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The U.S. Dept. of State’s “Mex Files” here

2 December 2010
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I don’t expect to have time to more than glance at the wikileak cables over the next few days, but as I have access, am putting them up on their own page, labeled WIKILEAK MEXICO CABLES.

The batch I put up tonight (2-December-2010) were cut and pasted straight from El País.  Others as I can, since Cable Viewer (cablegate.wikileaks.org) goes on and off line, and isn’t always easy to negotiate.

The one that jumped out at me right away was the summary to Cable 228419, dated 5 October 2009 (which is only “confidential” and neither secret nor marked “NOFORN” (meaning not for foreign distribution), which certainly sounds like the “drug war” is more about perception and image building (for PAN?) than about stopping the trafficking of narcotics to the world’s biggest consumer:

… National Security Coordinator Tello Peon and  Undersecretary for Governance Gutierrez Fernandez told the delegation they would like to explore seriously focusing our joint efforts on two or three key cities to reverse the current wave of violence and instability and show success in the fight against the DTOs in the next 18 months. They suggested starting in Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, and one other city with a joint planning cell to review what resources we could collectively bring to bear. They believe the symbolism of turning several of the most violent cities would be potent, sending a signal to the rest of the country that the fight against organized crime can be won, and combating the current sense of impotence felt by many Mexicans.

 

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. 3 December 2010 3:30 am

    “They believe the symbolism of turning several of the most violent cities would be potent, sending a signal to the rest of the country that the fight against organized crime can be won, and combating the current sense of impotence felt by many Mexicans.” Shame on “them”!Not that any of this is a novel concept. We have long KNOWN that our poor country and those of us living here are mere pawns – absolutely expendible assets in the international chess game.

    • Fred permalink
      4 December 2010 7:33 pm

      What ‘international game of chess’ are you referring to? And why would you consider a coordinated assault on the narco gangs a ‘shame’? The fact is the narco wars are just as much a manifestation of Mexico’s historically weak Federal institutions as they are about narcos and wars.

      It’s either a direct, very public intervention the type of which Peon describes in a place like Juarez or the risk of widespread civil war will continue rising. All of this reminds of NYC in the 70s & 80s and the impact of simply cleaning the subway system of did for the image of the city. Unfortunately, in the case of Northern Mexico, even the traditionally functioning regional governments (e.g. Monterrey) are falling apart. Can you imagine explaining to your family that you are interested in running for public office these days?

      I get a little unnerved when I hear folks in the US dismiss the conditions in Mexico today as a simple consequence for continued restrictions on controlled substances and that if the US were to simple legalize drugs, then much of the raison d’etre for the narcos would simply evaporate. It makes me laugh because it’s this over simplified, linear thinking that has gotten Mexico where it is today.

      The narcos are simply what has always been beneath the surface for centuries. It is the same attitude and actions with which the PGR so bravely touted when I lived in the DF in the 90s. The issue is the failure of the government to take bold, effective action. I know it would freak everyone out to see jointly commanded US and Mexican special forces in Hummers and APCs assume control over Monterrey for example, but I guarantee you it would send shivers down the spines of these thugs from Tamaulipas to the Tijuana coast line. And I dare say, those in Monterrey would welcome it……..

  2. 3 December 2010 12:38 pm

    Wikileaks has more than a dozen mirror sites.
    http://wikileaks.info/

  3. Jose Guadalupe Garcia Cavazos permalink
    5 December 2010 12:18 am

    Dude,……I agree with your last sentence there Frank. Some of my cousins from Monterrey moved to Texas recently. And I know that they would welcome more military presense in their neighborhood. My uncle says that he has seen a convoy of armed men in his neighborhood, and he lives in what is supposed to be a “wealthy area”…..Yeah, shit is getting out of hand over there too.

    • Jose Guadalupe Garcia Cavazos permalink
      5 December 2010 12:20 am

      Sorry, I got your name wrong Fred.

  4. 5 December 2010 9:10 am

    Fred —

    I can’t comment at any lengthn(I’m travelling and this is written on a borrowed computer), but a couple of thoughts:

    The first commentator is a Mexican (the name can throw you), and the sense that Mexico is a “pawn in an international game of chess” is indeed alive and well.

