in traditional terrorism, smaller cellular-like groups are more compartmentalized and often do not know the specifics or extent of their true leadership or full mission. This structure insulates and thus protects higher members and allows them to be more elusive and anonymous.


This fragmentation forces some groups to pursue alternative sources of lucrative revenue through robbery, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, human/sex trafficking, and other violent acts.  Too, this partial autonomy forces some to engage in alliances with other groups. However, substantive targeting of the stronger violent groups and hierarchies removed many of the remorseless and impulsive psychopaths leading and leaving a swath of bloody carnage across Mexico.


Peña Nieto’s ideas and policies must not place less emphasis on violence reduction. Nor can the organized crime nature of transnational networks that operate beyond the realm of simple violent street crime be ignored.


The Mexican president should rely on the previous and current U.S. experience and focus with special operations that have been successful in targeting criminal networks in the Middle East.  This experience is a wealth of commando-style counterterrorist operations and intelligence gathering operational acts that have proven track records in capturing and eliminating terror masterminds and their underlings. Although splintered factions regroup and organize to live another day, they generally lack the cohesive ability to communicate effectively with their leaders, as well as to operate pursuant to a common agenda.


A fascinated world audience has read and been inundated over the past eight years or so by a play-by-play regarding the structures of the “drug cartels,” and who is in charge and not, as well as descriptions of the brutal torture, death, and terrorism-identical beheadings. In a way, this has perpetuated the lore of their perceived power, the intense fear that they project, and gives them an identity that allows them to demand and enforce respect from all within their path.


Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have seen their police ritually murdered, and their military forces attacked and ambushed head-on with superior firepower and tactics.


There is no question that police and other criminal justice infrastructure elements must take hold in these regions, but a safety net is needed now as citizens are taking up arms and fighting back. Recent death reports note that there were at least 70,000 people killed in 2006 and 2007 alone. And the missing cannot be counted.


Mexico’s president must not allow the region to explode with even increased terror by missing the opportunity to rely on the experience and expertise of those who fight world terror and terrorist groups. As well, U.S. officials now understand who the enemies to the south are, and how they must be fought.



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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