Since President Felipe Calderón declared "war" against some of
the region's murderous drug cartels in 2006, some 50,000 Mexicans have
been butchered. Activists, journalists, honest law enforcement officials
but also ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire, the vast majority
of victims, have been the targets of mafia-controlled death squads,
corrupt police and the military.
Underscoring the savage nature of another "just war" funded by U.S. taxpayers, last week The Dallas Morning News
that "23 people were found dead Friday--nine hanging from a bridge and
14 decapitated--across the Texas border in the city of Nuevo Laredo."
he arcane and highly-ritualized character of the violence, often
accompanied by sardonic touches meant to instill fear amongst people
already ground underfoot by crushing poverty and official corruption
that would make the Borgias blush, convey an unmistakable message: "We
"The latest massacres are part of a continuing battle between the
paramilitary group known as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel," the Morning News averred.
"The violence appears to be part of a strategy by the Sinaloa cartel to
disrupt one of the most lucrative routes for drug smugglers by bringing
increased attention from the federal government."
According to investigators the "two warring cartels are fighting for
control of the corridor that leads into Interstate 35, known as one of
the most lucrative routes for smugglers."
But as Laura Carlsen, the director of the Americas Program
pointed out last month in CounterPunch
"In a series of 'Joint Operations' between Federal Police and Armed
Forces, the Mexican government has deployed more than 45,000 troops into
various regions of the country in an unprecedented domestic
The militarization of Mexican society, as in the "Colossus to the
North," has also seen the expansion of a bloated Surveillance State.
Carlsen averred that when the Army and Federal Police are "deployed to
communities where civilians are defined as suspected enemies, soldiers
and officers have responded too often with arbitrary arrests, personal
agendas and corruption, extrajudicial executions, the use of torture,
and excessive use of force."
But expanding the surveillance capabilities of secret state agencies
as the State Department proposes in its multimillion dollar gift to the
Israeli-founded firm, Verint Systems
far from inhibiting violence by drug gangs and the security apparatus,
on the contrary, will only rationalize repression as new "targets" are
identified and electronic communications are data-mined for "actionable
Indeed, The New York Times
last summer that "after months of negotiations, the United States
established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base."
Although anonymous "American officials" cited by the Times "declined
to provide details about the work being done" by a team of spooks drawn
from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA and "retired military
personnel members from the Pentagon's Northern Command," they said that
"the compound had been modeled after 'fusion intelligence centers' that
the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent
Such developments are hardly encouraging considering the role played by "fusion centers" here in the heimat. As the ACLU
amply documented, "Americans have been put under surveillance or
harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest,
espouse unusual viewpoints, and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors
such as writing notes or taking photographs in public."
In Mexico, the results will be immeasurably worse; with corruption endemic on both sides of the border, who's to say authorities won't sell personal data gleaned from these digital sweeps to the highest bidder?
Only this time, the data scrapped from internet search queries,
emails, smartphone chatter or text messages grabbed by bent officials
won't result in annoying targeted ads on your browser but in piles of
Guns In, Drugs Out: Iran/Contra Redux
Obama administration officials hypocritically washed their hands of
responsibility for failing to clamp-down on what journalist Daniel
Hopsicker christened The New American Drug Lords
an old boys club of dodgy bankers, shady investment consultants,
defense contractors and other glad handers, the violence following drug
flows north like a swarm of locusts is fueled in no small part by arms
which federal intelligence and law enforcement allowed to "walk" across
Indeed, as Hopsicker pointed out in MadCow Morning News
"Ten years ago Miami Private Detective Gary McDaniel, a 30-year veteran
investigator for both Government prosecutors and attorneys for major
drug traffickers, educated me on the basics of the drug trade."
"'Every successful drug trafficking organization (DTO) needs four
things to be successful,' he said. He ticked each one off on his
fingers: 'Production, distribution, transportation, and--most important
To McDaniel's list we can add a fifth element: intelligence gleaned from the latest advances in communications' technologies.