    While there are those who think legalization of marijuana (or all narcotics) in the United States is magically going to end problems here, I don’t think I’ve ever said such a thing at any time. As I’ve said for the last several years, this “war” is attacking the symptoms, not the disease. The disease being the economic and social problems resulting from the “Washington Consensus” on economies worldwide, and NAFTA on Mexico. Not that interenational cooperation and globalization are bad concepts, but the execution has means huge social disruptions.

    “Jointly commanded” actions by the U.S. and Mexico would do more than just “send shivers down the spine” of Mexican gangsters. If not the majority, a sizable minority of Mexicans would see it as another foreign intervention and would see it as their patriotic duty to resist, and/or support whatever “liberation fronts” form up throughout the country. AND, the narcos themselves, now simply a criminal matter, would have no trouble rebranding themselves as real insurgents.

    That said, the cables I think are important are those that spoke of the opposition in the 2006 election as “antidemocratic forces” — suggesting the U.S. government saw those who had proposed an alternative to a militaristic response to criminality were a threat. They were: to Mexico as a pawn in U.S. economic chess. While I can’t see much point in going into “what ifs”, the fact that economic and social responses to the gangsters, as opposed to a purely militaristic one, have not been tried, and that the Calderón administration has neglected (or dropped) other policial and social programs and failed to pursue economic alternatives, is what comes through from the leaks.

    The cables complaining about Mexican government ineptitude in pursuing the U.S. backed policy show that the U.S. does indeed expect the Mexicans to be “pawns” in their chess game.

    • Fred permalink
      5 December 2010 9:44 am

      Thanks for getting back. It’s a good discussion. I am surprised to hear that you think NAFTA has not benefited Mexico. Clearly, there are issues that have not been resolved (e.g. allowing Mexican truckers clear access to the US, etc.) but on the whole, Mexico’s middle class has flourished under NAFTA. By almost every metric, Mexico has expanded fiercely as a result of NAFTA.

      As for US troops in Mexico, it goes without saying this would most likely never come to pass. But I will argue that if you polled folks in Monterrey for example, you might be surprised at what you hear.

      Reaching back to failed policies of import substitution and social engineering will only beget the paleolithic institutions and sindicatos that ran Mexico for 80 years until Salinas began the process of liberating capital and commerce.

      I recall during the depths of the crisis in 1996, when virtually everyone we knew had been either kidnapped or assaulted in Mexico City and the Chupacabra threatened little babies in the still of the night, the only visible safety net was the good will and nature of the Mexican people. Were it not for that fundamental social reality, I would argue, things would have completely fallen apart. I imagine to some extent, this is where Mexico is with the narcos. They are organized thugs, looking to make a buck off the backs of decent folks, despite any law on the books. Wait, kind of sounds like the PGR pre-Calderon……….

  5. El Chismoso permalink
    5 December 2010 9:35 am

    I’m beginning to see a trend on this blog. Every social problem in Mexico is caused by the U.S. It reminds me of this Flip Wilson comedy routine.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SLifea3NHQHere a couple of other interesting wiki-leak documents

    A couple of other interesting wiki-leaks.

    Cable # 114042. Created on July 2, 2007

    According to this cable, signed by U.S. Ambassador to Spain Eduardo Aguirre, the Spanish president José María Aznar said that at a dinner Felipe Calderón has admitted being “completely” wrong on “the depth and breadth” of corruption in Mexico and also stated that the influence of drug cartels in the country was beyond comprehension.

    Cable # 000193. Created on January 23, 2009

    Leslie Bassett, who served as charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, reported after the departure of former Ambassador Tony Garza, that 61 Mexican officials from different agencies serving as liaisons with U.S. authorities were killed from the beginning of 2007. Of those killed, 10 were liaising with the DEA and 51 with the FBI.

    • Fred permalink
      5 December 2010 11:42 am

      In the mid/late 90s, I did a lot of work on IPAB assets, in particualr the Bancrecer assets which was the largest bank to default after the Dec 1994 devaluation. As all financials had been pre-Salinas, Bancrecer was privatized and carried with it all of the legacy assets from the government-owned era. The whole story of how politicians rob(bed) was right there in the loan documents. False entities, fake assets, related party transactions – all amounted to hundreds of billions stolen from the country, primarily by politicians. This notion that Mexico’s fate was not sealed entirely by its own failure to produce a strong, enforceable system of jurisprudence backed by a functioning executive and legislative branches, is in my estimate, a joke. To be sure, Mexico’s social issues remain severe but to look back on the last 20 years as anything but a massive leap forward is just wrong.

