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·  “We have 18 months”; No time for institution-building

 ·  Goal to “sustain the confrontation into the next administration”

·  Mexican authorities criticize lack of strategy in initial phase of Merida Initiative

Wikileaks cable 002882 indicates that U.S. and Mexican authorities were primarily concerned about showing “success” in Ciudad Juarez in advance of the 2012 Mexican presidential elections, and discarded longer-term strategies to resolve the endemic violence that afflicts the border city. Members of the Calderon cabinet spoke openly of the need to “sustain the confrontation into the next administration.”

The summary of cable 002882 from October of 2009 notes:

At a dinner hosted by PGR for a visiting DOJ (Department of Justice) delegation, National Security Coordinator [Jorge] Tello Peon and Undersecretary for Governance [Geronimo] 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. They believe it would also go a long way toward stitching up the country,s (sic) damaged international reputation.

Priority on “Sustaining” the Drug War

According to the cable account of the meeting,
“in retrospect he [Gutierrez Fernandez] and other GOM (Government of Mexico) officials realize that not enough strategic thought went into Merida in the early phase. There was too much emphasis in the initial planning on equipment, which they now know is slow to arrive and even slower to be of direct utility in the fight against the DTOs (drug-trafficking organizations). Of more immediate importance is building institutions that can effectively use the equipment.”

Rather than discussing how to build institutions, however, the cable astoundingly goes on the note that it is too late for institution-building due to the proximity of federal elections:

Gutierrez went on to say, however, that he now realizes there is not even time for the institution building to take hold in the remaining years of the Calderon administration. ‘We have 18 months,’ he said, ‘and if we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration.’”

The goal, recorded in this cable, is to “sustain the confrontation.” Not good news for the people of Ciudad Juarez. A superficial goal of showing success within eighteen months in showcase cities while maintaining the conflict also opens the door to repressive tactics that would merely displace the violence geographically or create a military/police state that suppresses violence at the expense of basic liberties. With no mention of resolving the violence or dismantling the drug cartels, the cable raises serious doubts about the real motivations behind the drug war.

Instead, it would appear that the U.S. government shares the Calderon cabinet’s priority of achieving a “symbolic” victory for the Calderon government before the end of its administration and assuring a continuation of the drug war into the next.

The cable marks a strategy not to defeat cartels but to reinforce support for a drug war that lacks transparency, was launched without the consent of the Mexican Congress or people, lacks a clear strategy or evaluation of the situation, has had disastrous results in public safety and is rapidly losing public support.

The U.S. Embassy comment at the end states the intention to follow up on the strategy of “selecting a few key cities and working to turn security.” If both sides did indeed follow up on this strategy since October of 2009, it has failed spectacularly. In 2010, Ciudad Juarez suffered a record 3,000 deaths related to the drug war. The city is poised to break its own record and maintain its place as the murder capital of the world in 2011.

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