If all this sounds familiar, it should.
the 1980s, as the Reagan administration waged its anticommunist crusade
across Central and South America, the CIA forged their now-infamous "Dark Alliance
with far-right terrorists (our "boys," the Nicaraguan Contras),
Argentine, Bolivian and Chilean death-squad generals and the
up-and-coming cocaine cartels who had more on their minds than
By the end of that blood-soaked decade, with much encouragement from
Washington, including a get-out-of-jail-free card for their dope
dealing assets in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding
the CIA and the Justice Department, the region was on its way towards
becoming a multibillion dollar growth engine for the well-connected.
Does history repeat? You bet it does!
As Narco News
journalist Bill Conroy reported, "A top enforcer for the Sinaloa drug
organization and his army of assassins in Juarez, Mexico--responsible
for a surge in violence in that city that has led to thousands of deaths
in recent years--may well have been supplied hundreds, if not
thousands, of weapons through an ill-fated US law-enforcement operation
known as Fast and Furious."
But which agency has the wherewithal to guarantee that weapon flows
from the United States fall into the right hands? More than a few
analysts believe that Fast and Furious was an "intelligence" gambit
overseen by the CIA.
Indeed, Narco News
"When it comes to prime intelligence targets, they don't come much
better than the leaders of Mexican drug organizations, who have their
tentacles planted deep inside Latin American governments due to the
corrupt reach of the drug trade. So it is not unreasonable to suspect
that part of the reason that ATF's Fast and Furious makes no sense in
terms of a law enforcement operation is because it wasn't one at all." (emphasis added)
"In fact," Conroy wrote, "it may well have been co-opted and trumped
by a covert U.S. intelligence agency operation, such as one run by CIA,
that is shielded even from most members of Congress--possibly even the
White House, if it was launched under a prior administration and parts
of it have since run off the tracks on their own."
Conroy revealed that enforcer, Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, who was
arrested in February by Mexican authorities, "is now the subject of a
14-count US indictment unsealed in late April in San Antonio, Texas,
that also charges the alleged leaders of the Sinaloa organization
(Joaquin Guzman Loera, or El Chapo; and Ismael Zambada Garcia, or El
Mayo) and 21 other individuals with engaging in drug and firearms
trafficking, money laundering and murder in 'furtherance of a criminal
According to officials, Marrufo was allegedly responsible for the
murders of some 18 patients at a Juárez drug treatment center in 2009.
However, the significance of the gangster's arrest may be overshadowed
by the additional disclosure that his close associates, Eduardo and
Jesus A. Miramontes Varela "worked for the Sinaloa Cartel when they
became informants for the FBI in 2009."
"Under Fast and Furious," Conroy wrote, "the nation's federal
gun-law enforcer, ATF, in conjunction with a task force composed of
several other federal agencies, including the FBI, allowed nearly 2,000
weapons to be smuggled into Mexico."
Amongst the firearms allowed to "walk," according to multiple
published reports, were AK-47 assault rifles, Barrett .50 caliber sniper
rifles, .38 caliber revolvers and FN Five-seven automatic pistols. Most
of the arms purchased with ATF and Justice Department approval went to
the Sinaloa or other drug cartels and have since turned up at some 170
crime scenes in Mexico.
While field level investigators objected to the operation and voiced
their opposition to higher-ups in ATF, they were smacked-down by senior
supervisors David Voth.
Responding to strong objections from his
own agents, Voth wrote a threatening email to disgruntled officers in
March 2010: "I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to
petty arguing, rumors, or other adolescent behavior. I don't know what
all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and
we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law
enforcement tool box. If you don't think this is fun you are in the
wrong line of work--period!"
Fun? Try telling that to the
families of U.S. Border Patrol officer Brian Terry, U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata or the families of hundreds of unnamed Mexican victims who turned up dead, murdered with weapons supplied by the U.S. government.
