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Bye-bye Blackhawks? Bonjour, Cougars

13 April 2009

Although U.S. arms imports are a touchy issue in Mexico right now, last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed financing for US-made Blackhawk helicopters on top of a 1.4-billion-dollar US plan to help train and equip Mexican anti-drug forces, which still needs to be approved by Congress.

However, when it comes to funding the Mérida Initiative, the U.S. response has been “manaña”. Initially, the Merida Plan called for 500 million dollars in logistics and support, which was scaled back, and then never delivered.  Hillary Clinton finally, last month, agreed to sell Mexico (or rather, transfer funds to Sikorsky aircraft) for a couple Blackhawks, to be delivered… whenever.  There is no guarantee  the budget item will make it through Congress.

In the meantime, the Mexican military helicopter fleet is aging. Almost unnoticed outside Mexico (and I didn’t pay much attention to it either), Nicolas Sakorzy made a state visit just before Clinton.  Media attention was focused on Sakorzy’s request that a French woman, serving time here for kidnapping, be repatriated to France, but little was made of the French President’s main objective… drumming up business for his country’s industries.

SEDENA (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional) says they need helicopters to continue the “drug war.”  The might (or might not) get Blackhawks from the United States.  Going back to Porfirio Diaz, the Mexican military has always bought a basket of armnaments from different foreign suppliers — partially to avoid being at the mercy of any one nation’s foreign policy, and partially because Mexico really doesn’t have all that much need for military hardware, and it tends to buy in fairly small quantities.  The army has Polish tanks and the navy has Russian fighter jets, and it looks like its getting … not the three or six Blackhawks, at some time… but six EC-725 Cougar from the French company, EADS/ Eurocopter, to replace its fleet of difficult to maintain Russian built MI-17s.

I don’t think new attack gunships is going to “win” any war on drugs, but I’m not sure the Mérida Initiative is really designed to do that, any more than Plan Colombia is designed to really wipe out  cocaine production in Colombia (which has gone up since “Plan Colombia” started pumping weapons and “advisors” into the South American nation).   It’s about sales and marketing .

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