Terrorism in the modern world has become a big threat to the security of the world and especially the US citizens which is the largest economy in the world. Mexico is a major loophole that can be used by these terrorists because of its border with the US which is very porous. There are several means through which terrorist activities are being carried out around the world.
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One of the ways is Cyber warfare, which has been said to be causing a lot of tension in the US. For instance by stealing intellectual property or commercial espionage are carried out by use computers and information technology. However, the Mexican cartels have not been noted to extensively use cyber warfare to terrorize people.
Nevertheless Cyber warfare is still a security risk to US as a nation. This is because there are increased incidences of cyber terror, cyber espionage, hacking and cybercrime in the modern world. The risk that the cyber crime presents is hard to assess therefore its very dreadful as a time bomb waiting to explode.
There are more frightful security threats that are posed by Mexican drug cartels. For years now, Mexico has come to be associated with distribution of largest volumes of drugs to the US. This is done by groups of organized crime gangs called cartels. They usually dominate large regions where they base their main operations and they cause unlawfulness in these areas because of their crime activities.
They mostly engage in violent activities, drug abuse, and even manipulation of political support. There are a number of cartels that operate in Mexico and their activities often spill into the US. The major cartels include Sinaloa Federation, Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, Juarez cartel, Tijuana, and Beltran Leyva (Oscar, 2004, p. 67). Most of the conflicts being experienced across Mexico are attributed to the operations of these cartels.
They basically cause such conflicts so that they can exploit the unstable conditions of lawlessness to do their businesses because in such a condition, they are able to transport and distribute their merchandise without police interference. They can evade police tracking and they control their own trafficking routes when there is no policing structure in place.
Mexican drug cartels pose the greatest security threat to US because the two countries border each other and the even on instability in one of them, it’s likely to spills to the neighbor. Furthermore the border has been very porous with many drug cartels operations being done across these areas. The cartels are very dangerous and a reason to be scared because they accept firearms and other weapons in exchange of their drugs (Oscar, 2004, p. 67).
The cartels train their recruits in rigorous military skills especially use of the weapons that they purchase both legitimate and those illegitimately acquired. Furthermore the cartels are able to attract the best talent and brains into their gangs because of the handsome salaries that they offer including other luxury goods like gold jewelry and cars. The drug cartel business is so lucrative that some military personnel even quit their jobs to join the cartels. From statistics, it’s been estimated that about 2.5% of the defense person have joined and continue to join these cartels.
Besides the sale of the drugs like marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, they also smuggle a great number of weapons into Mexico since for them to be able counter the police and their rivals, they require the best weapons and very sophisticated arms. given that the most heinous crimes take place in area controlled by the cartels, these organized gangs are able to smuggle weapons through to the US ranging from small arms to very large shipment of armory (Oscar 2004, p. 69).
This means that since terrorists are looking to the slightest chance to smuggle their weapons to the US, they can work together with these drug barons to sneak deadly weapons to the US like nuclear war materials.
By enhancing their relationships with prisons and the police, the cartels have increased their network in the US to a point where they can easily move or ship their products to distribute them to a very large area. South-western areas of the US are such risky areas that even the National Drug intelligence centre has revealed extensive business deals of gangs like Mara Salvatrutha and Latin King.
Comprehensive Strategy for Fighting
It’s now clear that the drug cartels in Mexico are causing serious mayhem in the country and the war between them and the government has gradually trickled into the US through the porous south-western border. The consequences of this have been that, there are increased murders in these regions sometime of innocent people and kidnapping of the US citizens. Among the notable incidences was the death of Robert N. Krentz who was just killed by a drug peddler while on his farm in Arizona.
The US president was forced to 1,200 American National Guard troops to the areas to intensify security. This was a good indication that the US is yet to implement a proper plan of combating such crimes across its border with Mexico, though it was a good reaction for that incidence (United Nation, 2010, para. 3).
The dreaded war between Mexican government and the drug cartels will remain to be a threat to the US security for a long time unless the US law makers take up an all-inclusive approach to deal with the violence. These means the US government should step up the effort to secure its borders, crackdown cartel operation in the vulnerable areas and also to assist Mexico in strengthening its domestic capacity to fight the cartels, convict the gangs and imprison the drug cartel members (United Nation, 2010, para. 3).