      I’ll always be medio chilango but my tolerance for dependency theorists was exhausted back in graduate school.

      One thought i’ve always considered worthy of investigation is the elimination of income tax in Mexico, substituted with a higher flat sales tax in addition to the VAT. The idea is that those at the lower end of the income range would be less affected since most of their purchases are done in the informal economy and those who are doing better, shop generally at legitimate stores. The gov’t could offset any impact on the lower income by simply granting a fixed voucher redeemable for tax credits at the point of purchase; similar to a food stamp but would be a fixed amount of purchases annually that would be tax free.

      Hacienda remains one of the worst run entities in Mexico and a tremendous source of problems for business. Eliminating much of the corruption at the Hacienda level would be a good thing.

      On the housing front, INFONAVIT is a completely different animal today than 15 years ago and while great improvements have been made, Mexico needs to take a cue from the Brazilian’s CAIXA system; integrate the construction loan piece of a residential project with the final mortgage and thereby streamline the entire process. The problem I imagine is if INFONAVIT tried to do it, they’d hit a wall with corrupt practices and Mexican bureaucrats’ love for picking winners and losers based on alms payments. In order for this to work, INFONAVIT would necessarily have to open the administration up to private banks who would essentially have no risk in the loans but earn fees for administering.

      Last, PEMEX is a disaster, not simply because it is in the constitution but because Mexico has no national energy plan – which is a joke. Unless Mexico gets its act together on this front (which I believe involves the revocation of the constitutional prohibition against foreign competition), the Federal deficit will start to balloon within five years.

  6. Vega permalink
    8 December 2010 3:39 pm

    I found this site while I was looking for info on the leaked cables from México and I have enjoyed it tremedously.

    I had to comment here because I felt compelled to say something to Fred though. Being a Mexican, who lives in México and has lived all her life here and will probably continue to do so until I die, I am completely against this “war on drugs”. I find the way it has been handled and even more the idea of possible jointed forces by the US and México assuming control over any city in my country absolutely appalling.

    I don’t think one should base their view on the public opinion in México on the thoughts of someone who obviously has at least the minimum requirements to leave the country if things get rough. The reality is much different for those who have to stay.

    And while NAFTA was good for some people, I disagree that the middle class as a whole has received this great benefit. Some did but the reality is that many more have suffered through this whole ordeal. NAFTA had a huge negative impact on the smaller farmers especially and having family in places where agriculture in several types of scale is the main economic mean of survival I have witnessed this firsthand.

    • Fred permalink
      9 December 2010 7:43 am

      Vega – Are you really arguing that Mexico would have been better off without NAFTA? What alternative, import substitution? Perhaps there are elements of the agreement that could have been structured better – no one will deny that – but to say on the whole the treaty made Mexico worse off is just wrong. Look, I get the whole mi patria thing; I lived in Mexico long enough (and not as an expat but as a local, earning in pesos and breathing/speaking Mexican culture) to be able to safely say that the middle class did not “suffer” as a result of NAFTA, but was made much better. Why? Job creation has been unprecedented since the devaluation in 1994. The system before Salinas was a joke, mired in decades of plutocratic greed centered in the PRI-sindicato machine. Do you really think a Don Fidel was good for middle class Mexicans at the end of the day? These guys sucked everything they could out of Mexico in the 70s, despite huge petroleum surpluses.

      As for agriculture – Mexico is and should be a greater powerhouse but it should benefit Mexicans first and foremostly. I am not an expert by any means on the ag industry but clearly you’ve seen a negative impact from NAFTA. I am interested in understanding how NAFTA could be better structured to benefit smaller farmers? Clearly access to foreign markets is a good thing for small farmers (assuming they can get their product to market) so the general nature of a free trade agreement can’t be all that bad, right?

      As for any joint US/Mexican operations, I know it would never sell itself and for that reason alone, I would be shocked if it ever came to pass. You don’t need to have a history with Mexico to be able to see that. What I am saying is if you ask someone in Monterrey for example, whether or not it would be a good idea, you might be surprised by the response……

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