In the last year or so, Mexico’s drug war has turned ugly. As President Felipe Calderon has begun to crack down on drug cartels, his enemies have been quick to flex their muscle and show that they will not simply roll over in this battle. The results have been particularly nasty; the cartels have killed more than 5,000 people in 2008 (including 450 police officers and soldiers), and NPR reports that that figure may double in 2009. And often the dead are found with chilling signs of torture.
In this light, I’m glad to hear that the United States is getting involved. The DEA’s Operation Xcellerator, an ambitious attack on the Sinaloa organization’s operations in America netted 755 arrests, and according to the Times, law enforcement officers
seized $59.1 million in cash, more than 13 tons of cocaine, 8 tons of marijuana, more than a half-ton of methamphetamine and lesser amounts of other illicit drugs. Agents confiscated 149 vehicles, 3 aircraft, 3 vessels and 169 weapons.
The United States Army has also gotten involved. In a separate story, NPR reports that the US Army has begun training Mexican special forces on how to better combat the violent cartels. President Calderon has mobilized over 10,000 soldiers from Mexico’s army to provide some well-needed firepower in the war against the cartels; this battle was just getting too big for the (often corrupt) local police to fight. This is an encouraging sign; over 5,000 deaths in one year due to organized criminal activity is nothing if not a dire threat to national security, and absolutely merits the response of national standing army, even if the battle is within Mexico’s borders. Calderon’s use of the his army and acceptance of the superior US Military’s aid shows that he is serious about maintaining the integrity of his state, and the DEA’s action against the cartels in the US is necessary to keep them from gaining a foothold here.
In the press conference called to announce the success of Operation Xcellerator, US Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the operations of the Mexican cartels were a “national security threat,” and I completely agree. It’s good to see that the US and Mexico are taking this threat seriously.