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The escalating drug trade is extracting a terrible toll on the US citizens (Chu & William, 2009, p. 104). It threatens their lives, the wellbeing of their families, their economy and even their supposedly inalienable freedoms. The illicit drug trade is also a serious threat to the entire National Security because the networks of the drug cartels have a very great potential of destabilizing and corrupting the government and weakening the public safety in the areas that are vulnerable in America.
The illicit drug businesses give the cartels great amount of ill-obtained profits and despicable alliances that are built during their operations are used to facilitate terrorist activities and organized crime across the world (Chu & William, 2009, p. 104).
The US government needs to confront these threats by using combined strategies with Mexico. The combinations of the resources should include law enforcement investigation, diplomatic negotiations, economic sanctions, outlawing, developing proper institutions based on disrupting the drug cartel networks especially the markets, institution appropriate financial programs and investigations and establishing federal, local, and state enforcement cooperation (Chu & William, 2009, p. 108).
The government should intensify the existing law enforcement initiatives that include High Intensity Drug trafficking area (HIDTA), the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and DEA among others. The government should work to improve its interagency coordination and technology enrichment. These undertakings will strengthen the US defense system on its border.
Internationally, the government should strive to form alliances with other governments especially Mexico itself so that the processes of interdiction, law enforcement and international development agencies all seek to combat the drug cartels and cut down their profits across the world (Chu & William, 2009, p. 109).
Cooperation with Mexico is the main ploy for the effort to fight these drug cartels. This cooperation is likely to effectively disrupt the illicit supply of the drugs since its from the source that a great volume of drugs can be stopped before they are sold into circulation in smaller packages considering that the drug traffickers have established big and well organized cartels with adequately trained men, some being ex-soldiers and the type and number of weapons they can access because of the money from larger profits from the trade, the cartels pose a serious threat even to the police force (United Nation, 2010, para. 3).
However to ensure that they are fought and buried, it’s only pertinent that the US and Mexico reach an agreement to work together. They should have a plan that is sensible, feasible and has measurable milestones for success or failure. This way the fight against organized crime especially arms smuggling, human trafficking, drug trafficking and possible terrorism will be dealt with at the simultaneously.
The Comprehensive Plan
The Mexican drug cartels apparently control very big areas across Mexico and their illicit activities are being felt across the world especially in the US. In 2009, about 9,000 people were killed in drug related raids. This year had the worst incidences since President Felipe Calderó declared war on drugs trade. The current US government should be praised for its efforts in combat the cartel activities by continuing what president Bush had left in place. However the government now greatly blames the US drug use, arms law and the current policies that seem to be ineffective (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 15).
The Mexican president declared war on the drug cartels after assuming office in 2006 so that he could contain the havoc that the cartels were causing across the country. That venture was not an easy one and up to now, over 23,000 people have died in drug related operations with over 4,000 of them dying this year, 2010. Calderon seems to be very tough on his stand against the cartels and seemingly, the cartels are now branching out to other illegal businesses like kidnapping and extortion.
Since the fights and drug trade basically take place along the US-Mexico border, the violence usually affects the US citizens who are faced with fear of kidnapping, armed gangs and brutal killings ineffective (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 15).
As the two countries struggle to finish the cartels, the cartels on the other hand are struggling to find new survival means and they are shifting to other illegal businesses as mentioned earlier and also expanding their networks to the northern parts of US. It’s estimated that the currently, the Mexican drug cartels have connections with over 20,000 street gangs across the United States. These gangs occupy the major cities in west and northern America.
Implementing the plan to fight cartels will be a joint venture between the US and Mexico so that the two nations can be sure that the situation is seriously contained. Basically Mexico is not a failed state yet. The government is still in control of its military and other machinery that the state requires to ensure the security of its citizens (United Nation, 2010, para. 4).
This is what has allowed the US Agencies to work in collaboration with their Mexican counterparts regarding security operations over the recent past. This is portrayed as a very positive prospect for the future. The following steps are crucial for the plan to function effectively;
Identifying and Understanding the Problem: the main problem with the Mexican drug cartels is the insecurity that they cause across the two countries and the possible social impact of drug abuse on the communities. From this cause, Mexico and the United States are required to venture into collaborative attack on the cartels. The attack should be based on the information available from reliable sources like the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) (US Department of Justice 2010, p. 45).
The US intelligence community should be mandated to provide the information on the cartels especially the amount of threat posed, that is, if it can be quantified. The National Drug Intelligence Center will also offer deeper predictive analyses on the crimes. For this reason, therefore a baseline for the future can be drawn where security operations will be based.
