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Column 061515 Brewer

Monday, June 15, 2015

The U.S. and Mexico Must Focus on Cooperative Security Benefits

By Jerry Brewer

Starting with the potential for greater harmony and cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments, Mexico’s midterm elections of last week are being described as a marked breath of fresh air.

To Mexico’s credit, a reported 48 percent of voter turnout strongly depicts a nation seeking a greater voice in government. The biggest loser was the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has been Mexico's leading leftist party for a quarter century that was virtually rejected by voters. It won less than 11 percent of the vote.

Even with concerns about violent crime, Mexico’s lengthy drug war, corruption and scandal, an apparent favorable nod has been given to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s nearly two and a half years in office.

So, what might these midterm elections mean to the southern U.S. border in the months and years remaining of the Peña Nieto presidency?

A strong case can be made that a northern disregard and myopic view, by the Obama administration, is in store regarding the trials and tribulations to be faced in days ahead for Mexico's 122 million citizens.

With this in mind, how can anyone in U.S. government oversight of homeland security, and some leaders and policy makers, tell an astute American citizenry with straight faces that the U.S. border with Mexico "is as secure as it has ever been?"

That statement could be ironically true, within the context that a little less than 2,000 miles of border were never secure to begin with. Hence, the dust still remains from the criminal drug gangs alone that traversed the border many years ago to align with gangs and dealers in hundreds of U.S. cities near and far from the border.

Nearly ten years of security strategies falling short – on both sides of the border – have resulted due to, in part at least, the failures to engage and curtail the staggering numbers of heavily armed drug cartel members and transnational organized crime mobsters.

In the U.S., much of the overt concerns with Mexico appear to be focused on undocumented Mexicans crossing the northern border and Mexico’s refusal to stop the flow. Yet Texas Congressman John Carter was quick to say that many illegal immigrants did not come to the U.S. by crossing the Rio Grande.  "The reality is that about 40 percent of the people came in on an airplane, with a legal visa, and just overstayed their visa and have never gone home."

Many U.S. officials accuse the Mexican government of only self-serving demands when seeking immigration accords with the U.S. However, Mexico has critical problems and has admitted weakness with its own unsecured southern border of 514 miles with Guatemala. The border with Belize is another 156 miles of concern. Both the U.S. and Mexico must find a coordinated regional strategic plan in the areas of border security, control and development to prevent their borders from sliding further out of control.

Effective border strategies must be comprehensive, flexible and adaptable. Estimates are that over 500,000 undocumented aliens illegally cross the border every year into Mexico from Central America.

Prior to former Mexican President Felipe Calderon taking office on December 1, 2006, considerable deniability existed by the U.S. and Mexico as to the asymmetric threats facing both nations. In the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, more than 200 people were murdered in 2005, and additional unknown victims simply vanished. As well, the statistics for 2006 were already mounting.

Both the U.S. and Mexico had consistent trouble in identifying and interpreting the violence and brutal gun battles that were occurring, often describing them as merely "armed criminal groups using unusually advanced weapons" against each other.  Tony Garza, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico at the time, described the gun battles as simply "between armed criminal groups."

Calderon was astute to emphatically understand that the true problem was the lack of a capable police cadre to even remotely undertake an enforcement posture against these well-armed and trained paramilitary enemies of the state. Many thought that the drug gangs were better left alone.

President Obama speaks of close cooperation with Mexico, while moving "to a more humanistic counternarcotics policy, and plans to strengthen communities in the border region with resources to be dedicated to tackling substance abuse and violence through health and education programs."

Mexico knows that the massive and superior weaponry and tactics being utilized by the organized criminal insurgents and narcoterrorists far exceed the skills, knowledge, abilities and equipment of their police cadre (Mexico has lost more than 60,000 lives). Yet implied conventional and sanctioned police procedures and authority, on both sides of the border, are now questioned and being redefined at state, county and local levels, oblivious to previous and/or current threats.

The ornate and usual dialogue of securing the U.S. border with Mexico continues to be rife with wild guesses, empty words and complete irresolution. Indecision and a lack of proactive strategies, that cannot be effectively articulated to a nation demanding solutions and answers, is an abomination and reflects badly on both leaders who are tasked to provide oversight and factually report.

Mexico and the U.S. must immediately come together in agreement and engagement by both sides in stopping the cross-borders flood of undocumented migrants, contraband, and criminal insurgents.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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