Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mexico is on fire

I've been blogging about the drug war/civil war brewing in Mexico for years (for instance see this post from 2005), but two recent articles caught my attention. First, Sam Quinones suggests that the cause of Mexico's crisis is that the federal government has not adequately funded cities and this has hurt the professionalism of their police forces, which has allowed the drug cartels to totally overrun them, either corrupting or killing the police officers.

Mexico’s gangs had the means and motive to create upheaval, and in Mexico’s failure to reform into a modern state, especially at local levels, the cartels found their opportunity. Mexico has traditionally starved its cities. They have weak taxing power. Their mayors can’t be reelected. Constant turnover breeds incompetence, improvisation, and corruption. Local cops are poorly paid, trained, and equipped. They have to ration bullets and gas and are easily given to bribery. Their morale stinks. So what should be the first line of defense against criminal gangs is instead anemic and easily compromised. Mexico has been left handicapped, and gangs that would have been stomped out locally in a more effective state have been able to grow into a powerful force that now attacks the Mexican state itself.

The first sign of trouble was Nuevo Laredo in late 2005. The Gulf and Sinaloa cartels staged street shootouts and midnight assassinations for months in this border city, which the Gulf cartel had controlled. One police chief lasted only hours from his swearing-in to his assassination. The state and municipal police took sides in the cartel fight. Newspapers had to stop reporting the news for fear of retaliation.

Enter Calderón, who took office in late 2006, determined to address the growing war among Mexico’s cartels. He broke with old half-measures of cargo takedowns that looked good but did little to damage the cartels. Calderón wanted arrests. He also began extraditing to the United States the capos and their lieutenants—more than 90 so far—who were already in custody and wanted [in the US.

But when Calderón looked across Mexico for allies to help him escalate the war on the narcogangs, he found few local governments and police forces that hadn’t been starved to dysfunction. So he has had to rely on the only tool up to the task: Mexico’s military. Calderón has also turned to the United States for help. The Merida Initiative, launched in April 2008, is a 10-fold increase in U.S. security assistance to a proposed $1.4 billion over several years, supplying Mexican forces with high-end equipment from helicopters to surveillance technology.

Fighting criminal gangs with a national military is an imperfect solution, but Calderón has scored some victories. He has captured or killed key gang leaders. Weapons seizures have been massive. Last November, the Mexican Army seized a house in Reynosa that contained the largest weapons cache ever found in the country, including more than 540 rifles, 500,000 rounds of ammunition, and 165 grenades.

The cartels have responded to Calderón’s war with the kind of buchon savagery that so struck me upon returning to Mexico. In addition to fighting each other, the cartels are now increasingly fighting the Mexican state as well, and the killing shows no sign of slowing. The Mexican Army is outgunned, even with U.S. support. Calderón’s purges of hundreds of public officials for corruption, cops among them, may look impressive, but they accomplish little.

The problem isn’t individuals; it’s systemic. Until cities have the power and funding to provide strong and well-paid local police, Mexico’s criminal gangs will remain a national threat, not a regional nuisance.
|Foreign Policy Magazine - State of War| (emphasis added)

Another recent article in the Guardian sounds the alarm bells as well about the dire situation in Mexico.

The crisis [in Mexico] consists in nothing less than an effort by the major drug cartels to tame and suborn the Mexican state... through a policy of terror... they have made it abundantly clear that they are trying to achieve impunity.

The only recent parallel in Latin America was a similar effort 15 years ago by the Colombian drug cartels. That disguised coup failed – barely – and there is no guarantee that the result will be similar this time around in Mexico.

Journalists with long experience of war zones report being more worried about their safety in Mexico border than when they were in Bosnia, Afghanistan, or Iraq...

[I]t is the campaign of targeted assassination against any Mexican official who seems to pose a serious threat to the cartels' operations that makes the crisis so dire. First, in May 2007, the cartels killed Jose Nemesio Lugo Felix, the general co-ordinator of information at the national centre for planning and analysis to combat organised crime. Soon after, a hitman murdered Edgar Milan Gomez, Mexico's highest ranking federal police official.

In November, 2008, a plane carrying Juan Camilo Mourino, Mexico's national security adviser, crashed under mysterious circumstances. And very recently, the retired General Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones, one of the most decorated officers in the Mexican army, was abducted, tortured, and killed less than a week after assuming a new position as anti-drug chief in the resort city of Cancún. ||Guardian - Mexico is in free fall|
I think it's fair to say that this is a national security crisis and the US should be dealing with it aggressively, even if Obama inherited a raft of daunting crises from the Bush administration.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

FN P90

Monday, February 16, 2009

For the sake of a bullet...

I think the NRA is just plain wrong about this (and several other items), but it is amusing to me to see bullet taxes in the news because Sarah had a question on her Con Law final dealing with bullet taxes last semester.

American gun owners buy about 7 billion rounds of ammunition yearly, according to the National Rifle Association. It has been warning its several million members that Obama favors raising taxes on bullets to make them prohibitively expensive.
|Gun dealers experiencing shortages of bullets - Orlando Sentinel|

Friday, February 13, 2009


Image originally uploaded by zehhhra.

It Is What It Is

In conversations about politics recently, some of my friends have self-identified as pragmatists and incrementalists. Other of my friends are definitely idealists, even if they don't self-identify that way.

If forced to self-identify my political views I typically claim to be a cynic, but that's a bit of a cop-out.

After reflecting upon my political views, they probably are a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand, I spend time thinking about how society should be organized to fit my ideal of rationality and then bitch copiously about just how irrational the world is.

But the cynic in me realizes that humanity is deeply flawed and I love no lobby, no fortune, no army. So what does it matter what I think is the rational way to organize society?

At least they let me vote so that I have the illusion of making a difference.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The woods are enchanting, dark and deep

I took up cross country skiing this winter and I am sad to see the snow sublimating and melting. The woods are beautiful in Minnesota. I really enjoy living here.

This is one of the first times that my quads have been in such good shape at the end of the winter. It was a great winter climate for skiing this year, we had good snow for months. But now it's all going away.

Classic cross country skiing is a great workout for the whole body, but especially the thighs and it's low impact as well. I've only gone a half dozen times, but I think I figured out how to sprint on skis this last time. But I also have to remember to pace myself on a long course.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gun Toting Felons

I've always wondered about the difference between criminals who engage cops in gunfire and the criminals who automatically surrender to police. Some interesting points in this blog post below.

I do think that we're going to see crime surge back as part of the fallout of the economic meltdown.

Approximately half of felons interviewed claimed to have some type of formal firearms training, primarily from the military. The one statistic that blew me away was that on average bad guys reported practicing about 23 times a years in informal settings like back yards or drug areas. This type of constant informal training... can obviously lead to a “thinking outside the box” mentality...

Over half of [the felons] interviewed had participated in live gunplay prior to engaging a police officer. That means that half of them had previously been inoculated to being shot at or shooting at another person. Ten of the felons had been involved in five or more live firefights. Have you participated in any use of force in the form of Simmuntions or airsoft?

Only eight of the 50 police officers had been previously involved in shootings. I have to imagine that number would dwindle even more for legally armed citizens.

Across the board like most of us, the bad guys carry their guns in the waistband with the groin and small of the back being almost tied in way of preference. Amazingly 40% claimed to carry back up guns. None of them reported using a holster, which leads me to believe they will need only more preparatory movement to access their firearm.

Approximately 60% of all offenders including the street combat veterans claimed to be point shooters in that they focused on the target... The concentrated on shooting their victim to the ground and once that was achieved had no problem walking up and executing them.
|Bad guys, police and armed citizens - Modern Combative Systems Blog|