All the cooperation plans will be adequately informed (United Nation, 2010, para. 5). This means that the NIE will have to create standard classified information and even the unclassified information just to ensure that the public is adequately educated to be knowledgeable about the nature of the threat.
Curbing the Supply of Weapons to Cartels: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) claims that the drug cartels in Mexico acquire thousands of deadly weapons every year from Arizona, Texas and California (Carpenter, 2009, p. 6). Out of the traceable weapons that have been recovered, 90 percent of them were bought in the United States (US Department of Justice 2010, p. 45).
This therefore means that if the governments manage to stop this supply, they will have managed to cut off about 90% of the Mexican source of arms to the cartels. Though the gangs can still find some weapons elsewhere this is a step in the right direction.
The US should struggle to close all the possible loopholes like ensuring that there are background checks when purchasing guns. It’s estimated that over 40% of the guns acquired by the cartels are usually from selling points that do not carry out background checks during the purchase.
‘Gun shows’ should be closed because they are possible loopholes and that would make the United States much insecure (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 15). A study by the Republican Pollster Frank Luntz indicated that a very big population of the US citizens (over 87%) supported background check of firearms at their selling points.
A second step would be to increase the amount of pressure to be enforced on the law breakers. The US government should give the ATF more resources for its works of investigating the arms dealers who could be linked to the weapons that are found in Mexico ineffective (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 17).
It’s been found that merely one percent of the federally licensed arms sellers are responsible for selling 60% of the guns that are associated with drug related crimes (United Nation, 2010, para. 7). The ATF should then crackdown the small number of gun sellers who habitually break the law and demonstrate that there is zero tolerance to unlawful dealings in crime whether by mistake or knowingly sell the guns to Mexican gangs (Carpenter, 2009, p. 6).
The US should also illegalize the smuggling of guns from the country and impose a very serious sentence for that crime. Whereas there are specific provisions of the Gun Control Act that state that smuggling weapons into the country is an illegal activity, smuggling weapons out is not clearly illustrated as an offense.
This means the crime is generally punishable under general smuggling statute (Warner, 2010, p. 83). Therefore if a special statute provision is provided to append harsher repercussions for smuggling weapons or selling them knowingly to gang members and cartels that eventually end in Mexico would go a great length in limiting those illicit activities.
The US Should Stem Cash Flow to the Cartels: it’s estimated that between 20 and 29 billion US dollars cash obtained from the US from the sale of drugs is smuggled back and almost half of it immediately gets into the informal economy of that country after evading detection by authorities (US Department of Justice 2010, p. 45). An operation that was conducted in 2009 by Operation Firewall in an attempt to curb flow of cash and laundering led to seizure of over 200 million US dollars and over 190 arrests in the united states and other countries.
This is just a tip of the iceberg, if this is compared to the amount of cash that is smuggled across the US-Mexico border, the Mexican law is ineffective (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 19). This is why there needs to be joint effort to block this cash flow. This would also be a good start and will still have to be expanded to address the root cause of the problem.
The US financial intelligences capacity has to have the ability to understand all the financial flows in the areas that most affected or even interdict money and other laundering deals (Carpenter, 2009, p. 6). More resources should be provided to the Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit so that it can deal with numerous cases per year. When more monetary and training resources are devoted to the activity, the results are likely to be efficient (Warner, 2010, p. 83).
A joint training program between the US and Mexico especially the US Financial Intelligences, Treasury Department’s and the Mexican UIF will be able to guarantee effectiveness of the venture. The US policy makers should assess the remittances from the US either legal or illegal are the leading sources of revenue to Mexico where they create a weak economy.
Restricting the Operation Capacity of the Cartels: the US government should struggle to create a border security surge, so that the border is transformed into a very secure zone free of cartel operations. Both president Calderon and President Obama have great visions for their countries especially survival in the 21st century and sealing their permeable border into a place of controlled movement (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 20).
The idea of a 21st century border is a great one though it would take several years to eventually accomplish. This is expected to improve security, but in the meantime, there is need to cause great boundary security surge to bring order along the border. The main goals would be to increase the number of the national guards to be allocated specific responsibilities so that all possible gaps are covered as reviewed by agencies dealing with border information (Warner, 2010, p. 86).
