The media is barely covering the bloody situation in Mexico, but the war against the drug lords there should be of the utmost concern to Americans. As high levels of violence and corruption continue to plague Mexican society, the U.S. needs to brace for a flood of narcotics, arms, and people seeking refuge crossing the border.
The drug war has resulted in about 17,000 deaths over the past three years, and Mexico has claimed the title of the country in the hemisphere with the highest number of journalists killed on its soil. To put that in perspective, about 1000 American soldiers have died fighting the war in Afghanistan since 2001. About 4400 Americans have died in Iraq since 2003.
A quick look at the resume of Teodoro Eduardo Garcia Simental, a top drug lord captured this month responsible for horrendous amounts of barbaric violence in and around Tijuana, shows the brutal nature of the conflict. He and his partners destroyed the bodies of hundreds of their victims by submersing them in tubs of acid, many of whom were kidnapped and held for ransom.
The New York Times describes the conflict as follows:
“When it comes to gore, Mexico’s drug traffickers seem to compete among themselves for the title of most depraved. One will chop off the heads of victims. Another will string dead rivals from bridges or burn their genitals. Recently, hit men removed the face from a dead man and sewed it onto a soccer ball.”
The capturing and killing of top figures in the drug trade in recent months has not had an immediate impact. The Official Secretary of the Federal Judiciary in Veracruz City was found beheaded with a message carved into her chest this month. January of 2010 has doubled the previous January as having the record of the highest number of murders in Tijuana with 70 people having lost their lives.
January 10 made the record for the bloodiest single day in the conflict, with 69 assassinations in nine states, beating the previous number of 57. Ciudad Juarez has been named by the Citizen Council for Public Security as the most violent city in the world, with an average of 191 murders per 100,000 residents.
The affects of the war in Mexico are not limited to that country. It is spreading to El Salvador, which is considering establishing a curfew, a mandatory closing time for businesses, and allowing the searching of homes without warrants. A dozen people on average were killed every day in the tiny country in 2009. The other Central American countries are experiencing a similar rise in criminal and violent activity.
The inability of the government to bring stability and opportunity to its people is causing desperate measures to be implemented. Military offensives usually reserved for foreign wars are taking place on home soil. Possession of small quantities of drugs for “personal use” has been legalized, including heroin, cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine. There is even talk of prosecuting those who glorify the drug lords in pop culture.
It also affects the War on Terror. It is now known that the Colombian narco-terrorist group known as FARC, with Venezuelan backing, has partnered up with Al-Qaeda elements in West Africa. The Chavez government’s involvement in narcotics trafficking means they can use the drug lords to destabilize the hemisphere and expand their business opportunities. Terrorist groups and other non-state actors will benefit from having a new colleague that can help them ship people and supplies into the U.S. and engage in illicit fundraising, as Hezbollah already has.
People from countries known to be strongholds for extremist groups are being caught entering Latin America in order to reach the United States. Four Somalis have been found hiding in a tractor trailer in Honduras. In Colombia, 71 illegal aliens from Somalia and Eritrea were intercepted by the authorities in early January. The smuggling business, instability and poor control of America’s southwestern border provides an open opportunity for those wishing to do us harm.
This internal strife should cause Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Senator John Kerry to reconsider their assurances in March of last year that Mexico was “in no danger of becoming a failed state.” The conflict is becoming closer to resembling a guerilla war, and if the drug lords succeed in carving out mini-states for themselves, the U.S. will see the chaos and criminal activity they cause spill over the border.