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Column 081505 Brewer

Monday, August 15, 2005


U.S. frustration with Mexico may be growing


By Jerry Brewer


News reports of death and violence in Mexico are near daily reading, with savagery taking place not only along the northern border and in states like Sinaloa, but in popular resort areas such as Cancun and Acapulco.


In what is becoming old hat, the Gulf Cartel and drug traffickers from Sinaloa fight for control of routes into the U.S.  As well, they are at war over marijuana and heroin production and supply in Mexico’s western states, including Guerrero where Acapulco is located. 


Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo is now calling for the Mexican federal government to help him fight back.  Torreblanca has reported that the gangs killed more than 20 people in the resort area over the last year, with four execution-style killings on August 10, 2005, alone.  But it seems the governor is more mindful of tourism implications, as he says that he “wants police, not soldiers” on the streets so as not to scare off some 1.5 million visitors that include many Americans. 


Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, in turn is asking the Mexican government to keep its word concerning human rights.  While in Mexico City in early August, Khan participated in a public forum for political parties in the upcoming presidential election campaign, and she reminded them, “Mexico has made the promise of human rights, it has adopted international obligations.”


Khan slammed home the issue of the murders of more than 300 young women in and around Ciudad Juarez over the last decade.  “There is no confidence among the mothers about the intention of the government both at state level and the federal level, because these are women who have been waiting ten years for justice.” 


Meanwhile, back in Nuevo Laredo the drug war continues without the usual details as journalists have stopped investigating and reporting.  Many of their colleagues have been killed and threatened.  Daniel Rosa, the managing editor of the daily El Maņana in Nuevo Laredo said: “It is the new trend of drug gangs — journalists are warned, paid off, or killed.”  The editor of El Maņana, Roberto Garcia, was stabbed to death on March 19, 2004.


The journalists complain that corruption makes it impossible for them to research their stories accurately.  Yet more serious, the reporters note that Tamaulipas is the most dangerous place to work in Mexico.  Since January there have been at least 108 execution-style murders, whereas over the last year 173 people have disappeared, including 23 still missing Americans.


In February a reporter with the Televisa TV network was gunned down after airing a report on the paramilitary group known as the Zetas.  The Zetas were accused of involvement in the disappearances of both Mexicans and Americans in Nuevo Laredo, but the TV coup-de-grace probably came when the broadcaster said municipal police back the Zetas, and that they have an informant in the Mexican Army.  


Nearly 1,000 soldiers, federal agents and police were sent to the border in Nuevo Laredo in June, a show of force that left a current legacy of 50 new killings, bringing the body count to 110.


Recent attacks on U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector, and reports of armed paramilitary types crossing into the U.S. in apparent efforts to escort drug loads, is now prompting U.S. government officials to step up to the plate with a no nonsense agenda.


At the state level, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has declared states of emergency in four border counties due to crime and unlawful migration.  He also wants to fence an area near the border.  Richardson said this is due to “violence directed at law enforcement, damage to property and livestock, increased evidence of drug smuggling, and an increase in the number of undocumented immigrants.”


Richardson further stated in a rather bold tone that the border situation “constitutes an emergency condition with potentially catastrophic consequences.”


The Mexican government immediately criticized Richardson’s decision, claiming that his actions “don’t jibe with the spirit of cooperation and understanding.”


As to Nuevo Laredo, reportedly Mexico is showing considerable sensitivity to U.S. criticism regarding the region’s violence.  One of the active critics is Congressman Henry Cuellar (D, Texas), who has been urging Mexican officials to control and end the violence.


However last week Cuellar said that the “Mexican government has been offered all sorts of U.S. help to deal with the problem, but has refused.”  Furthermore, Cuellar declared that Mexican officials appear unwilling to do what it takes to deal with the growing problem.


Jerry Brewer is Vice President of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama.  He can be reached via e-mail at Cjiaincusa@aol.com