I’ve just been reading one of the more “sensational” Wikileaks cables from Mexico, one of which was written by US Charge D’Affairs John Feeley. I’ve met Feely, and he seemed quite a positive/optimistic guy, so some of this does come across as quite dire. But the headlines (“Mexico is losing drug war, US says” for example) are a bit overblown.
A sampling of one of Feeley’s cables (my comments are in all capitals):
Calderon has aggressively attacked Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations but has struggled with an unwieldy and uncoordinated interagency and spiraling rates of violence that have made him vulnerable to criticism that his anti-crime strategy has failed. Indeed, the GOM’s [Government of Mexico’s] inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides in places like Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere – the nationwide total topped 7,700 in 2009 – has become one of Calderon’s principal political liabilities as the general public has grown more concerned about citizen security.
ALL TRUE, VERY ACCURATE. I LIKE HIS FRANKNESS ABOUT ‘INABILITY’ TO HALT VIOLENCE.
Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as another’s failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of.
THIS IS OF VITAL IMPORTANCE IN MEXICO RIGHT NOW. HERE’S A QUOTE FROM A GENERAL IN MY BOOK ABOUT INTELLIGENCE SHARING: ‘EVERY TIME WE FIND OR DO SOMETHING, A SUPERVISOR COMES TO SUPERVISE THE SUPERVISOR WHO HAS BEEN SENT TO SUPERVISE US… THE NARCOS KNOW RIGHT AWAY WHEN WE FIND SOMETHING.”
Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among “clean” law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants.
THE USE OF QUOTATION MARKS AROUND CLEAN IS OMINOUS. DOUBTS OVER THE CLEANLINESS OF APPARENTLY CLEAN COPS CONTINUE. THE DEA IS EVEN KEEPING CLOSE TABS ON GARCIA LUNA, I”VE BEEN TOLD. THAT IS SERIOUS CAUSE FOR CONCERN.
The military was not trained to patrol the streets or carry out law enforcement operations.
FINALLY, SOMEONE ADMITS THIS ON THE RECORD. AS A SOURCE OF MINE ONCE CONFIDED: “THESE GUYS JUST KICK DOWN DOORS AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT HOUSE.”
Below the surface of military professionalism, there is also considerable tension between SEDENA and SEMAR. SEDENA has come to be seen slow and risk averse even where it should succeed.
TRUE. BUT NOT NOTED IS THAT THE TENSION MAINLY SPRINGS FROM THE FACT THAT SEMAR IS SEEN AS LESS CORRUPTIBLE, BECAUSE IT IS NOT AS IMMERSED IN ANTI-DRUG OPS, AND THEREFORE LESS FREQUENTLY EXPOSED TO NARCOS AND THEIR INFLUENCE.
What SEDENA, and to a lesser extent SEMAR, need most is a comprehensive, interactive discussion that will encourage them to look holistically at culture, training and doctrine in a way that will support modernization and allow them to address a wider range of military missions.
THIS LINE IS ABSOLUTE HOKEY BULLSHIT. HOLISTICALLY? THIS LINE REVEALS TO ME HOW LITTLE THE STATE DEPT ACTUALLY KNOWS ABOUT HOW THE MILITARY AND SEMAR ACTUALLY OPERATE. THEY”RE PRESCRIBING RHETORICALLY-NICE REMEDIES INSTEAD.
We are having some success in influencing the GOM to transition the military to secondary support functions in Juarez. But in the near term, there is no escaping that the military will play a role in public security.
GOOD NEWS. JUAREZ IS NOT READY FOR THE MILITARY TO LEAVE, LIKE IT OR NOT.
So, a pretty interesting look at how the Embassy sees the situation in Mexico. But it doesn’t exactly say that the Mexican government is losing, does it? And in fact, nowhere in the cable does Feeley even call it a war. Which I believe is quite interesting too.