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Column 063014 Brewer

Monday, June 30, 2014

Border Interdiction Actions Face Moral and Ethical Hurdles

By Jerry Brewer

The fluid movement of transnational organized criminal insurgents and other Central Americans through Mexico has become much more than a national security issue. The maladies of transnational organized crime and terror are real and graphic, and they are nightmarish elements that prominently exist in the western hemisphere.

Traditional thinking sometimes fails to recognize that people and cultures have radically different world views or conceptual schemes that ultimately drive human behavior and too often cannot be understood by others.

Major changes in thought patterns can result in radical changes in personal beliefs, organizations, systems, and thus replace the former way of processing with a radically different way of thinking. Today's Latin America is clearly demonstrating that all kinds of belief systems are not equal.

In Mexico, the fact that their National Defense Ministry (SEDENA) admits that the military is outgunned by criminal groups highlights how easy it is for criminal insurgents and other violent gangs to obtain military grade armaments, as well as aggressively attack and ambush military and police.

Ironically, Mexico has strict gun laws.  One 2011 estimate held that there are as many as 20 million illegal weapons circulating in Mexico, in contrast to around 5.5 million legal ones.

It took a while after years of bloodshed for many Mexican government and policing officials to acknowledge that Mexico's political apparatus needed to immediately work to achieve common ground on understanding the real threats to the Mexican homeland even beyond the drug trade, as murder, robbery, human trafficking, kidnapping and extortion became common place events. The fact was that failed state status was a question, and the potential to totally destabilize a hemisphere was not farfetched.

Political aspirants in Mexico were few to discuss or acknowledge the challenge to the power and sovereignty of Mexico, and Mexico’s inherent ability to protect its people. Political platforms and issues appeared to fall short on addressing the massive death and violence, thus substituting perceived causation via poverty, the weak economy, scarce resources, and other economic deficiencies. Realities to be faced included that without military involvement in security and policing, cities would continue to be overrun and allow essentially free reign for the criminal insurgents and gangs to operate and rule with reckless abandon.

Yet it was clear that the military could not, and cannot, be the “police” to provide 21st century technical law enforcement methodology.

Although the Mexican government refused to acknowledge the similarities with Colombia's criminal violence and deaths of over 20 years ago, the threat to both nation's national security and democracy were virtually isotropic.

There is little doubt that Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are strategic operating regions for criminal groups and their barbaric violence to seize and maintain control of diverse markets of criminality.  These areas are for the most part geographically remote and poorly governed.  Being poorly resourced allows little progress in the fight against any criminal activity. Strengthening local police and judicial systems without militarized security elements to provide security and reliability against superior weaponry would be nearly impossible in those regions, as well as many parts of Mexico.

Much of the extreme brutality and macabre style of violence in Mexico, with similarities to jihadist terror methods of hangings, beheadings, dismemberments, human destruction with acid or fire, and related methods, is being seen in the northern Central American nations. These methods and psychological tactics have always been very effective in creating hysteria and associated fear to serve as controlling agents and thus gaining voluntary compliance from victims.

In November of 2013 Mexico City’s Reforma newspaper reported that as many as 250 mayors have been “threatened and pressured” by organized crime groups.  In addition, in 2013 a study claims that “up to 200,000 people in Mexico” could be involved in death squads.

In February of this year yet more remains from clandestine graves were located in northern Mexico, in Coahuila State.  The remains of at least 500 people have been found in just 10 days in a search for missing people of at least 11 municipalities. The majority of the remains were nearly bones, some of them were found burnt by incineration.

Much of this hysteria is being attributed to the unaccompanied children and families that are fleeing Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador for the United States border.

Of course each nation must be concerned about its own homeland and the significant challenges ahead with its own limited resources.  But Latin America's democracies must not acquiesce to cross-border strong-arm tactics, whether the border is contiguous or not.

Political leaders within this hemisphere, especially in Central America, Mexico and the United States, must urgently announce their vociferous concerns for the value of all human life regardless of ethnicity and move urgently to form alliances with neighboring nations to address these life and death issues in the backyards of our world.  


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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