The operation will also seek to expand the resources of the homeland security and justice department so that they can afford the best technology when needed. And finally there should be increased sources for the state and local police forces in the states that border Mexico.
Increased Intelligence: there need to have more collaborative ventures more than ever before, for US and Mexican law enforcement agencies. The existing collaboration has been seen to be improving since statistics show positive results in the “mirrored enforcement reports”. The US border patrol now works together with the federal police from Mexico especially on border patrols which are often done simultaneously now.
Still more can be done for the purpose of security. The two countries can agree to use unmanned US drones to amass information in the drug cartel dominated areas (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2009, p. 20). There is need of creating a new program that will be used to collect information by the aerial drones unarmed over US-Mexico border to cover other areas beside the current Texas border. The intelligence should then be shared with Mexican government for proper strategy formulation (Carpenter, 2009, p. 8).
The two governments should also look at the possible joint especially forces established to make the raids on the cartel territories to flush out and arrests the leaders. It’s possible that arresting and extraditing the leaders to the governments for prosecution would lead to justice and also scuttle organized cartels. Mexico is already extraditing some criminals for the same reasons.
However a more efficient ways of dealing with the deeply rooted cartel would be for the Mexican military to conduct the raid operations banked by the US (Warner, 2010, p. 88). The proficient aerial attacks and logistics of the US military are likely to meet greater goals.
Help Improve Mexico’s Justice System: the Mexican justice system needs a lot of reforms for long terms achievements. The US should works hard to give support to Mexico so that it can strengthen its rule of law. Even though this could be costly for both the countries, the insecurity that currently exists is much worse.
The judicial system in Mexico should put more pressure on the cartels to impede their operations (Warner, 2010, p. 89). However, the reform process will still be slow but it’s expected that the continuing efforts will have achieved these reforms by 2016. The Mexican judicial system needs more training on the monetary and financial systems for the combined effort to be effective (Carpenter, 2009, p. 9).
The local and state police in Mexico also need serious training in addition to the reforms being initiated in the courts and other governmental institutions. The Mexican military is under thorough reforms under a program called the Meridia initiative (Carpenter, 2009, p. 13). The programs have to be expanded to meet more law enforcement agencies and the entire legal system to be professionalized.
Crackdown the Markets in the US: considering that the drug cartels have over 2,500 connections in the US cities, the US citizens are threatened greatly. Severing these networks and cutting the links with the controlling cartel is not only necessary but also inevitable. This is the most essential step of disrupting and dismantling the dominant cartels (Carpenter, 2009, p. 13). The US justice department led the “Project Deliverance” which was an inter-agency (included over 300 agencies) boundary operation that was set to fight the cartels trafficking networks.
The project put a lot of pressure on the distribution links in the US resulting in over 2,266 arrests and 154 million dollars were seized with 2.5 tons of cocaine, 69 tons of marijuana among other drugs as well as over 500 vehicles. The project is a robust program that involves state securities and international agencies to disrupt cartel networks in America. Since this model was somehow a success, it can be used as a basis for disruption of cartel networks (Carpenter, 2009, p. 13). From it, new programs can be created to deal with drug cartel activities.
The drug cartel problem and insecurity is a very big problem that entangles a lot to the US systems including illegal immigration, prisons, education and the law enforcement. Basically there are some factors that need to be resolved first before the ultimate operations can begin. First is the gang culture. Many Mexican do not value education considering that there are cheaper means of earning money besides going to school and developing a good career. Now the new problem is not even the Mexican but the America Mexican born in America or even illegal immigrants.
Most of them have been found to have poor education (Smith, 2006, p. 56). For instance the education level of Mexican men who form larger percentage of illegal immigrants is very low at the bottom of the spectrum with least number of people with college degrees and most of them are high school dropouts.
Even the US born Mexican youths always attach themselves to Mexico and still maintain their culture of carelessness. They are very arrogant and very aggressive committing very brutal crimes in some cases (Smith, 2006, p. 56). This problem begun as early as 1940s, as Mexicans started immigrating to US to better their lives and currently about 4% to 10% of the Mexican Youths subscribe to criminal gangs in America.
The other cause of lawlessness is the inadequate reforms among law enforcement agencies in Mexico (Smith, 2006, p. 56). Basically the ability of Mexico to deal with drug cartels should be founded on the total overhaul of the judicial institutions and law enforcement agencies. In the past, the police basically preserved order and not crime resolution. They were therefore corrupt, inefficient, uneducated and dependent on crime as they even drove stole vehicles (Smith, 2006, p. 59).
