The drug wars currently raging in Mexico have generated a lot of news coverage in the USA, but our media has missed one of the biggest and most interesting aspects of the story. The U.S. taxpayer is footing the bill for the war and financing the development of a massive military industrial complex in Mexico.
For the past few years, Uncle Sam has provided the Mexican government with $1.9 billion to wage war on drugs under the so-called Merida Initiative. That aid flows to the Mexican military and the Federal Police, or Policia Federal Preventiva, a paramilitary police organization that evolved from the old Federales and the Mexican military.
Mexico’s Police Empire
The Federal Police is not an investigative or law enforcement agency like the FBI; instead, it is a gendarmerie—a militarized police force. The Federal Police are growing and becoming militarized. Last year, the agency set up a National Gendarmerie Division (a sort of national SWAT team) with assistance from France’s National Gendarmerie.
The National Gendarmerie Division is legally considered a military force within the police. In other words, an army that Mexico’s leaders can deploy against their own citizens if necessary. When the organization was created, it actually absorbed a brigade of the Mexican Army.
The Federal Police had a budget of $34.6 billion in 2010 and more than 40,000 employees in 2009, making it a formidable bureaucratic empire similar to the U.S. military industrial complex. That empire is growing, and its leaders have figured out how to tap the U.S. national treasury to pay for the expansion.
Under the pretext of fighting drug cartels, the U.S. has given the Federal Police hundreds of millions of dollars. Much of that money has been used to buy weaponry, vehicles, and equipment made in the USA, which makes the Federal Police part of the U.S. military industrial complex. U.S. defense contractors are profiting from the drug war.
The money that has poured into Mexico has not had much effect on the drug trade. Washington Post writer Sari Horwitz noted that the cartels now make around $20 billion a year from the drug trade.
The cartels have used that money to build up a sophisticated national distribution network for their products. That network is increasingly effective; seizures of heroin in Atlanta, a city where four Mexican cartels are operating, have increased by 70% in the last two years, DEA Special Agent Harry S. Sommers told Horwitz.
Mexico’s War on Terror
The strategy of pouring money into Mexican police has not been very effective even though it is lucrative. It is also being questioned, which brings us to the Federal Police’s latest tactic to get its hands on more of the U.S. taxpayers’ cash: expand the War on Terror to Mexico.
On April 14, 2015, Judicial Watch, a right wing blog, ran this headline: “ISIS Camp a Few Miles from Texas, Mexican Authorities Confirm.” The article accompanying provided absolutely no evidence to verify that dramatic claim. It gave vague reference to a Mexican military or police raid on an ISIS training camp near El Paso in which Islamic prayer rugs and documents in Arabic were recovered.
Not a single picture of a captured or dead ISIS fighter or even a picture of the training camp was presented. Instead, only a few vague statements from shadowy sources identified as high ranking officers in the Mexican military and Federal Police were printed. No pictures of the prayer rugs and Arabic documents have appeared online.
Even though the article was short on basic journalism, it did mention the hypothesis that understaffed municipal and county police forces in Mexico create safe havens for terrorists to operate from. In other words, it was providing a pretext for Federal Police expansion that could be used to justify more aid to Mexico. My guess here is that the Mexican authorities are trying to get more money from U.S. taxpayers in order to fund more police expansion using the threat of terrorism.
This is not the first time such claims have been made. Last year several prominent Republican politicians, including Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), now a presidential candidate, made similar statements.
Like Judicial Watch, they presented no evidence to back up the contention. When journalists like Lauren Carrol of Politifact.com looked into the statements, they found no evidence to back them up.
What is going on here? Why are American politicians repeating questionable stories that seem to be spread by a foreign law enforcement agency? My guess is that the politicians were spurred to action by the promise of campaign contributions from defense contractors. The contractors are anxious to supply Mexico’s “new war on terror.”
My prediction here is that we will hear more and more claims about ISIS in Mexico and the threat it poses to America as U.S. support for the war on drugs wanes. Mexico’s military industrial complex and its allies in the United States need a new enemy to fight, and ISIS makes a great enemy. One has to wonder how many people will buy into this absurd fantasy and how much of our tax money will be wasted upon it.
I also have to wonder what bogeyman the Mexican Federal Police will dream up to fight after the ISIS threat south of the border is exposed as a shoddy lie. Perhaps it is time we stopped looking for imaginary enemies and started holding Congress accountable for the way it uses foreign aid.