Conroy also informed us that "deadly weapons were allowed to 'walk'
across the border, where they were put into the clutches of criminal
organizations, such as those overseen by alleged Sinaloa enforcer
Marrufo, so that US law enforcers could supposedly later trace the trail
of those guns to the so-called kingpins of Mexico's criminal
There was just one small catch. "A Feb. 1, 2012, memo drafted by
staff for [U.S. Senator Charles] Grassley and [U.S. Rep. Darryl] Issa,
thickens the plot, indicating that there were, in fact, two FBI
informants involved with purchasing weapons from [Manuel Celis] Acosta,
[presumably the "main target" of Fast and Furious] and ATF had no clue
that these so-called 'big fish,' the high-level targets of Fast and
Furious, were, in fact, working for a sister agency."
According to that Congressional memo
the course of this separate investigation, the FBI designated these two
cartel associates as national security assets. [essentially
foreign-intelligence agents, or informants]. In exchange for one
individual's guilty plea to a minor count of 'Alien in Possession of a
Firearm,' both became FBI informants and are now considered to be
unindictable. This means that the entire goal of Fast and Furious--to
target these two individuals and bring them to justice--was a failure.
ATF's discovery that the primary targets of their investigation were not
indictable was 'a major disappointment'.
Brilliant, right? If one were to fall for "conspiracy theories," one
would almost believe that U.S. secret state agencies, like their
Mexican counterparts, were favoring one
narcotrafficking gang (the Sinaloa cartel) over their rivals, the
equally violent and sinister group Los Zetas or the Juárez cartel
founded by self-described "Lord of the Heavens," Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
In fact, it wasn't only the ATF-DEA-FBI that allowed guns to "walk"
across the border into the hands of state-connected killers. To the list
of the clueless, add the Pentagon.
In an earlier, Conroy disclosed
, citing State Department cables published by the secrecy-shredding web site WikiLeaks
that grenades used to attack the Televisa TV station and the U.S.
Consulate in Monterrey in 2008-2009 "involved military grade explosives
made in the USA that somehow found their way to Mexico." A second cable
that "U.S. military munitions sold in the 1990s to a foreign military
were subsequently diverted to Mexican narco-traffickers."
Narco News also reported that
the State Department cables confirm "that the U.S. government is very
aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican
criminal organizations isn't linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but
rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both
current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of
dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually."
Indeed, "bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored
Mérida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort
to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit
margin on the bloodshed."
But what if that is precisely the goal of U.S. policy planners and their masters, corrupt American financial institutions like Wachovia Bank
or the defense contractors who reap billions from the slaughter?
In that case then, the so-called "War on Drugs" is really a war over
who controls the drug flow and the fabulous profits derived from the
Back to the Future
While Colombia continues to be the principle source of processed
cocaine entering Europe and the United States, despite some $7.5 billion
dispensed to that country's repressive military and police apparatus
under Plan Colombia, wholesale distribution of narcotics entering the
U.S. are now controlled by Mexican DTOs.
It is a demonstrable fact that Plan Colombia failed to stop the
tsunami of narcotics entering the U.S. and that "success" or "failure"
in that enterprise was besides the point. As multiple analysts and
investigative journalists across the decades have documented, U.S.
intelligence agencies, principally the CIA, have cultivated ties and
operational links to DTOs and their ruling class enablers, favoring
cartels that advanced U.S. geopolitical goals whilst targeting those
perceived as liabilities.
As researchers Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle pointed out in Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia
: "Among the compradores,
short-term arrangements were made on coca production that paved the
road for longer-term agreements of all kinds, one of which supported the
emergence of the narco-bourgeoisie, whose business operations had
remained relatively independent."
Villar and Cottle averred: "Emerging narco-capitalism permeated
Colombia's financial system, creating financial connections throughout
the Colombian economy. The active participation of banks in the cocaine
industry greatly strengthened financial connections among the
narco-bourgeoisie. The Cali cartel metamorphosed into numerous
legitimate business enterprises such as pharmaceutical companies and
real estate firms to operate the cocaine trade, whereas the Medellín
cartel focused on money-laundering."
