Tony Garza, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, recently described a brutal gun battle thattook place on July 28 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, between "armed criminal groups," ashaving "included unusually advanced weapons." This since the combatants used anarsenal that combined automatic weapons, bazookas and hand grenades, in the attackonan apparent safe house of one drug cartel by those of another.Actually hundreds of different caliber shells were later found at the war zone-like scene,along withAK-47 rifles, handguns, and ski masks. And if that is not disturbing enough, astate policeofficer who asked not to be identified said that investigators found numerousphotographs of municipal police officers at the residence — an apparent hit list of officialssentencedto death. Further intelligence revealed that each of the photographs listed theofficer's name and assigned location, along with maps to their homes.As a resultof this firefight and other killings, kidnappings and crimes in the violence-torncity across the border from Laredo, Garza said the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredowould be closed, temporarily at least. And then, on Aug. 5, Nuevo Laredo CityCouncilman Leopoldo Ramos Ortega was shot dead as he innocently sat in his truck.Ramos also chaired the council's security committee.Yet after meeting with Mexican officials, Garza announced that the consulate wouldreopen Aug. 8.Immediately following the cartels' shootout in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico's presidentialspokesman, Ruben Aguilar said federal efforts to stop the violence in Nuevo Laredo"have been successful."
Brewer: Violence on U.S.-Mexico border is terrorismhttp://www.statesman.com/search/content/editorial/stories/08/16mexico_edit.html (1 of 3)10/20/2005 8:06:52 AM
Brewer: Violence on U.S.-Mexico border is terrorism
But to those without rose-colored glasses, the attacks and the death toll continue tomount at analarming rate, and the sophistication and firepower of the Mexican Mafiososare astounding.Officials are quick to call this a war between rival drug cartels, and they brazenly statethat Americans are not targets of the violence. Yet U.S. Border Patrol agents are beingfired upon, and U.S. border-area police officials are witnessing Mexican paramilitary typesescorting drug shipments north onto U.S. soil.The targeting of law enforcement officials on both sides of the border, and specifically theplanning and routine execution of Nuevo Laredo police officers and city officials, showsthat the specter of terrorism is hiding out in the open along our national border withMexico, although not everyone sees this clearly.Terrorists areideologically, politically or issue oriented. They commonly work in small,well-organized groups or cells. They are sophisticated, skilled with weapons and attackstrategies, andthey possess efficient planning capabilities. And the differing types ofterrorists pose national, international and paramilitary threats.The attacks on Mexican and U.S. soil, along with the paramilitary sightings, shouldconvince U.S. and Mexican officials, as well as the public at large, that these are terroristattacks. Must there be suicide-homicide bombers to convince us that these are terroristacts?The U.S. embassy has offered to help reorganize the Tamaulipas state police. There is alot of talk on both sides about swiftly bringing the situation under control — a lot of knee- jerk lip service.However, there can be no reasonable expectation of any police force in Mexico having, oracquiring on its own, the resources necessary to effectively fight gangs and groups thatare so well-armed, trained and financed.These terrorists pose an immediate threat to anyone who attempts to stop or controlthem. They have clearly demonstrated that they are bold and resourceful and willintimidate, kidnap, torture and kill anyone who is in conflict with them. Misdiagnosing andignoring the symptoms of this plague will continue to prove disastrous, for these criminalsand wannabes-to-follow will exploit every weakness in pursuit of their goals.As the U.S. government continues to assess the risk to citizens and consulate offices inNuevo Laredo, the Counter-Terrorism Center of the Central Intelligence Agency, and itsLatin America division, have their work cut out for them. A week certainly could not givethem a "snapshot" of the overall border problem.Operational and vulnerability assessments take time. Operational planning and executionto identify high-risk personnel, and to effectively counter potential hostile activity, shouldbe the mandate. Country surveys and facility/personnel assessments, although neededand probably outdated, require a systematic, diligent effort.The findings should result in recommendations of ways to neutralize our vulnerabilities,and we should be quick to implement them. The United States must take a stand inprotecting this border, as well as U.S.-based businesses and their employees living inMexico.Brewer is vice president of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global riskmitigation firm headquartered in Montgomery, Ala. He can be reached via e-mail atCjiaincusaaol.com.