Is America planning for an overt invasion of Mexico as drug war violence threatens that country and its political stability? I went looking for updates on that possibility after hearing, the other day, an interview with Stratfor's second in command refer to putting US "boots on the ground" deep into Mexican territory.
From Borderland Beat:
04/19/2011 - EL PASO - Mexico is in the process of a virtual invasion by the United States, but this time quietly and controlled, after the Mexican government revealed the presence of 500 U.S. federal agents to “spy” on their territory. Officials of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) said that the U.S. has that number of officers from various departments. Reportedly, the purpose of these elements, which are legally in Mexico, is to obtain information on criminal organizations, investigate and insure that the criminal’s activities do not jeopardize U.S. security.
According to officials of the PGR, in 2005 only 60 U.S. agents were deployed south of the border. Currently, Mexican authorities are working with about 500 members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The PGR has reported that binational cooperation in fighting criminal organizations and drug trafficking has generated positive results, they were very instrumental in pin pointing the exact location of Arturo Beltran Leyva, “El Barbas.”
Charles Bowden, journalist and author of several books on drug trafficking, including “Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields”, says sending more and more agents to Mexico can be a pilot project for a larger plan for the future. Apparently, the U.S. fears war could break out. Therefore, it is sending agents to Mexico to see if the stage is set in that country. America wants to have a level of control and repression south of the border, and Mexico obviously has two forces: "change and liberation" and "chaos, violence and crime". And the U.S. does not want it to be "chaos, violence and crime".
... Unprecedented numbers of U.S. law enforcement agents work in Mexico, and high-profile arrests occur monthly. U.S. drones spy on cartel hideouts, while U.S. tracking beacons pinpoint suspect's cars and phones.
"Yes, we're tracking vehicles, yes, we're tracking people," says Brad Barker, president of HALO Corporation, a private security firm that, among other things, helps rescue kidnapped people in Mexico. "There's been a huge spike in agents down there."
The bilateral co-operation is touching off Mexican sensitivities about sovereignty, while stoking U.S. debate about the wisdom of inserting American operatives so deep into the fight. More than 35,000 people have been killed in drug trafficking violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown four years ago, and the killing of a U.S. agent last month prompted the U.S. Congress to schedule hearings into the role of American personnel.
The U.S. agents generally provide intelligence and training, while Mexicans do the hands-on work. Neither side will say exactly how many agents are in Mexico, citing security concerns, but the Associated Press was able to identify several hundred using the Freedom of Information Act, federal budget requests, government audits, Congressional testimony and agency accountability reports.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has the largest U.S. presence in the drug war, with more than 60 agents in Mexico. Then there are 40 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, 20 Marshal Service deputies, 18 Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, and dozens more working for the FBI, Citizen and Immigration Service, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Coast Guard and Transportation Safety Agency.
The State Department's Narcotics Affairs Section staff alone jumped from 19 to 69 in the past three years, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
There are so many State Department narcotics personnel that they took up two entire floors of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City before moving into a new building with their Mexican counterparts. This is the second so-called fusion centre the two countries share in Mexico now. ...
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms appears to have its own special program. From a recent CBS News report:
WASHINGTON - Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
"Yes ma'am," Dodson told CBS News. "The agency was."
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson's job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns "walk." In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.
Dodson's bosses say that never happened. Now, he's risking his job to go public.
"I'm boots on the ground in Phoenix, telling you we've been doing it every day since I've been here," he said. "Here I am. Tell me I didn't do the things that I did. Tell me you didn't order me to do the things I did. Tell me it didn't happen. Now you have a name on it. You have a face to put with it. Here I am. Someone now, tell me it didn't happen."
Agent Dodson and other sources say the gun walking strategy was approved all the way up to the Justice Department. The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico.
ATF named the case "Fast and Furious."
Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.
So it turns out ATF not only allowed it - they videotaped it.
There's more on ATF's "special" relationship with drug and gun-running along the Mexican border, here.