This production and distribution system was highly unstable however,
and "created fierce competition among traffickers with connections to
the Colombian ruling class," Villar and Cottle wrote. "The Medellín
cartel waged a desperate battle against enterprises that refused to
enter into an alliance with them. All manner of underhanded methods,
from blackmail to murder, were employed in this battle. The violent
liquidation of rival enterprises, many who collaborated with the CIA,
provoked retaliation from the United States which declared a war on
drugs that targeted Pablo Escobar."
As with Plan Colombia, under terms of the Mérida Initiative, the
U.S. Congress has authorized some $1.6 billion for Mexico and Central
American states blown away by the narcotics hurricane. However, much of
the funds doled out to Mexican military and police organizations never leave the United States.
Instead, as with other "foreign aid" boondoggles these funds flow
directly into the coffers of giant U.S. defense firms and will be used
to purchase aircraft, surveillance equipment and other hardware produced
by the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex.
As in Colombia during the 1990s, a similar consolidation process,
accompanied by spectacular levels of violence, is currently wracking
Mexican society as drug gangs vie for control over the lucrative
distribution market and are said to control 90% of the trafficking
routes entering the U.S.
According to some estimates, approximately $49.4 billion annually
pour into the accounts of major DTOs, the Congressional Research Service
reported back in 2007. However, most studies of global drug trafficking
fail to analyze the benefits accrued by major U.S. financial
institutions--banks, the stock market, hedge funds, etc.--who have been
the direct beneficiaries of the $352 billion in annual drug profits
"absorbed into the economic system," as The Observer
reported in 2009.
"In a nutshell," Villar and Cottle wrote, "the war of drugs and
terror is part of a counterrevolutionary strategy designed to maintain
rather than eliminate the economic conditions that allow the drug trade
to thrive." That pattern is being replicated today in Mexico. "From
Reagan to Obama, U.S. covert intervention has, paradoxically, only
accentuated the social violence and systematized the production and
distribution of cocaine."
Corporate grifters, profiting on everything from weapons' sales to
surveillance kit have names. In the context of the Mérida Initiative,
one firm stands out, the Israeli-founded spy shop Verint Systems Inc.
Drugs, Terror, War... Whatever
the "War on Terror," the "War on Drugs" is predicated on the fallacy
that "persistent situational awareness" obtained through the driftnet
surveillance of electronic communications will give secret state
agencies a leg-up on their adversaries.
Better think again! As Villar and Cottle pointed out, "the 1994
discovery of a computer owned by members of the Cali cartel offered
clues on the complexities of the system and illustrated the
technological sophistication of Colombia's narco-economy."
Indeed, the $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe "networked with half a
dozen terminals and monitors and six technicians overseeing its
operations," and its "custom-written data-mining software
cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange's traffic with the phone
numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law
That network was "set up by a retired Colombian army intelligence
officer," a fact which the Colombian government denied despite strong
evidence to the contrary. And when Colombian officials "established a
toll-free hotline for information about the Cali cartel leaders," Villar
and Cottle reported that a "former high-level DEA official said: 'All
of these anonymous callers were immediately identified, and they were
By today's standards, that IBM mainframe is a throwback to the stone
age. With advanced communications and encryption technologies readily
available to anyone, and with any number of dodgy spy firms specializing
in everything from the mass harvesting of information from social
networks to the installation of malware on personal computers and GPS
smartphone tracking as the WikiLeaks Spyfiles
only a fool--or a State Department bureaucrat--would believe that
weaponized spy kit won't fall into the hands of billion dollar organized
crime groups. Yet that's exactly what Washington plans to do.
In the NextGov report cited
above, we were informed that the State Department's "Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, in a contract
notice published late Friday, said it will fund what it called the
Mexico Technical Surveillance System for use by that country's Public
Security Secretariat to 'continue to help deter, prevent and mitigate
acts of major federal crimes in Mexico that include narcotics
trafficking and terrorism'."
