Pubdate: Sun, 11 Jan 2009
Source: Nevada Appeal (Carson City, NV)
Copyright: 2009 Nevada Appeal
Author: Guy W. Farmer
Note: Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, worked on a number of anti-narcotics
programs during his 28-year U.S. Foreign  Service career.


As I've written before, the escalating and increasingly violent drug
wars in Mexico represent a serious national security threat to the
United States. And recognizing the proven link between drug
trafficking and illegal immigration, we should urge our elected 
representatives to reject amnesty programs disguised as 
"comprehensive immigration reform."

Last October I wrote a column quoting local terrorism expert Larry
Martines, a former homeland security adviser to Gov. Jim Gibbons, on
the connection between illegal immigration and drug trafficking in
Northern Nevada and elsewhere throughout the nation. According to
Martines, four ultra-violent Mexican drug cartels are battling for
control of lucrative drug routes into the United States. He also
reported that more than  5,000 Mexicans - including women and children
caught in  the crossfire -- have been killed since 2006.

Since I wrote that column the security situation along the Mexican
border has deteriorated and some experts, including Martines, fear
that the Mexican government is losing control of the situation
despite U.S. financial assistance and the best efforts of
center-right President Felipe Calderon. Following a three-day visit 
to Mexico last month, former U.S. Drug Czar Gen. (ret.) Barry
McCaffrey, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, concluded that "the
Mexican state is engaged in an increasingly violent internal struggle
against heavily armed narco-criminal cartels that have intimidated
the public, corrupted much of law enforcement and created an
environment of impunity to the law."

Moreover, although the United States is pouring hundreds of millions
of dollars into Mexico to combat drug cartels, the results are
disappointing. As Gen. McCaffrey noted, "The struggle for power among
drug  cartels has resulted in chaos in Mexico and in cities along the
U.S.-Mexico border. Drug-related assassinations and kidnappings are
now commonplace occurrences throughout the country," and cross-border
violence extends to nearly 300 U.S. cities including  Las Vegas,
where a 6-year-old boy was kidnapped last October in a drug deal gone
bad. Northern Nevada is almost certainly in the cartels' gunsights as
they  search for new territory to conquer, and they are probably
recruiting well-armed gang bangers in Reno and Carson City.

On a personal note, I spent last Thanksgiving with friends in San
Diego and over that holiday weekend more than 30 Mexicans were
murdered just across the border in Tijuana. The situation is even
worse in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, where a top
federal prosecutor was gunned down in mid-December by drug 
traffickers at a busy intersection just 100 yards from the U.S.
border -- one of 1,600 homicides in Ciudad Juarez last year.

And then there's the entrenched corruption problem. "Corruption is
pervasive and ruins the trust among Mexican law enforcement
institutions at the local, state and federal levels," McCaffrey
wrote. Mexico's former Drug Czar, Noe Ramirez Mandujano, was arrested
last year on suspicion of taking a $400,000 bribe from the drug
cartels and just last month Mexican Army Maj. Arturo Gonzalez, a
member of President Calderon's security detail, was arrested for
being on the cartels' payroll to the tune of $100,000 per month, more
than a Mexican soldier could earn in many years.

According to Martines and others, Gonzalez's arrest exposed
potentially fatal flaws in the president's protective detail and
represented a security breach at thehighest level. The Los Angeles
Times recently described a dilemma facing the incoming Obama 
administration: "Either walk away or support President Calderon's
strategy, even with the risk that counter-narcotics intelligence,
equipment and training could end up in the hands of cartel bosses."

Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff  ast week urged
his successor, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, to place border
security at the top of her policy agenda. She should do that and
renew our commitment to the $400 million Merida Initiative in order
to keep Mexican drug violence out of the United States.

- - Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, worked on a number of anti-narcotics
programs during his 28-year U.S. Foreign  Service career.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin