Monday links 1/12/09
**The US-Mexican border; photo courtesy of Monica Almeida/The New York Times
• Beltrán Leyva versus the Zetas (again): El Universal reports that the alliance between the Beltrán Levya cartel and the Zetas (cemented May of last year) may be over, after local police detained several heavily armed Beltrán Levya members on their way to run out Zetas from Jalisco. An interesting detail from the article is that the Tonalá police called the Army directly for back-up, instead of other local or federal police.
• Two US Senators (Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX) proposed a bill today that would give the Justice Department’s “Project Gunrunner Initiative” some $30 million more to target arms smuggling across the US-Mexico border, including funding to hire and train an additional 80 agents.
• Meanwhile, Obama and Calderón met in Washington today to discuss the bilateral relationship. To the press, they mostly spoke about cooperation in general terms. (No mention of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban!) See coverage in the Dallas News here. Every English-language news source I read included this line, spoken by Calderón to the press in English: “The more secure Mexico is, the more secure the U.S. will be.”
• The IHT guides us to a recently released report from the United States Joint Forces Command, “Joint Operating Environment 2008”, which cites fears of a possible collapse of the Mexican government. According to the Small Wars Journal, the report is designed to discuss “the future operating environment and their implication for the future joint force” and to “spark discussions with the widest set of national security and multinational partners about the nature of the future security environment and its potential military requirements.” Of Mexico, the Joint Force writes:
In terms of worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico… [While state failure in Mexico is less likely than in Pakistan,] the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state.
The article also states succinctly the big question regarding recent high-level corruption that has emerged as part of Calderón’s “Operation Cleanup”: “Depending on one’s view, the arrests are successes in a publicly declared anticorruption drive or evidence of how deeply criminal mafias have penetrated the organs of the state.”
• The coup in Guinea isn’t making anyone more confident about the drug situation there. Per Reuters,
In recent years, U.N. anti-narcotics experts say Guinea and its neighbours have faced a serious threat to their stability from Colombian drug-trafficking cartels using the West African coast as a transit hub to smuggle cocaine to Europe. “There were reports that drug-traffickers had infiltrated all structures, including law enforcement and the military apparatus,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the representative in West Africa of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The junta leader has promised a crack down on drugs. But some of the soldiers who support him were among those who ransacked the offices of the counter-narcotics unit in June, destroying all records, when they put down a police mutiny.
• Photo-journalist Alessandro Scotti, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has created a photo essay about individuals affected by the drug trade in the “Golden Triangle” of Thailand, Laos and Burma.
• Several state prosecutors in the Philippines are facing indefinite leave from their work, after DEA officials received a tip (via text message!) that they were accepting bribes to dismiss drug charges against wealthy Filipinos. According to the AP article, “Senior anti-narcotics agents have repeatedly warned that the Philippine anti-drugs campaign could be compromised because of loopholes in the justice system.”
• The DEA has released new photos of the Tijuana cartel’s “most wanted.”