Mexico’s Troubles, U.S. Interests

Falling short of his intended target, a man carrying an explosive device was killed and a handful of bystanders injured in an area near Mexico City’s tourist and commercial area of Zona Rosa.  Mexican authorities report that the suspect may be connected to one of several Mexican drug cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel, but it is too early in the investigation to reach any definitive conclusions.  The apparent intended target was a federal police station although it was also near a popular area known as Insurgent Plaza.

During the past few months Mexican President Felipe Calderon has bolstered federal troop presence in northern Mexico, including in areas where the Sinaloa Cartel is active, by deploying thousands of soldiers to the border town areas.  Meanwhile, scores of alleged cartel officials and supporters have been arrested in Mexico City and elsewhere during the past few weeks.   The attempted bombing of a federal police office in Mexico City yesterday could be a message to Mexican authorities that the cartel intends to escalate confrontation with the government in light of the more recent crackdown.

While not directly related to recent events in Mexico, the Merida Initiative announced by the Bush Administration in late 2007 to assist Mexico combat the drug cartels may also have the drug cartels wondering what to do next.   The Initiative funds a new security cooperation initiative with Mexico and the countries of Central America in order to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism in the Western Hemisphere.

The Bush Administration has requested that “Congress approve $500 million for fiscal year 2008 to provide the additional funding necessary to reinforce the significant efforts that Mexico is currently undertaking with its own resources.”  According to the Administration, this request would be the first part of a multi-year funding request of $1.4 billion, as well as an initial $50 million in fiscal year 2008 for Central American countries to bolster the efforts regionally.

Another possible source for the recent attacks making the rounds, but not likely given the initial reports from Mexican authorities, is a Mexican terrorist group—the Cuban/Venezuelan-backed Popular Revolutionary Army or EPR.  The Marxist-leaning EPR has been around since the late 1990s and is allegedly not linked or associated with another terrorist group in Mexico, the Zapatista Liberation Army (“EZLN”).  In March 2007, the EPR took credit for the bombings of several government-owned Pemex energy pipelines in central Mexico.   Yet, after the pipeline bombings the group issued a statement run by Reuters stating that the group would issue warnings of future attacks so as to “prevent human losses.”  As with any terrorist group, do not take anything it says at face value.

Whether the recent bombing in Mexico City was the action of drug cartels or a terrorist group, it is certainly a vivid reminder that Mexican authorities are experiencing increasing challenges from within unlike any in recent memory and it will need our support to combat it.  As the crack down on both fronts continues, challenges will surely mount if these criminal groups decide to increase direct confrontations with the government as the latter begins to implement more robust measures at stemming the illegal drug flow and cracking down on insurgent/terrorist groups.

For the U.S., it is a not so subtle reminder of the many challenges to U.S. interests in neighboring Central America, Caribbean, and South America – regions of support for these cartels and terrorist groups.  Cuban and Venezuelan adventurism can be directly tied to many of these groups, including some in the drug cartels.   It is quite amazing how little media coverage incidents such as yesterday’s bombing in Mexico receive in U.S. media.  Yet events such as these underscore the importance of such things as ensuring we not only secure our borders, but that we must work with out partners in Mexico to ensure that these problems are contained within Mexico.

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