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Drug War Violence in Mexico and Hostile ‘Hybrid Threats’ to Guatemala

IASW | Monday, August 22nd, 2011„hybrid-threats‟-to-guatemala/

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The wake-up call for the U.S. border and Mexico began in August 2005, with what this writer warned of and reported (“Out-and-out terrorism on the border near Laredo / Situation puts Americans right in the crosshairs”) — the unconventional “terrorist-like” threat, that manifested its sinister footprints in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Many pundits quickly, as well as continued for many more years, to describe the brutal gun battle across from Laredo, Texas, as simply between “armed criminal groups.” What it clearly was then, and has grown to now, was a mix of unconventional, irregular and criminal terrorist capabilities that threaten many of the sovereign nations of the northern triangle of Central America — especially Guatemala. These new phenomena, in the parlance of those that assess war-like insurgencies and terror, have been dubbed as hostile activity “hybrid threats.” However, military, government officials and federal enforcers continue to struggle with the definition. The Nuevo Laredo incident clearly demonstrated the sophistication of; and incredible military armaments in the hands of the drug cartels. The “cartel versus cartel” theory was quickly debunked, although Mexican and U.S. officials continued to view what they believed would be an isolated incident through rose colored glasses. State police personnel who did not want to be identified described finding photographs of municipal police officers at a residence of the battle, and a hit list of police and government officials sentenced to death. Many officials throughout Mexico, and neighboring officials further south in Central America, have since met their deaths in flagrant and vicious acts of torture and cold blooded murder.

The “terrorist” label was easily applied by its true definition, and graphically manifested its handwriting on the wall in bloody fashion. Data on the families of officials and their daily schedules, appointments, addresses and, in some instances, where and when their children went to school, were also found in searches of the multiple crime scenes. This should have been recognized as graphic terrorist modus operandi and espionage-like trade craft. The intense surveillance of the officials as to their identities, schedules, routes and related vulnerabilities were classic examples of terrorist pre-attack targeting that have been identified from actual world terrorist events. It must be said that no local, county or state police agency within the U.S. or Latin America was ever created to handle such a strategic and tactical threat by superior military arms and espionage strategies. Moreover, there can be no reasonable expectation of any police force within those circles having or acquiring on its own, the resources necessary to effectively fight insurgents and groups such as these that are so well trained and financed. Woefully, cartel violence in Mexico — sweeping like a hurricane — has claimed over 35,000 lives, according to government estimates. And many citizens just want the government to leave the DTOs alone so that they “can have peace.” Mexico‟s valiant line-in-the-sand against Los Zetas and other drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), backed by U.S. support, has been successful with the saturation sweeps that have fragmented a number of the tightly grouped cartel soldiers within many Mexican cities, and forced them into lesser occupied regions to regroup, but unfortunately also to be reinforced. It was clearly militarized enforcement techniques and related strategies that pushed organized drug cartel insurgents across Mexico‟s southern border into Guatemala. Their corruption, extortion and ruthless enforcement methods promptly, and rather easily, penetrated key state institutions in Guatemala. Their acts have been quickly destabilizing and helped to transform Guatemala into a nearly lawless state. Part of Los Zetas success in Guatemala is remarkably due to Guatemala‟s government reducing its military in the 1990s by two-thirds. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said it best when he announced to reporters, “drug gangs are invading Central America.” Guatemala now has one of the highest murder rates in the hemisphere. Guatemalans now must also find help in securing their own borders, which involves much more than just drug issues. They must quickly move to build durable law enforcement institutions and establish justice, and be proactively responsive to human rights issues and the value of human life. Guatemala‟s Ministry of Defense has acknowledged the need for specialized U.S. training assistance with this terroristic and unconventional “hybrid threat” to its homeland, albeit this threat is not from an enemy that carries a flag.

This training to mass police personnel must come from a blend of trainers in traditional police roles as perceived equals, but guided and mentored by seasoned counterterrorism experts/trainers and tactical military specialists. This war is a fluid epidemic that is also filtering up from South America. Misdiagnosing and ignoring the symptoms of this plague, as in Nuevo Laredo, will continue to prove more than disastrous. TWITTER: cjiausa