by: John Rodriguez
Since the war against the Drug Cartels in Mexico began four years ago, an estimated 34,000 have died as a result of the Drug War. Many lives lost were both governmental officials and citizens. In an effort to aide Mexican President Felipe Calderon during his campaign to rid the country of the cartel nuisance, the United States has become involved in Mexico’s Drug War. With the aid of the Obama administration, the United States have been providing Mexican authorities with intel thanks to the use of their drones. Despite the clever idea of “teaming up” to combat a issue such as drug trafficking, which affects both countries, the partnership between the United States and Mexico has a few skeptics disbelieving it will work.
Using intelligence drones, The Pentagon has signed off on the drones’ flights into Mexico. Flying at a high altitude into the Mexican territory, the drones gather intelligence which would help Mexican authorities locate and track major drug traffickers throughout their networks. According to American Officials, the collected information gathered is collected by American officials and handed into the hands of trusted Mexican law enforcement agencies.
American Administration Officials have reported that a Homeland Security enabled Mexican authorities to find several suspects linked to the murder of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent, Jaime Zapata who was killed back in February. The alliance between Mexico and America has been in effect for quite some time. During a White House meeting held back in March, both President Obama and President Calderon formally agreed on the surveillance program.
The alliance was kept secret due to legal restrictions within Mexico, and the ongoing heated political issue regarding the country’s feelings regarding sovereignty. All entities involved in the alliance refused to publicly comment about the use of drones to aide in Mexico’s efforts in counternarcotics. However, some officials through the veil of anonymity have commented that the alliance struck was showing that the United States and Mexico were coming together in partnership to combat a shared threat.
Along with agreeing to the use of drones, the Presidents agreed to further their counternarcotics effort by opening a “counternarcotics fusion” center. The center would be geared towards combating the narcotic trade manned by the cartels, and the facilities would contain both Mexican and American agencies where they will work together in stopping the shipment of narcotics. Allegedly, there is a fusion center within Mexico City that was established over a year ago which is said to be a post operated mostly by Americans but do share and analyze intelligence with Mexican officials. This fusion center within Mexico City has been denied as existing by both American and Mexican officials.
Aside from the drones providing intelligence via the air, the alliance with the United States will see that thousand of Mexican troops and police officers are trained to handling on-ground evidence. In order to gain further information on traffickers’ communications and movements, American law enforcement and intelligence officials will train Mexican authorities in conducting eavesdropping techniques while upgrading their security and intelligence equipment and technology. However the aide may be problematic due to the Mexican constitution may prove to be problematic with this alliance since it prohibits foreign military and law enforcement agencies from operating within its country.
While the intentions of the United States and the Obama administration is one that wants to quell a growing situation before it gets further out of hand, the intentions may be overlooked by those within the Mexican Government, its people, and the Mexican constitution itself do to documents being released that set the diplomatic relationship between the two countries on rocky grounds.
Before the Presidents’ meeting, the cooperation between the two countries when Wikileaks released a series of State Department cables that criticized the Mexican government inability to get a hand on the drug wars by American Diplomats. In addition to the leak, the death of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent, Jaime Zapata made the relationship even tenser. After Zapata’s death in February outraged many in Washington, Mexican officials responded to the outrage stating the United States government only pays attention to the violence the drug war is causing only after an American citizen was killed.
Despite the rocky start to their alliance, the meeting held in March at the White House enabled both Presidents to air out their grievances regarding the ongoing situation in Mexico. According to Mexican and American officials, both Obama and Calderon agreed that information shared between their countries in regards to drug traffickers would benefit both countries. According to a senior Mexican official, the Presidents both valued a information sharing and recognizes that, “the responsibilities shared by both governments in the fight against criminal organizations on both sides of the border.”
While some may question the aide of American forces, a senior American Administrator assures that all the counternarcotics operations had been conducted and directed by the Mexican government. Director of the Mexico Institute at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Andrew Selee comments that this may be true since he describes President Calderon as being “intensely nationalistic, but he’s also pragmatic,” and that while he accepts the unison he isn’t a real “fan of the United States, but he knows he needs their help, so he’s willing to push the political boundaries.”
While the partnership is genuinely a clandestine one, Mexican and American officials are reporting that the partnership is working. Officials describe the cooperation as being crucial to helping Mexico capture and kill at least 20 well-known and highly profiled drug traffickers. Mexican officials attribute the capture of these drug traffickers to the United States availability of the intelligence in-which they provide.
Regarding the feelings of the people, some officials on both ends have expressed their concern about reigniting the longstanding debate on Mexicans concerns that the United States’ will try to usurp Mexico’s authority. According to Director Selee he sees the partnership being accepted by the people because, “I think most Mexicans, especially in areas of conflict, would be fine about how much the United States is involved in the drug war, because things have gotten so scary they just want to see the bad guys get caught.”
While there are skeptics on both sides who find this alliance faulty, simply because there may be ulterior motives or a lack of ability to lead or a rocky past which results in a shaky relationship, the effort being put into addressing a rising issue is something that should take precedence rather than the politics. For the past four years, and further back than that, the Drug Cartels with Mexico and Drug Trafficking in general has been a rising issue that while continuously battled against the narcotic trade has yet to take a major hit. Maybe the alliance in counternarcotics intelligence gathering between two countries will be that bullet that will bring some much needed results. While it may be seen that drug trafficking is Mexico’s issue, it is not. It is a worldly one. One where two countries are finally addressing rather than pointing the finger and casting the blame.