Cartels: terrorists or criminals?
Posted: 13 Apr 2011 05:21 AM PDT
There’s an interesting back-and-forth in the Dallas Morning News website over the nature of Mexico’s organized crime figures.
The newspaper published an editorial last Friday in support of Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, who recently introduced a bill to label Mexico’s six dominant narcotics cartels as terrorist organizations.
Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan wrote a letter to the editor. Here is an excerpt:
These transnational criminal organizations, which operate in both our countries, are not terrorist organizations. They are very violent criminal groups that are well-structured and well-financed. They pursue a single goal. They want to maximize their profits and do what most business do: hostile takeovers and pursue mergers and acquisitions. They use violence to protect their business from other competitors as well as from our two governments' efforts to roll them back. There is no political motivation or agenda whatsoever beyond their attempt to defend their illegal business.
Editorial writer Tod Robberson rebutted the ambassador on his blog. Here’s part of what he said:
So, when they kill dozens of mayors, police chiefs, soldiers, journalists, newspaper editors, businessmen, mothers, children, American visitors, immigrants, farmers, truck drivers, musicians, dancers, teachers, etc., etc., etc., we are to believe this is just business? Part of a new mergers-and-acquisitions strategy? And when they hang signs from overpasses, along with a body to punctuate their point, warning that this is their territory, not the government's, there's no political message there?
Perhaps the ambassador should read up a bit on these entrepreneurial business groups to see what they're really up to. There's any number of articles, in English or Spanish, describing their political motives. Here's something I found from a 2009 piece by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, two guys who know the difference between terrorists and businessmen:
"Unlike Pablo Escobar's Colombian reign of terror in the 1990s, the Mexican cartels are engaged in serious insurgent campaigns. Armed with military infantry weapons, their gunmen use complex small-unit tactics that differ from the usual "pray and spray" methods beloved by criminals. Cartels run training camps for assassins on the border. They attempt to agitate the populace against the Mexican military through political subversion. And they control towns and neighborhoods that the military tries to retake through force.
"Mexico's cartels are evolving distinct political aims. La Familia is exemplary in this regard. Using social services and infrastructure protection as levers in rural areas and small towns, they are building a social base. In urban areas, they are funding political patron-client relationships to extend their reach. Reinforced by corruption, propaganda, political marches and demonstrations, as well as social media such as "narcocorridos," such activity helps to shape the future conflict."
This is no longer about drug policy. This is about fighting terrorists. And they are present right across the border in Mexico, and we need to call them what they are.