Mexico’s drug cartels are no “terrorist insurgency” repost!

18 Dec
Seal of the Organization of American States

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Using the Mexican Drug cartels as a key subject for this blog, I have taken the liberty to repost a most interesting opinion written —

By Andres Oppenheimer The Miami Herald

Like in every election season, when legislators compete to make headlines, there are some bizarre ideas being discussed in the U.S. Congress these days. One of the craziest — and most dangerous — is a Republican bill that calls for U.S. “counter-insurgency tactics” to combat an alleged “terrorist insurgency” in Mexico.

The bill, sponsored by House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs chairman Connie Mack, R-Fla., and passed by that panel’s Republican majority in a vote along party lines Dec. 15, says seeks to “protect U.S. citizens from external threats” posed by Mexico’s drug cartels, which it calls “terrorist” organizations.

It notes that the $1.3 billion U.S.- Mexico Merida Initiative to help fight drug cartels in Mexico has failed to stop drug trafficking organizations, and proposes to supplement it, with among other things, U.S. military advisers in Mexico and “counter-insurgency” tactics that would supposedly be devised in a “coordinated” way with Mexico. It is vague, however, on what the new tactics should be.

The Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines counter-insurgency as “action by a group, army, etc., against people who are fighting to take control of a government.” The term is often associated with combating insurgents with irregular warfare methods.

I called Mack’s office and asked his aides whether he is proposing U.S.-led targeted assassinations in Mexico, or anything like that. The answer was no. I further asked whether his bill would include unilateral U.S. actions within Mexico, and the answer was, again, no.

Subcommittee minority leader Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the only dissenting vote in the panel, told me in a subsequent interview that, whatever you think about the bill’s proposals, branding Mexico’s drug cartel as terrorists is wrong, because the Mexican cartels don’t have a political agenda.

A second bill sponsored by Mack, and passed by the same House subcommittee on the same day, calls for cutting by 20 percent the U.S. funding for the 34-country Organization of American States if that group keeps failing to invoke its own rules to condemn anti-constitutional measures by Venezuela and Nicaragua.

U.S. taxpayers should not pay almost 60 percent of the budget for an organization that works against freedom and democracy, Mack said.

Engel, who opposed the bill, says the proposed legislation would be counterproductive, especially after Latin American countries recently created a new regional diplomatic community, known as CELAC, that does not include the United States. Referring to the OAS, he said, “Why would we want to destroy the only organization where the United States is part of, and has influence in?”

Both bills now go to the full House Foreign Relations Committee, where they are likely to be approved, and move to a vote by the full Republican-controlled House.

My opinion: These bills are just publicity stunts by Mack, who is running for a Florida seat in the Senate. If approved by the Foreign Relations Committee and the full House, they would die in the Democratic-controlled Senate. And even if they passed the Senate, they would most likely be vetoed by President Obama.

Still, these are dangerous things to be playing with. While the OAS bill may just be an extreme way of putting pressure on the organization to enforce its own rules for the collective defense of democracy, the Mexico “terrorist insurgency” bill may be even more harmful, because it threatens to incorporate that notion into Washington’s political lingo.

That would be a wrong diagnosis that could lead to disastrous medicine. Aside from the fact that, unlike Colombia’s FARC narco-guerrillas, Mexico’s cartels are criminal groups with no known political agenda, branding them terrorists will open an international can of worms.

U.S. politicians will demand reducing intelligence cooperation with Mexico, stepping up controls on border commerce, and perhaps even call for unilateral U.S. military strikes in Mexico. Mexican politicians will accuse Washington of financing terrorism by failing to stop U.S. drug consumption, or of protecting U.S. gun dealers that sell weapons to terrorist groups, and will raise the specter of U.S. interventionism.

With 2012 being an election year both in the United States and in Mexico, this escalating spiral of mutual accusations will set back the clock of both countries’ cooperation in recent years. The only winners would be Mexico’s drug cartels.

If the Republicans’ idea is to supplement Plan Merida with additional resources, that’s great. But let’s stop this nonsense about Mexico’s “terrorist insurgency” before it does some serious harm.

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Posted by on 12/18/2011 in Politics


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