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If you fund it, they will come (up with a rationale)

15 July 2008

Is it just me, or have others noticed the sudden rash of stories from Mexico that are peripheral to the “military/police v narcotics exporter” stories, but still involve narcotics… and suggest remedies that require funding?

The scandal goes back a while, but CISEN (the Mexican version of the CIA) Director Guillermo Valdés — who was already in hot water for spying on Congressional delegates — or rather sub-contracting the illegal data gathering to a bunch of of college kids) popped up in the British newspaper Financial Times:

In one of the frankest admissions yet from a leading authority of the scale of the problem confronting Mexico, Guillermo Valdés, head of Cisen, the government’s intelligence organisation, told the Financial Times and a small group of foreign media recently: “Drug traffickers have become the principal threat because they are trying to take over the power of the state.”

Mr Valdés said the gangs, which have grown wealthy from the multibillion-dollar drugs trade, had co-opted many members of local police forces, the judiciary and government entities in their efforts to create local structures to protect their business.

Those efforts, he said, could now also be targeting federal institutions such as Congress itself. “Congress is not exempt . . . we do not rule out the possibility that drug money is involved in the campaigns [of some legislators],” said Mr Valdés.

It’s been assumed that CISEN’s illegal snooping was looking for dirt on PEMEX privatization opponents, and — since it looks like a deal is coming down to settle the PEMEX issue, Valdés just looks like an idiot. Ana-Maria Salazar has it right:

The President of the Senate, Santiago Creel demanded the CISEN present proof. However, the Secretary of Gobernación Juan Camilo Mouriño late Monday evening commented that there is no evidence of this infiltration and he underlined his respect for the legislative branch. (This does not bode well for Valdés. I agree with the Director of the CISEN that drug trafficking cartels have infiltrated political campaigns. Why would organized crime not attempt to do this!! However, to mention this to a foreign newspaper and not expect that the legislators would not demand evidence….well this is spraying gasoline to the fire..)

Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if some legislators did take “campaign contributions” from narcotics exporters… it’s no more illegal than campaign contributions are from any other private source…  Unlike the United States, such funding is called by it’s correct name:  corruption of public officials.   At any rate, it’s a matter for the Elections Commission, which has its own prosecutors.  Certainly not for CISEN.

But, as the Financial Times reported, Valdes’

…comments come as George W. Bush, US president, this month signed into law the Merida Initiative, an aid package that will provide $400m of anti-narcotics assistance to Mexico this year. The aid, an open recognition by the US government that things south of the border appear to be deteriorating rapidly, will provide Mexican authorities with helicopters, training and surveillance equipment, among other things. It is believed that Cisen will receive only about $20m of the assistance.

I’m not sure things “south of the border are deteriorating rapidly” (or even slowly)… but there is that $20M to be divved up, and the Financial Times is owned by Rupurt Murdoch, so you can’t expect the story not to have a pro-Bush slant somewhere.

ALSO apparently seeking to tap into funds are the Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Health.  Today, Josefina Vázquez Mota, the Education Secretary, issued a report on drugs and gangs in the schools. Shocking:  Seven percent of students have relatives that use narcotics of one kind or another, and a whopping 28% have seen drugs being sold.  Not using them, mind you.  Just think they’ve seen them being sold.  However, with the claim that 12.2 percent of students between the ages of 15 and 19 probably should be given some attention.  Most of the drug use by students is either marijuana or amphetamines.  And, I’d rather see the money spent on students than on spies, natch.

Health Secretary Angel Córdova Villalobos ALSO issued a report on drug use, this one on drug use by convicts. Córdova Villalobos is claiming 95% of convicts (federal and state) are drug users. The word in the headline was “Adictos” (Milenio, 13-July-2008, but somehow I lost the link) which makes it sound much more alarming. I’ll have more to say on the report tomorrow — not specifically on the allegations of drug use, but on convicts in general. I wanted to check out some other facts, and check with the experts first.

I have been worried by the Merida Iniative funding for a number of reasons… one of which has been the likelihood that real social reforms in the country will take a back seat to a military/police/prison paradigm as has happened in the United States when it comes to narcotics.  Violence has escalated since the Calderon Administration chose this method of dealing with what hasn’t been particularly a Mexican problem.  My “inner Mexican” — who believes everything is a “complot” — worries that three separate claims appearing at once — involving the legislature, the schools and the prisons — is an attempt to create a Mexican “drug user problem” that really isn’t all that serious, but justifies sending in the troops.  On the other hand, it may be a good thing, and a signal that the “Merida Initiative” funding is going to be spent on something more useful and effective in the long-term… like treatment, political reforms and safe schools.

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