TMCnet News

Leaked cables paint gloomy picture of Mexico's drug war
[December 06, 2010]

Leaked cables paint gloomy picture of Mexico's drug war

Dec 04, 2010 (Valley Morning Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Confidential diplomatic cables leaked Thursday show both U.S. and Mexican officials candidly assessing the toll that Mexico's four-year war on drug cartels has had on the country.

The U.S. State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks and posted late Thursday show a growing concern over poorly trained soldiers, corrupt police and the persistent violence that plagues northern Mexico.

In the handful of correspondences, U.S. Embassy officials in Mexico praise President Felipe Calderon's aggressive fight against the cartels but cite an overreliance on the Mexican military, saying, "The military was not trained to patrol the streets or carry out law enforcement operations." The result, officials wrote, has been an explosion in arrests coupled with a dismal record for prosecuting cartel-related crimes. One Jan. 29 cable claims that only 2 percent of those arrested are ever brought to trial.

Discussing the leaked cables, Michael Lytle, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Brownsville with a long background in counter-narcotic intelligence work with both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, remarked, "This is raw information that is unprocessed ...What you see here is a lot of unvarnished, first-impression reporting that wasn't intended for anybody else to look at but security analysts and other officials." "Those broad observations of distrust in the military and police, that has been endemic in Mexico for years now," Lytle remarked.

"These sentiments (contained in the documents) correspond to what we've been hearing all over northern Mexico," Lytle said. "People feel less secure, they have no faith in the government, and they're more likely to collaborate or at least acquiesce to the other side when that happens." While lauding the Mexican navy for major victories in the war against the cartels -- including offensives that killed Arturo Beltran Leyva roughly a year ago and the killing of Gulf Cartel leader Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, or "Tony Tormenta" -- U.S. officials quoted in the cables criticize the Mexican army for being "risk averse," slow to act and resistant to U.S. assistance.

When Beltran Leyva, former leader of the cartel that bears his name, was killed during the navy offensive, the cables note that the Mexican army was given the intelligence first, but refused to act.

Even further, the Mexican army, according to one document, has "taken a serious beating on human rights issues from international and domestic human rights organizations, who argue with considerable basis, in fact that the military is ill-equipped for a domestic policing role." The same document counters that the cartels have become "sophisticated players" that can wait out long military deployments and have an "almost unlimited human resource pool to draw from in the marginalized neighborhoods." The cartels can "fan complaints about human rights violations to undermine any progress the military might make with hearts and minds," the document states.

Close to 30,000 have died in Mexico since Calderon began his war with the cartels four years ago.

The leaked cables also say top Mexican security officials have begun to express "real concern with 'losing' certain regions," citing "pervasive, debilitating fear that is so much a part of contemporary Mexican society." The regions are not specified.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, who himself wrote many of the leaked cables, tried to control the damage from the leak with an editorial published in Mexico's El Universal newspaper Friday explaining that the cables "do not represent U.S. policy." "They are often impressionistic snapshots of a moment in time. But like some snapshots, they can be out of focus or unflattering," Pascual wrote.

President Calderon responded to the leaked documents and their contents an interview with Mexican Radio Formula hours before the release of the cables, criticizing "the spying of the Americans, who have always been very interfering in this sense." The Mexican Foreign Relations Department condemned release of the documents in a statement released late Thursday, calling them "incomplete and inaccurate." The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To see more of the Valley Morning Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

[ Back To's Homepage ]