Mar 15, 2012

Drug War: Head of Northern Command says it is too early to tell if drug war in Mexico is being won.

La Jornada: "The head of U.S. Northern Command said today it is "too early to estimate whether the drug war in Mexico is being won or lost," despite "the brave decision" to put the military in the streets.

Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of Northern Command (Northcom), responsible for U.S. military affairs in North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico), appeared today (Tuesday) before the Armed Services Committee of the Senate and was asked to assess the security situation in Mexico.

He said, "the violence increased again in 2011. It began to decline at the end of the year, but I don't think there is any conclusions that might be drawn from that. Therefore, Mexicans are struggling hard with a brutal and adaptable enemy, and in my opinion, they have not faltered. They are taking the fight to transnational criminal organizations, but there is still much work to do, and we look forward to continuing to provide the support they request in that fight."

Senator John McCain had asked the general--given that almost 50 thousand Mexican citizens have been killed since 2006, almost 13,000 in 2011, and the U.S. government has issued warnings to travelers regarding areas in northern Mexico--if this "indicates that we are winning or losing, or it is a stalemate."

Jacoby, pressed to give an assessment of whether the Mexican government's efforts on this area are a success or failure, said "the violence has grown. It was not a huge leap this year, but those numbers are unacceptable, adding that the travel warnings, like the one issued to Nuevo Laredo, are indicative of the safety issue along the border.

At the same time, he felt that the strategy of decapitation of the cartels has been "successful", given that 22 of the 37 most wanted drug traffickers have been "removed from the board." However, he said, "this has not had a significant, positive effect. So I agree that there are other things that need to be done. The Mexican military is working on trying to establish security, to reduce violence in communities, especially in the northeast, and I think that is the right strategy to follow."

Asked about his assessment of the security situation on the border with Mexico, the General, a veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that everything bad that is attributed to transnational criminal organizations is evident on the border. "We know from our experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq on the border, weak institutions are exploited by malicious, illegal activity and this, the heart and soul, the economic engine of transnational criminal organizations, is expressed at the border ... smuggling of weapons, cash and drugs. "

The general told the audience that "we are constantly improving our security cooperation with our good friends in Mexico ... a step determined by mutual agreement and consistent respect for national sovereignty."

At the same hearing, General Douglas Fraser, head of Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), responsible for military relations and security issues in Central and South America and the Caribbean, also appeared.

Asked about the recent declaration of the second state of military siege by the authorities in Guatemala--arising from the growing violence from Mexican drug cartels operating in that country, General Fraser said: "By Mexico increasing the pressure, we see that the networks, particularly the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel, are moving into Central America. Guatemala is obviously the first place, but we see their footprints all over Central America.."" read more

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