Corruption is one major obstacle in the fight against cartels. This is a very strong tool for the cartels because they have power to corrupt top law officers with large cash amounts, use violence and coercion and even cause serious mayhem in certain areas. The idea of money or bullet commonly phrased as “plata” (silver) or “plomo” (lead) has for so long been an effective tool for traffickers (Beith, 2010, p. 41). Government official were hence corrupt and totally engulfed in drug dealings.
Political will is also been used as a weapon. President Calderon has been very aggressive in dealing with crime. For that reason, all politicians who supported him faced some threat. At times, some politicians have been killed in the past and the gangs have used them as reference to scare other people like ‘Did you see what happened to so and so? The same could happen to you” … this instills fear in people (Beith, 2010, p. 41).
In 2009, Revolutionary party swept five governor positions out of the available six. This basically showed that there was a serious shift of political support from the President’s National Action party to the revolutionary party which is a little tolerant. He maybe loosing the popularity partly because of the fight he has set against these cartels (Beith, 2010, p. 46).
There are three ultimate missions of the place to stop drug cartel threat to the US security. The three strategies only seek to expand cross-border bilateral cooperation based on the common enemy and shared dreams of dealing with insecurity (Carpenter, 2009, p. 13).
Cooperation: the meeting between President Bush and Calderon led to a paradigm change from grudges to partnership between the two nations.
This is where the Meridia initiative was born and it’s now a very large and comprehensive plan for fighting cartels. The program was set to run for three years and 1.4 billion dollars were spent on it (Wasler, 2010, p. 6). The basic objective was to strengthen Mexican institutions to enhance their capacities to hunt and deal with complex crime and trafficking gangs.
The US has also provided its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel to help in recruitment and training of law enforcement officers in Mexico for the Mexican sensitive Investigative unit. This way, there will be great enhancement of intelligences across the countries’ departments.
Another important dual venture is the Border Enforcement Security Task Forces (BEST); this is an operation task force that makes use of the intelligence obtained from the partnership to propel investigations and organize the members for intensify security on the borders (Wasler, 2010, p. 6).
Containment: the objective of the US forces as they seek to ensure security for its citizens has been to contain or stop smuggling of any kind ranging from illegal immigrants, human traffickers, illicit commodities, drugs and other unlawful activities through the borders in order to stop any problems that could be associated with these illegal dealings (Wasler, 2010, p. 7).
First, the US established a special department for this purposes, the border patrol in 1924 and recently, the setting up of the Secure Fence Act in 2006. The US is now positive that it can manage to contain the drug cartels threats from Mexico to a considerable level.
The border security has been modified over years through several revisions, from Southwest Border security to new 2009 law and seemingly more efficient institution called Homeland security headed by Janet Napolitano (Wasler, 2010, p. 8). The office of national drugs control policy (ONDCP) formed collaboration with DHS to fight narcotics smuggling across southwestern border.
Blame America and not Mexico: it’s quite evident that the US domestic drug abuse is the reason why there is production of drug in Mexico because this offers ready market. Some of its gun laws as identified earlier have big loopholes and the economy is also very open (Wasler, 2010, p. 9).
Acceptance of co-responsibility yielded good results and now the cartels are feeling the pressure. Even the US former president Clinton noted that the American insatiable need for the drugs is what drives the trade. The inability to control firearms and other lethal weapon from being smuggled out of the country offers the gangs the weapons to counter government raids and other efforts to stop them (Wasler, 2010, p. 9).
However, there is new readiness to contain drug cartels where several combined initiative are already in place and other laws are being prepared to make smuggling of weapons out of US illegal and also reevaluate other domestic policies that deal with drug trafficking from Mexico.
Beith, M. (2010). “The Last Narco,” Grove Press, New York, pp. 40-55.
Carpenter, T.G. (2009). “Troubled Neighbor: Mexico’s Drug Violence Poses a Threat to the United States,” Policy Analysis, no. 631.
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Smith, R.C (2006). “Mexican New York- Transnational Lives of New Immigrants,” University Of California Press; Berkeley, CA.
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Wasler, R. (2010). “U.S. Strategy Against Mexican Drug Cartels: Flawed and Uncertain, Heritage Foundation,” Backgrounder, No. 2407.