Friday, February 19, 2010

terrorists and cartels

I just want to clarify a few things about the cartel-terrorist link allegations that I addressed a couple of days ago.

No one in DEA or US military is warning that the cartels will start blowing up big targets on US soil. As some readers have pointed out, that is not in the cartels' interests. These officials are warning that the terrorists and cartels are increasingly utilizing the same routes, the same resources, to further their two very distinct agendas. And that could bring them together in some capacity in the future.

This might seem obvious: smugglers of any kind use the same routes all the time. But the concern is that independent organizations and groups (cartels and terrorists, in this case) might decide to pool resources. Let's say a bomb needs to get into the US... terrorists who have solid Mexican cartel connections would know exactly who to turn to in order to get it in. It's not that easy without their help: a group of Islamist terrorists traipsing into Nuevo Laredo with any sort of loose nuke, for instance, would very quickly be arrested.

Slipping a bomb through one of Chapo's tunnels wouldn't be so difficult, however. Of course, to get to that stage, the terrorists would have to be quite close to SInaloa's top people, if not Chapo himself. Which is why the DEA etc are worried about any signs of connections now.

So that's the fear on this side of the hemisphere. The terrorist groups could then repay the favor to the Mexican cartels by supplying weapons (not really necessary, given US takes care of that) or helping protect/move major drug shipments from the middle east and southeast asia.

I agree with comments that ask what do the Mexicans have to gain out of all this (besides the above). It seems like the Mexicans are doing fine as it is. But part of the Mexican strategy in recent years has been to aggressively go for more, hence their global presence today. I do believe the argument that Mexicans (and other latin american drug trafficking groups) are increasingly looking at west africa, as a transit route to an increasingly hungry European drug consumption market. It would not be unthinkable for terrorist groups to finance their projects by selling Mexican produce in Europe, or linking up with them in West and North Africa to smuggle it there.

Do Mexican cartels want the sort of attention they would get by being affiliated with a terrorist attack? Definitely not. But they also know this: short of a major attack on US soil by a terrorist group linked to Mexican cartels, the US military is not coming into Mexico anytime soon. If the authorities found out that Chapo's people had indirectly helped fund a terrorist attack, in say, Madrid, would that have repercussions in Sinaloa? I highly doubt it would have serious ones. Borders might be tightened up a little etc, but even after Sept. 11, when that happened, the drugs kept getting through. I just don't think the likes of the Sinaloa cartel have all that much to lose from being linked to terror – they're already most-wanted people anyway, and yet they continue to prosper. A terrorist attack on Mexican soil is equally unlikely – we already had Morelia, but that was definitely a one-off.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting observations.

    I'm still not convinced that the Mexican cartels would want the extra heat they would be bound to get from the US if there was shown to be a direct connection between them and Islamic or for that matter any other terrorism, especially if something happened on US soil that was shown to have cartel involvement.

    I'm glad too that you think Morelia was a one-off event. I hope you are right. I'm not so sure. Will the recent massacre of young people in Ciudad Juarez be a one-off event too? Again I hope so but I can't be sure.