|More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since war was declared on the cartels in 2006 [AFP]|
The US does not believe that Mexico’s military is capable of winning the country’s violent drug war, classified memos released by WikiLeaks have revealed.
US diplomats drew a highly critical picture of the country’s armed forces, which were described as bureaucratic and unfit to take on “sophisticated” drug trafficking organisations (DTOs), in cables published on Thursday.
The diplomatic memos paint a picture of an embattled Mexican government, nervous about losing whole areas of the country to the drug cartels.
The leaked material also shows Mexican officials petitioned the US government to assist in focusing the crackdown on the country’s most violent cities.
“The military was not trained to patrol the streets or carry out law enforcement operations,” said one memo referring to the failure of military-led operations to reduce violence in the country’s most deadly city of Ciudad Juarez.
“It does not have the authority to collect and introduce evidence into the judicial system.
“The result: arrests skyrocketed, prosecutions remained flat, and both the military and public have become increasingly frustrated.”
Federal police took over control in Juarez in January.
The leaks showed the Mexican military was also perceived “to be seen slow and risk-averse even where it should succeed”.
The perceived picture in the US of Mexico’s military contrasted with its views of the country’s drug gangs, which Mexican officials blame for more than 28,000 deaths in the past four years as violence has erupted across the country.
“The DTOs are sophisticated players: they can wait out a military deployment; they have an almost unlimited human resource pool to draw from in the marginalised neighborhoods,” said the comments in a cable to Washington earlier this year.
Felipe Calderon, the Mexican president, has gambled his presidency on a high-profile military crackdown on the drug gangs, involving about 50,000 troops and launched when he took office four years ago, following disputed elections.
The cables’ assessments contrasted with Calderon’s insistence that as a US ally, Mexico is gaining ground over the drug gangs.
“Prosecution rates for organised crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trial,” a US cable read, only a day after Calderon lauded the record number of drug lords arrested under his administration.
“Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as another’s failure,” the cable added.
The cable, however, praised Mexico’s navy – who killed Arturo Beltran Leyva, a drug lord, in December, 2009, in the government’s biggest victory yet against the cartels – as a sharper force than the army.
But it warned of “considerable tension” between the two forces.