The contract proposal
that "all awards will be based on the following criteria in order of
importance for 1) Technical Approach/Understanding/Personnel, 2)
Corporate Experience, 3) Past Performance and 4) Price. Technical merit
(captured in the three (3) technical evaluation factors enumerated
above, taken together) is significantly more important than cost/price."
But as NextGov reported while
the procurement, at least on paper, is "competitive," the State
Department "came close to ruling out any other bidder except Verint with
the caveat that 'the new equipment must function seamlessly with the
existing in a single system or be entirely replaced'."
That pretty much "levels the playing field" for the Israeli firm and
the suite of surveillance tools it offers, the Reliant Monitoring
System, which "intercepts virtually any wired, wireless or broadband
communication network and service." Indeed, the State Department plans
to "triple the capacity of the current Verint system from 30
workstations to 107," according to NextGov. Given the spooky nature of the company, no doubt El Chapo is drooling over the prospect.
As James Bamford pointed out in The Shadow Factory
and in a series of recent articles in Wired Magazine
"Verint was founded in Israel by Israelis, including Jacob 'Kobi'
Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Some 800 employees
work for Verint, including 350 who are based in Israel, primarily
working in research and development and operations."
As Antifascist Calling
back in 2008 (see: "Thick as Thieves: The Private (and very profitable)
World of Corporate Spying"): "When Comverse Infosys [now Verint]
founder and CEO Jacob 'Kobi' Alexander fled to Israel and later Namibia
in 2006, the former Israeli intelligence officer and entrepreneur took
along a little extra cash for his extended 'vacation'--$57 million to be
Alexander, a veteran of Israel's ultra-secretive Unit 8200, the
equivalent of America's National Security Agency, fled to Namibia
because he faced a 32-count indictment by the Justice Department over
allegations that he masterminded a scheme to backdate millions of
Comverse stock options which allowed the enterprising corporate grifter
to embezzle some $138 million from company shareholders.
As I wrote back then, "despite alarms raised by a score of federal
law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA),
fearful that sensitive wiretap information was finding its way into the
hands of international narcotrafficking cartels, virtually nothing has
been done to halt the outsourcing of America's surveillance apparatus to
firms with intimate ties to foreign intelligence entities. Indeed, as
America's spy system is turned inward against the American people,
corporations such as Verint work hand-in-glove with a spooky network of
security agencies and their corporatist pals in the telecommunications
But as we know, software and the spy trojans embedded in their code
are "neutral." What can be used by law enforcement agencies such as
Mexico's Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (SSP) and the Agencia Federal
de Investigación (AFI) can also be handed over by corrupt officials to
their presumed targets, the Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, Knights Templar,
Tijuana or Los Zetas narcotrafficking cartels, all of whom have ties to
Mexico's narco-bourgeoisie, police and the military.
It wouldn't be the first time that "retired" Israeli military
officers or "ex" Mossad men were exposed as trainers for some of the
drug world's most notorious killers.
Nearly a decade ago, investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood revealed in Narco News
drug gangster and far-right political actor Carlos Castaño, the future
founder of the blood-soaked Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC,
"was only 18 years old when he arrived in Israel in 1983 to take a
year-long course called '562.' Castaño, a Colombian, had come to the
Holy Land as a pilgrim of sorts, but not to find peace. Course 562 was
about war, and how to wage it, and it was something Carlos Castaño would
eventually excel at, becoming the most adept and ruthless paramilitary
leader in Latin America's history."
Bigwood reported that Castaño's IDF trainers emphasized instruction
in "urban strategies," which included the use of fragmentation grenades,
RPG-7s as well as "complementary courses" on terrorism and
Narco News informed us that
"not all was study for Castaño in Israel, and he used his free time to
meet with Colombian soldiers undergoing regular military training
there--soldiers of the worst human rights violators in the western
hemisphere were being trained by some of the worst human rights
violators in the Middle East. But these were precisely the connections
that would prove so useful in the future."
