Mexico’s drug war is still raging, with over 22,000 people having been killed since 2006. Now, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, often referred to as the FARC, are teaming up with the drug lords. The Marxist terrorist group’s ties to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other organizations make the conflict to the south a major threat to the United States.
The violence in Mexico is severe. In the first two days of May, 25 people were killed in Chihuahua, with several of the murders happening in Ciudad Juarez. As the month of May began, 62 people had been killed in the city over the previous week, bringing the total to 850 lives lost in that city alone in 2010. Last year, the Joint Forces Command warned that Mexico and Pakistan were the two countries most at risk of “rapid and sudden collapse.” There have been arrests of high-profile drug lords, but the violence and corruption continues.
The latest arrest of Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid revealed how deeply he had corrupted Mexican law enforcement. Documents captured after his arrest found that he was bribing those commanding the police and soldiers searching him, which explains how he was able to avoid capture for 11 years. The New York Times described Madrid as running “a sophisticated counterintelligence operation.” The drug lords are growing bolder, and instead of opening fire when they are pursued, they are now on the offensive. They are directly attacking the police, soldiers, and those serving the government.
Dr. Maria Velez de Berliner, the President of the Latin Intelligence Corporation, told FrontPage that the brutality of the Mexican drug lords now surpasses that of the Colombian drug traffickers, which is quite a feat.
“If this situation continues, the time will probably come when Mexico will replace Colombia as the largest producer and exporter of cocaine,” she said.
Now, it is known that the FARC is teaming up with the drug lords, offering a major source of income for their own operations and potentially providing the criminals with the military expertise they need to further destabilize Mexico. The FARC connection also gives Hugo Chavez the ability to covertly attack Mexico and the United States and gain intelligence. It also means that other terrorist groups that are connected to FARC or the drug lords have the ability to send arms and operatives into the U.S. if they are willing to pay for it.
The leader of the FARC until 2008, the late Raul Reyes, is now known to have written a letter to his top commanders confirming that a relationship with the Mexican drug lords existed. He was enthusiastic about the new partnership, saying it would allow them to double their profits. It is estimated that FARC already makes $1 billion annually through its work with drug lords. According to Michael Braum, a former operations chief for the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Mexican criminals want to buy “multiton quantities of cocaine directly from South America.”
Dr. Maria Velez de Berliner said that the “FARC is not interested in attacking the U.S, they don’t have the field capability to do so.” However, she warns that FARC’s business with other terrorists and drug traffickers does threaten the U.S.
Olavo de Carvalho, a philosopher from Brazil who has written extensively about the activity of the Marxists in Latin America, agreed with her, saying that the FARC will not initiate military operations against the U.S. in the near-term.
“…but they can give strategic support to Mexican gangs operating in American territory, exactly as they did with several Brazilian gangs, transforming them from mere bunches of criminals into powerful and well-armed organizations. This is a serious and imminent threat,” he said.
The instability in Mexico is directly benefiting Hezbollah, which is now tied to the Venezuelan government and possibly the FARC. The smuggling routes used by the Mexican drug lords are being utilized by Hezbollah, using “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels,” said Braun. The terrorist group has a long history of engaging in drug trafficking in order to fundraise.
“They [Hezbollah] are doing the same thing in Latin America that they are doing in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon, and providing medical and social services,” Dr. de Berliner said.
She also mentioned that the FARC is working with Chinese gangs in the tri-border area of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. These gangs could potentially buy and upgrade the FARC’s semi-submersibles and use them in their human trafficking efforts, allowing them to potentially insert operatives into the U.S.
Al-Qaeda also will benefit from the FARC’s new ventures, and could conceivably pay them, or the Mexican drug lords, to help them smuggle in operatives. In fact, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, Al-Shabaab, may have already done so as someone connected to the group oversaw the smuggling of 270 Somalis into the U.S. through Mexico.
FARC has already begun using Al-Qaeda members in West Africa in order to deliver drugs to Europe. Three members of Al-Qaeda have been arrested in West Africa and were extradited to the U.S. in December. The DEA’s director of South America’s Andean region says that “All of the aircraft seizures that have been made in West Africa, and we’ve made about a half a dozen of them, had departed from Venezuela.”
The separatist Basque ETA terrorists of Spain have entered into an alliance with the FARC as well, an unsurprising development considering the hostile relationship between Spain and Venezuela. A Spanish court has charged a Venezuelan official and a dozen FARC and ETA members with terrorism-related offenses, and Venezuela is refusing to extradite the suspects.
The evidence against them stems from seizures made by the Colombians that provided evidence that ETA members attended FARC camps from 2003 to 2008, located near Machiques in Venezuela. The ETA members provided explosives training for at least five FARC units, and two former FARC operatives have confirmed seeing ETA members training at their camps in 2008. The ETA members traveled with Venezuelan military officers, proving that Chavez’s government is involved in the relationship. This is a reminder that Chavez and other leaders often use the terrorists they support as a liaison with other groups, providing them with deniability.
The crisis in Mexico can not be seen in isolation. The worst enemies of the United States and the West are seeing it as a platform with which to expand their own capabilities. The debate about how the open border facilitates illegal immigration must be modified, because the problem goes much further than that. Terrorist groups are using the strife in Mexico and the open border to fundraise and sneak their operatives into the U.S. as we speak.