Wednesday, February 17, 2010

cartels and terrorists

I had a meeting with a former DEA higher-up today, in one of those nondescript Washington DC office buildings where contracts are signed with the Defense Department, intelligence is gathered and shared (and probably shredded), and power is the only thing worth trading a favor for. (Yes I'm trying to make this sound like a Clancy thriller, not very successfully I might add.)

The former DEA man's eyes widened as he issued his warning: "The day when corporate Al Qaeda picks up the phone and calls corporate Sinaloa is not too distant in the future. It's gonna bite us in the ass."

There have been warnings about links between the Mexican drug cartels and revolutionary/terrorist organizations since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. (The DEA conveniently pushed this argument at the time, quite probably as a means of increasing its budget in the name of national security). But the evidence has always been pretty much lacking.

This ex-DEA guy and other agents maintain that the highest levels of Hezbollah are deep in the global drug business. They also believe that Iran's Quds force may be working with drug cartels from Mexico to Colombia, out of Iranian embassies.

And they also believe that the Taliban is on its way to becoming another FARC – originally a terrorist organization which ditched its ideological foundations years ago to purely pursue cold hard currency. The increased DEA presence in Afghanistan is evidence that the Taliban is considered a top concern when it comes to drug-trafficking.

Afghanistan aside, where the US military remains an occupational force, these are pretty strong allegations. There is still little evidence to back them up. (Mexican media reports that Chapo's people were training with Iranian Revolutionary Guard, for instance, proved unfounded.)

But rest assured, links between Mexican cartels and terrorist organizations will make headlines again in the near future. (El Universal, for instance, loves them.) Whether proof will be offered next time remains to be seen.


  1. I know in the U.S. people like to wring their hands about the apparently inevitable alliance between drugs and terror, but I just don't see Al Qaeda and Mexican narcos ever playing ball, at least when it comes to terror strikes. How would it be in the narcos' interest?

    What would the Sinaloa Cartel, for example, gain from sowing carnage in the U.S.? That's where a large percentage of their profits come from, they want Americans bored and getting high, rather than paranoid and closing borders further.

    I know you're not saying this is going to happen, but rather someone in the DEA is, and I suppose they could possibly hook up in the name of profit, maybe to smuggle Afghan heroin into the U.S. (Hell that probably is already happening). But I don't think Mexican narcos get involved in terror strikes, ever. I hope I'm right.

  2. I couldnt agree more with Anonymous. It just makes no sense at a fundamental level. Their interests are divergent. There might be more tactical terrorism on Mexican soil or even American soil (see the events of Torreón on Jan 31st), but nihilistic Al Qaeda style terrorism facilitated by Mexican traffickers just doesn't seem likely.