A future that encompassed the wholesale massacre of Colombian
peasants, union organizers and left-wing activists as the AUC, a
wholly-owned subsidiary of the CIA-anointed Cali cartel, founded by
Iran/Contra drug kingpins, the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, engaged in a
brutal war to the death with Pablo Escobars' Medellín cartel in the
According to declassified CIA, DEA and State Department documents published by the National Security Archive
2008, "U.S. espionage operations targeting top Colombian government
officials in 1993 provided key evidence linking the U.S.-Colombia task
force charged with tracking down fugitive drug lord Pablo Escobar to one
of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary chiefs."
Documents published by the Archive "include
two heavily-censored CIA memos describing briefings provided by members
of a 'Blue Ribbon Panel' of CIA investigators to members of U.S.
congressional intelligence committees and the National Security Council.
The Panel--which included personnel from the CIA's directorate for
clandestine intelligence operations--had been investigating the
possibility that intelligence shared with the Medellín Task Force in
1993 ended up in the hands of Colombian paramilitaries and
narcotraffickers from the Pepes. That investigation concluded on
December 3, 1993, the day Escobar was killed."
"The collaboration between paramilitaries and government security
forces evident in the Pepes episode is a direct precursor of today's
'para-political' scandal," said Michael Evans, director of the National
Security Archive's Colombia Documentation Project. "The Pepes affair is
the archetype for the pattern of collaboration between drug cartels,
paramilitary warlords and Colombian security forces that developed over
the next decade into one of the most dangerous threats to Colombian
security and U.S. anti-narcotics programs. Evidence still concealed
within secret U.S. intelligence files forms a critical part of that
While both the Cali and Medellín cartels have faded into history,
cocaine processed on an industrial scale continues to flood out of
Colombia and other "legs" of the Crystal Triangle. Control over that
distribution network, worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually,
much of which finds its way into U.S. banks, is the source of the
bloodshed currently tearing Mexico and Central America to pieces.
Is history repeating itself when it comes to favoring one drug gang over another? The answer is yes. According to a 2010 National Public Radio
"an NPR News investigation has found strong evidence of collusion
between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the
violent border city of Juarez."
"Dozens of interviews with current and former law enforcement
agents, organized crime experts, elected representatives, and victims of
violence suggest that the Sinaloans depend on bribes to top government
officials to help their leader, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, elude
capture, expand his empire and keep his operatives out of jail."
Sound far-fetched? As Bill Conroy reported last year in Narco News
court pleadings in the case of accused Sinaloa capo Jesus Vicente
Zambada Niebla "demonstrate the insidious nature of the cooperation that
exists between the US government and Mexico’s Sinaloa mafia
"According to Zambada Neibla, he and the rest of the Sinaloa
leadership, through the informant [Humberto] Loya Castro, negotiated a
quid-pro-quo immunity deal with the US government in which they were
guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law
enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used
to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations."
"The alleged deal," Conroy averred, "assured protection for the
Sinaloa Cartel's business operations while also undermining its
competition--such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of
Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world."
Inquiring minds can't help but wonder why, if Zambada Neibla's
allegations are so much hot-air, would U.S. prosecutors invoke "national
security" under provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act
(CIPA) "in his trial in an attempt to assure certain sensitive and/or
embarrassing evidence is not made available to Zambada Niebla's
As Narco News disclosed,
"Perhaps any deal that might exist between the Sinaloa leadership is
limited to Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada, perhaps it was put in place
by a US intelligence agency under the guise of law enforcement, or
through some secret pact cobbled together by the US State Department
that does not have to be honored by the Justice Department because it
applies only in Mexico. In this case, the devil is in the details, and
in all those scenarios, the cloak of national security could easily be
invoked to prevent evidence of the pact surfacing in a court of law."
With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and a "drug war" that
favors one group of cut-throats over another to obtain leverage over
corrupt politicians, along with an endless source of funds for
intelligence-connected black operations, the Verint deal seems like a
After all, with powerful communications' intercept technologies in
the hands of the Mexican secret state, "national security," on both
sides of the border, is little more than code for business as usual.