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Column 081505 Brewer

Monday, August 15, 2005

U.S. frustration with Mexico may be growing

By Jerry Brewer

News reports of death and violence in Mexico are near
daily reading, with savagery taking place not only along
the northern border and in states like Sinaloa, but in
popular resort areas such as Cancun and Acapulco.

In what is becoming old hat, the Gulf Cartel and drug
traffickers from Sinaloa fight for control of routes into
the U.S. As well, they are at war over marijuana and
heroin production and supply in Mexico’s western
states, including Guerrero where Acapulco is located.

Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo is now
calling for the Mexican federal government to help him
fight back. Torreblanca has reported that the gangs
killed more than 20 people in the resort area over the
last year, with four execution-style killings on August
10, 2005, alone. But it seems the governor is more
mindful of tourism implications, as he says that he
“wants police, not soldiers” on the streets so as not to
scare off some 1.5 million visitors that include many

Irene Khan, the Secretary General of Amnesty
International, in turn is asking the Mexican government
to keep its word concerning human rights. While in
Mexico City in early August, Khan participated in a
public forum for political parties in the upcoming
presidential election campaign, and she reminded them,
“Mexico has made the promise of human rights, it has
adopted international obligations.”

Khan slammed home the issue of the murders of more
than 300 young women in and around Ciudad Juarez
over the last decade. “There is no confidence among
the mothers about the intention of the government both
at state level and the federal level, because these are
women who have been waiting ten years for justice.”

Meanwhile, back in Nuevo Laredo the drug war
continues without the usual details as journalists have
stopped investigating and reporting. Many of their
colleagues have been killed and threatened. Daniel
Rosa, the managing editor of the daily El Mañana in
Nuevo Laredo said: “It is the new trend of drug gangs
— journalists are warned, paid off, or killed.” The
editor of El Mañana, Roberto Garcia, was stabbed to
death on March 19, 2004.

The journalists complain that corruption makes it
impossible for them to research their stories accurately.
Yet more serious, the reporters note that Tamaulipas is
the most dangerous place to work in Mexico. Since
January there have been at least 108 execution-style
murders, whereas over the last year 173 people have
disappeared, including 23 still missing Americans.

In February a reporter with the Televisa TV network
was gunned down after airing a report on the
paramilitary group known as the Zetas. The Zetas were
accused of involvement in the disappearances of both
Mexicans and Americans in Nuevo Laredo, but the TV
coup-de-grace probably came when the broadcaster
said municipal police back the Zetas, and that they
have an informant in the Mexican Army.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers, federal agents and police were
sent to the border in Nuevo Laredo in June, a show of
force that left a current legacy of 50 new killings,
bringing the body count to 110.

Recent attacks on U.S. Border Patrol agents in the
Tucson Sector, and reports of armed paramilitary types
crossing into the U.S. in apparent efforts to escort drug
loads, is now prompting U.S. government officials to
step up to the plate with a no nonsense agenda.

At the state level, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
has declared states of emergency in four border
counties due to crime and unlawful migration. He also
wants to fence an area near the border. Richardson
said this is due to “violence directed at law
enforcement, damage to property and livestock,
increased evidence of drug smuggling, and an increase
in the number of undocumented immigrants.”

Richardson further stated in a rather bold tone that the
border situation “constitutes an emergency condition
with potentially catastrophic consequences.”

The Mexican government immediately criticized
Richardson’s decision, claiming that his actions “don’t
jibe with the spirit of cooperation and understanding.”

As to Nuevo Laredo, reportedly Mexico is showing
considerable sensitivity to U.S. criticism regarding the
region’s violence. One of the active critics is
Congressman Henry Cuellar (D, Texas), who has been
urging Mexican officials to control and end the violence.

However last week Cuellar said that the “Mexican
government has been offered all sorts of U.S. help to
deal with the problem, but has refused.” Furthermore,
Cuellar declared that Mexican officials appear unwilling
to do what it takes to deal with the growing problem.
Jerry Brewer is Vice President of Criminal Justice International
Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in
Montgomery, Alabama. He can be reached via e-mail at