Small Wars Journal

Connie Mack: “State Department Not Closely Tracking Threat Of Mexican Drug Cartels.”

Thu, 09/22/2011 - 1:36pm

Connie Mack: “State Department Not Closely Tracking Threat Of Mexican Drug Cartels.”

Last week, Congressman Connie Mack (R - FL) chaired the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing regarding the evolution of drug cartels and the threat they pose to the Mexican government. Noting the close bond and 2,000 mile border our country shares with Mexico, Congressman Mack wrote a letter to the State Department in order to highlight the growing threat of insurgency in the region and its effects on the U.S. economy and security. Specifically, Mack addresses the Mérida Initiative and its need to adapt to quell the threat of transnational criminal organizations. The letter follows:

September 16, 2011

David S. Adams

Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs

U.S. Department of State

Bureau of Legislative Affairs

Washington, DC 20520

Dear Assistant Secretary Adams:

As a result of the State Department’s Press Briefing on September 14, 2011, I am concerned that State Department Officials are not closely following the debate on US-Mexico policy. Given that we share a 2,000 mile border and the largest export relationship with Mexico, the expanding threat to the governance of Mexico is, undoubtedly, the largest threat to U.S. security and the U.S. economy. The U.S. Congress and Department of State should be working hand in hand to address this growing threat.

Towards this end, I ask that you please share with the relevant officials within the State Department this recap of the joint Subcommittee hearing of the Subcommittees on the Western Hemisphere and Oversight and Investigation on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 entitled “Has Mérida Evolved? Part One: The Evolution of Drug Cartels and the Threat to Mexico’s Governance.”

The hearing addressed the effectiveness of the Mérida Initiative in response to the transformation of drug cartels into transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) and their attempts to undermine the Mexican government through tactics labeled as characteristics of an insurgency. The hearing highlighted the need to develop an approach, moving forward from the Mérida Initiative, to face the threat of an insurgency. Through expert testimony and questioning, it was made clear that the situation has evolved dramatically since 2007, and that violence in Mexico is a well-funded criminal insurgency raging along our southern border, threatening the lives of U.S. citizens and harming the U.S. economy by undermining legal business.

Dr. Gary M. Shiffman, the Managing Director of Chertoff Group, identified the drug cartels as businesses that must utilize political manipulation to ensure profit: this in an insurgency. Dr. Robert Bunker, a Senior Fellow of Small Wars Journal El Centro, advised that the situation in Mexico must be the top national security priority for the United States due to its alarming increase in violence, especially in several regions near the U.S. border. Both Andrew Selee with the Woodrow Wilson Institute and Pamela Starr, professor at USC, outlined the need for the Mérida Initiative to evolve with the threats of the TCOs.

While I, and many Members of Congress, have supported the Mérida Initiative, and acknowledge its success in training and establishing deeper cooperation between U.S. and Mexican officials, the situation in Mexico has progressed beyond Mérida’s scope.  The failure of this Administration to set performance measures, target dates or tangible goals to measure the success of U.S. programs has made it impossible to claim ‘success’ on the initiative itself. Meanwhile, the Mexican drug cartels have capitalized on the United States’ sluggish assistance to actively undermine the Mexican state through insurgent activities such as violence, corruption, and propaganda.

The hearing advanced the ball on outlining new and improved goals that are gaining support in the United States Congress.  While some details were identified, the Subcommittee looks forward to deliberating the specifics of a counterinsurgency strategy in coordination with all involved agencies. I look forward to hearing from relevant State Department officials on their suggested next steps to developing a strategy that effectively allocates funding to decrease the insurgent activity that currently exists in Mexico and along our border.


Connie Mack

Member of Congress


Our next significant military operation will likely involve the deployment of US forces within Mexico, quite possibly within the next 10 years.

Those forces may not be large but I suspect will involve more than SOF given the proximity of the threat (right on our border), the thoroughness with which the cartels have infiltrated the Mexican government and compromised its security apparatus, and the likelihood that the cartels may expand their operations into US territory (more than they already have).