USA-Mexico Anti-Drug Plan Includes ‘Private Contractors’
Mexi Data (2007-11-12) Nancy Conroy
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Monday, November 12, 2007
By Nancy Conroy
The United States and Mexico recently unveiled a new US$1.4 billion anti-drug aid package that aims to help Mexico fight the drug cartels. Although most commentators have applauded the goals of the program, one troubling aspect of the aid package seems to have escaped public notice. Apparently, the appropriation program calls for the use of private contractors to help Mexico fight drug dealers. The issue of “private contractors” has exploded onto the national agenda recently because of human rights abuses in Iraq committed by Blackwater USA, a private, for hire mercenary army.
The possible use of private contractors in the Mexican war on drugs raises a number of disturbing questions.
That private contractors are part of the new drug package is an idea that was reported only in a lone article in the Dallas Morning News (“$1.4 billion U.S.-Mexico anti-drug program to entail use of private contractors,” October 18, 2007). In a tantalizing tidbit, that article reported that the private contractors’ issue “has been among the most sensitive areas of negotiations for both governments.” The Chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, Silvestre Reyes, said, "I've heard that expressed as a concern on the part of Mexican officials, and it also raises an issue of concern for us because of how contractors are being used in Iraq. That will not be helpful in getting this through Congress." Since that article there have been no more reports or discussions of the matter.
Given the controversy currently raging in the US media over the actions of Blackwater in Iraq, and the notion of private contractors in general, it is curious that more information about their possible inclusion in the new anti-drug bill does not seem to be available. Perhaps, as Reyes suggested, it is a sensitive area of negotiation for both governments. If that is the case, maybe the issue is being purposely hushed up. On the other hand, maybe the role of private contractors is not significant and the details of the plan are not defined, which was an explanation provided by other officials who were also quoted in the Dallas Morning News article. Still, if private contractors are being considered, both the US and the Mexican public are entitled to know.
Black clad, private mercenaries operating in Mexican territory is a concept that President Felipe Calderon is certain to reject. Mexico has never allowed foreign military personnel onto its territory, and private commando squads with uncertain loyalties are out of the question. Mexico already has plenty of experience with paramilitary groups, since armed commandos such as the Zetas regularly commit assassinations, shoot outs, kidnappings and robberies. In the Mexican mind, private armies and drug dealers are one and the same thing. Private contractors cannot be trusted to fight the cartels, because mercenaries work for drug dealers, not against them.
The presence of mercenaries in an anti-drug effort undermines the overall credibility of the proposal. Mexicans are often cynics and conspiracy theorists, and many people think that so-called anti-drug campaigns are really only power shakeups between competing cartels. In the past, Mexican leaders would utilize state resources to launch a supposed cleanup effort, when really they were just eliminating competitors and grabbing the business for themselves.
The Mexican public now trusts President Calderon not to attempt that trick, but they are not necessarily so sure about George W. Bush. With private contractors as part of the deal, the $1.4 billion dollar aid package could begin to look like a Trojan horse strategy. Under the guise of a generous gift to Mexico, whoever controls the private contractors could be cleverly inserting their shady operatives into key anti-drug enforcement positions. The gringo drug dealers operating in Mexico used to be corrupt elements of the CIA and the DEA, but now maybe the mercenaries are the new kids in town.
Plausible or not, that is the line of reasoning that will be talked about in Mexico.
To avoid suspicion and conspiracy theories, the US and Mexican governments should disclose any possible role for private contractors and open the matter up for public debate. The US press should clarify whether private contractors are really part of the aid package or not, and Representative Reyes should make more public statements on the topic.
Meanwhile, the Mexican press and the Mexican public should become more informed about the issue of private contractors in the United States and the possible consequences for Mexico.
Nancy Conroy is the Editor/Publisher of northern Baja California’s biweekly Gringo Gazette. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org