Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mexico on the Front Page of the NY Times

From today's edition:
The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.

In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.

Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.

“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling: we will together succeed or together fail.”

Boz has some smart thoughts.


J.F. String said...

PC, Thanks for the post. I agree in part with Boz that there's not a whole lot new here. I was just looking back at an old post I did from Nov. 2010 which said much the same thing -- ( You could even go further back to Bill Booth's reporting for the Post in Feb '10 to read something similar -- (

That said, what is new in today's Times report seems to be the following:

First, the CIA is now involved. If the above reports are an accurate indicator of the evolution of US involvement, what started as a DEA intel sharing op, expanded to the Pentagon sometime in late 2010, and now includes a third agency, CIA. From an institutional perspective, that seems fairly significant to me, even if the numbers are small. Who is taking orders from whom?

Second -- and I would say more worrisome -- is the acknowledgement by US officials in today's Times piece that they are still working with Mexico to "embed a group of private security contractors" inside this new special Mexican counternarcotics units that DEA and/or Pentagon has begun training. My guess is that it's connected to the Mexico Marines 'urban' combat team that have been discussed for the past 6-9 months ( While there's certainly been speculation about private contractors playing a role here for some time (Narco News, for example, from April 2011 --, to my knowledge, this is the first time the desire to use private security contractors with this team (or teams) has been confirmed by officials on either side. That seems noteworthy and if and when this program actually becomes active, it will be even more so.

pc said...

Yeah I agree with a lot of that. I think beyond the shock value in seeing the CIA and military contractors becoming involved in Mexico, what becomes common practice will end up determining how worrying or beneficial or different any of this is. As far as the mercs, I remember Excelsior reporting on their possible use way back in 2008 or 2009 with regard to the Merida Initiative's provisions. It's definitely worth being aware of and keeping an eye on, though it doesn't necessarily mean the cowboys from Blackwater will be using Iraq tactics in Coyoacan.

So where are you now???