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WASHINGTON – Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, credited with engineering the demise of the Soviet Union, once predicted – because of illegal immigration and social unrest south of the border – the U.S. would be at war with Mexico by 2003.
As the U.S. becomes increasingly concerned about just those issues – and one more, the growing power and violence of the drug cartels operating in and around the border – some U.S. intelligence and military analysts are dusting off Weinberger’s “Operation Aztec” battle plan for review.
Weinberger’s scenario outlined a rapid three-pronged military invasion designed to control domestic Mexican unrest and stem the influx of millions of immigrants.
Likewise, in a 1994 Pentagon briefing paper dealing with “deployment of U.S. troops in Mexico as a result of widespread economic and social chaos,” Donald E. Schultz, a professor of national security at the U.S. Army’s War College around the same time wrote: “A hostile government could put U.S. investments in Mexico in danger, jeopardize access to oil, produce a flood of political refugees and economic migrants to the north.”
Meanwhile, Mexican President Vicente Fox is indeed concerned about his country’s internal security. A few days ago, he summoned to Sinaloa a meeting with top-level officials to discuss various issues of Mexican national security.
The meeting was described by observers as a “top-level group to define Mexican security actions.” The president guided his group of experts to draft within the next 90 days, a structure and mechanism proposal on several critical security issues. He instructed the team to prepare strategies to combat illegal arms build-ups, to fight small time drug traders and to find ways to reduce drug addiction prevalence and money laundering. According to the presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar, Fox instructed his top-level group to divide the upcoming 90 days into 30-, 60- and 90-day time spans.
Oddly, however, the border with the U.S. was a very low priority for Fox and his advisers. They were concerned more with their own southern borders with Belize and Guatemala, where Mexico faces its own illegal immigration crisis.
It seems unavoidable that the U.S.-Mexico border is going to be the big issue in the 2006 mid-term elections in the U.S., whether or not it is a major issue for Mexican politicians vying for political office next year:
- The Zetas, a group of U.S.-trained commandos who turned from drug interdiction to drug cartel protection, have killed hundreds along the border since January, raising concerns even from the U.S. Justice Department, which seldom likes to acknowledge any problems with Mexico.
- The illegal immigration wave continues unabated with no plans in sight from the Bush administration. Members of Congress from both parties are currently planning to introduce bills in the coming weeks to militarize the border.
- While the Zetas are concerned with cross-border drug-running operations, other criminal gangs, some just as deadly, run the people smuggling operations. And there are growing concerns in Washington about the ability of terrorist groups to buy their way into the U.S. through these contacts.
- Illegal immigration in the U.S. far outpaces legal immigration, causing economic and cultural problems, as well as security issues.
Experts on Mexican security and crime say Fox, preparing for the 2006 presidential campaign, is definitely worried about deteriorating relations with the U.S., particularly with U.S. border-states.
Fox is facing a big political challenge from the growing power and popularity of Mexico City’s mayor, Anres Manuel Lopez Obrador, nicknamed AMLO. On May 24, Obrador came out with a remarkable show of force, bringing into the streets 1.2 million non-violent demonstrators to protest attempts by the president to curb his candidacy through judicial acrobatics. The demonstration’s dimension, the way it reverberated across the country, and the apparent re-organizing of indigenous and left-wing guerrilla fighters and guerrilla sympathizers, sent shockwaves throughout the Mexican oligarchy.
More than 40 Percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line. Although Mexican officials tend to brag only 3.2 percent of the population is unemployed, CIA experts explain that more than 25 percent of those labeled as working are in reality, and according to any western standards, severely under employed. When these data are added to many other ailments in the country’s socio-political reality it is no wonder the mass’s discontent, unrest and instability is about to burst.
Security experts claim a variety of groups and organizations plan to play an active role in the coming election campaign, hoping to bring down the Fox administration as well as the present military and police establishments. These include the:
- Aboriginal Zapatista National Liberation Army, EZLN, which in the 90s waged war on the state, and then negotiated a cease-fire with Fox’s predecessor.
- The Popular Liberation Army, EPR, based mainly in the Guerreo State.
- Commando Jaramillista Moreense de 23 Mayo, also known as the CJM23M. An illusive group which so far surfaced mainly through leaflets, press releases and threats against the state.
More groups mentioned in the May-June 2001 publication of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Military Review are:
- The People’s Revolutionary Army, EPR,
- The Revolutionary Army of Insurgent Peoples. ERPI,
- The People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, FARP,
- The Villist Revolutionary Army of the People, VRAP, and
- The Clandestine Revolutionary Army of the Poor, CRAP.
Defense Intelligence Agency analysts have recently added accumulating information on jihadi groups establishing shop in Mexico City and other urban centers. An FBI wanted list for drug cartel bosses placed Ramon Eduardo Arellano-Felix at the top, describing him as extremely violent and probably with extensive narco-terror connection, setting him next to terrorist Osama bin Laden on the FBI 10 most wanted list. This by itself illuminates the appalling scope of the problem.
The Sinaloa meeting deliberately avoided dealing with so-called “mega-problems” and instead focused more on relatively petty local crimes. This is an indication the Fox administration is planning to use the infamous traditional Mexican political solution of joining forces with drug cartels despite its malignant ripple affect on the Mexican and even U.S. societies.
The Mexican and the U.S. administrations, each government for reasons of its own, are doing their utmost to dodge issues around the border-crossing epidemic from Mexico to the U.S. As politicians in Washington are trying to avoid coping with public opinion or evade voicing support to such initiatives as the Minuteman Project and the Yuma Patriots, these very issues do not escape the eyes of the Department of Homeland Security and immigration authorities.
The above data when added to the overall, possibly shaky, political situation in Mexico, and with Fox’s open disregard for mutual border respect, the U.S. is faced with a dangerously looming confrontation with her supposedly friendly neighbor in the south.