WikiLeaks Cables Reveal Unease Over Mexican Drug War

At LAT:

In contrast to their upbeat public assessments, U.S. officials expressed frustration with a “risk averse” Mexican army and rivalries among security agencies that have hampered the Mexican government’s war against drug cartels, according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed Thursday.

The cables quoted Mexican officials expressing fear that the government was losing control of parts of its national territory and that time was “running out” to rein in drug violence.

The cables gave a much starker view of the pitfalls and obstacles facing Mexican President Felipe Calderon, a departure from the public statements of unwavering support that have come out of Washington for most of the 4-year-old war, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives.

Two cables from U.S. Embassy officials in Mexico, one dated January of this year and the other October 2009, praise Calderon for persisting in his campaign to tackle “head on” the powerful cartels that traffic most of the cocaine, heroin and marijuana that reaches the U.S.

But the Mexican president’s struggles with “an unwieldy and uncoordinated interagency” law enforcement effort have created the perception that he is failing, the cable dated Jan. 29 said. His inability to halt the violence or contain the rising death toll has become a principal political liability as his public ratings have declined, it said.

The U.S. assessment said Calderon’s tools are limited: “Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as another’s failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of,” said the January cable, which is signed by the No. 2 official in the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, John D. Feeley, a veteran diplomat with extensive experience in Latin America.

“Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among ‘clean’ law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants,” he said. “Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; 2% of those detained are brought” to trial.

Cross-posted from American Power.

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