The news that didn’t fit the print: CIA “hit” in Tres Marias
If you want any evidence of how closed U.S. media is when it comes to Mexico, consider that I have to take the following AFP wire story not from any of my usual sources, but from Ahram, the Egyptian on-line English-language news service:
The US and Mexican governments have said little about the nature of their work since a shooting last week that wounded two Americans. This is a silence that has put a spotlight on the growing but often secretive US role in Mexico’s brutal drug war.
The Mexican left-wing opposition Democratic Revolution Party said it would summon government officials to a Senate hearing in order to clarify the murky role of the US Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico.
US officials told the [New York] Times on condition of anonymity there was no evidence so far the Americans, who have not been identified, were targeted because of their affiliation.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, had already raised questions about the CIA’s presence in Mexico on Tuesday.
“The Mexican government must give a complete report on what the CIA is doing here, with whom it is working and what is the extent of its work,” Ebrard said.
“Everything is in the dark,” he told reporters, adding that Mexico traditionally does not authorise CIA operations.
Calderon’s government has been forced in the past to defend the presence of US agents or the use of US drones over Mexican territory in the fight against drug cartels.
Analysts say the number of US security officials in Mexico has soared since Calderon launched an anti-drug offensive in 2006. More than 50,000 people have died since Mexican troops were deployed against the cartels.
But Calderon has refused to disclose the number of US law enforcement agents working in Mexico. Under Mexican law, foreign agents or soldiers are forbidden from taking part in operations or carrying weapons in the country.
“Of course many of these operations are taking place, and of course they are bypassing the legal framework in doing so,” Edgardo Buscaglia, a security expert and senior research scholar at New York’s Columbia University, told AFP.
While the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used to be the dominant force, the CIA, the US Defense Department and other American agencies have increased their presence, Buscaglia said.
“The expansion of the US presence within Mexican soil is unprecedented,” he said. “We are reaching levels — not in terms of soldiers but in terms of American intelligence — that are close to Afghanistan.”
On thing that I left out in my quotation from the full story was a reference to the New York Times “breaking” the story of CIA involvement. Most Mexican media knew this and published that information long before the Times got hold of it. As far as I can tell, it was Carlos Loret de la Mola who broke the story in El Universal. However, with Edgardo Buscaglia being identified as a “a security expert and senior research scholar at New York’s Columbia University” (which he is), rather than an adviser to the United Nations, the Mexican government, and THE expert on this issue, suggests to me this was a New York based report, which U.S. media have chosen not to run.
Things that have jumped out at me are that while U.S. biased reports stress “police corruption” and changes in police personnel, no mention is ever made that the Secretary of Public Security (who heads the Federal Police), Genaro García Luna, has been one of the few Calderón Administration cabinet officers that has been there since the beginning, despite allegations of illicit personal enrichment and incompetence. Calderón’s own open preference for using Marines (from the Secretariat of the Navy) in high-profile operations against organized crime figures, has been noticed. If “police corruption” really was a concern, one wonders why the top person has been kept on, and what is going on behind the scenes when there are two competing “law enforcement agencies”, one of which — the Navy — is operating in a constitutional gray area, if not a black hole.
The second thing — again, nothing not suspected or unreported in Mexico — is the presence of these U.S. agents operating outside the law. The “Afghanistanization” of the “war on (some) drug (exporters, but not the Sinaloan Cartel)” has been obvious for a long time. The two most recent U.S. Ambassadors here — Carlos Pascual and Anthony Wayne — were widely touted for having Afghanistan experience.
And, while there are those who defend the “intervention”, it has to be said that if these guys really were CIA, and not some bozos hired by the CIA they were not exactly the best advertisements for American power. Under the spell of Bush II-inspired “privatization” the CIA and other defense/national security operations have been contracting out to not always well-qualified or well-vetted — but politically supportive — sevice providers. That the U.S. pair needed a Spanish-language translator (the Mexican officer in the SUV that was fired on), not to mention that they didn’t have any visa that would allow them in the country (or at least give them some sort of legitimate cover, if just as tourists — c’mon, it’d only have cost them about 25 buck each ) — is sloppy at best.
The U.S. media is just saying the guys left the country… uh… yeah. They were illegal aliens. In theory, they can come back to give testimony, but somehow I don’t see that happening. The CIA wants to make this go away.
Here in Mexico, as elsewhere in Latin America, there is no love for the CIA, and a lot of people just want the CIA to go away. And I suspect — no, I know — there are those quietly cheering for whoever tried to pop the guys.