U.S.-Mexico: Military Buildup

September 25, 2007

Mexico is the most important country in the Americas for the
United States, both for reasons of national security and because it represents a very immediate future source of vital natural resources. The United States is concerned that Mexico not be a hostile nation, nor have a government that is even moderately leftist, let alone communist or socialist.

This is how John Marks, exintelligence agent and co-author
of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, explained at a January press conference in Washington the presence in Mexico of the largest CIA operation in the Western Hemisphere and its
"undercover intervention" in the internal affairs of Mexico.

Underscoring Marks' claims, in the Jan.-Feb. issue of the
NACLA Report we detailed the recently disclosed FBI counter-
intelligence activities in Mexico as part of a concerted U.S. pressure campaign designed to gain access to Mexico's rich oil reserves, implement an economic austerity program south of the
border and squelch rising labor militancy.

Ironically, however, the success achieved by the United States in "negotiating" its desired policies regarding Mexico's
economy and oil fields has only furthered concern among U.S.
policymakers about the other major areas of anxiety: political
unrest and immigration.

Ex-CIA director William Colby declared at a U.S. Congressional conference on national security last year that "we don't have to go over to Asia or Europe to look for a crisis when Mexico is in our backyard. The population of Mexico is something like 60 million, [of which] there are a few million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today threatening the jobs of our labor force, being exploited by some people who will hire them on the sly, and contributing to the social disorder and problems of where they secretly live. That situation is obviously going to explode in a Mexico of 120 million."

In fact, the current U.S.- sponsored austerity program in
Mexico has exacerbated the very conditions of which Colby is
fearful. Since the implementation of severe economic restrictions by the International Monetary Fund in late 1976, wages in Mexico have been drastically undercut, and thousands of layoffs have pushed the combined unemployment and underemployment rate to 57%. Mexican working people have
responded with both increased labor militancy-at least 300
strikes in 1977-and greatly accelerated emigration to the United States.

Apparently Colby's warnings have been heeded, for along with
the implementation of the austerity program, both the Mexican and U.S. governments have mounted vicious attacks against
Mexican workers north and south of the border. The use of
thousands of police and soldiers to break a strike of university employees in Mexico City last July (see Update, July-August 1977) and to crush a movement of workers, peasants and students in Oaxaca in December, as well as the continual
deportation of thousands of Mexicans from the United States are only the most dramatic examples of the ongoing repression of the Mexican labor movement.

And while the recent disclosures of FBI activities in Mexico
provide an unusually detailed insight into that agency's repressive role, the FBI by no means acts alone. The CIA station in Mexico is one of the largest in the world and with the collaboration of Mexican government officials has long maintained an intense campaign of infiltration and manipulation of trade unions and universities in Mexico.


Along with the FBI and the CIA, the Pentagon is looking to increase its influence within the Mexican military establishment with increased U.S. training programs and arms sales aimed at what they call "needed modernization" of Mexico's armed forces. The U.S. Defense Department detailed its objectives regarding Mexico in a document recently submitted to Congress: "The immediate objective of our
security assistance for Mexico is to foster the favorable disposition of the Mexican armed forces toward the United States and to enhance the capability of the armed forces to fulfill its national security role. Mexico is strategically important because it has 1800 miles of virtually unguarded
border with the U.S. The maintenance of open lines of
communication between the armed forces of our two countries is particularly desirable."

Since 1946, Mexico has received nearly $70 million in military and police aid from the U.S., and nearly 900 military and police agents have been trained by U.S. programs in such areas as counter-insurgency, psychological warfare, "imagery" intelligence and combat operations. The 1978 military assistance package for Mexico includes training 59 Mexican police and military students in the U.S. and abroad (up from 38 students in 1977), and projects military arms sales of $2 million for 1979 (over ten times the figure for 1977). In
addition, Mexico has secretly requested purchase of twenty-six
F-5 jet fighters from the U.S. at a cost of $150 million-evidence that the Mexican government is seeking to beef up its military and will be turning to the U.S. for

Two U.S. agencies in particular-The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS)-are stepping up their activities as political tensions continue to mount in the border area.


Under the guise of drug control programs, the DEA is apparently becoming one of the main U.S. channels of police aid and training to foreign countries, especially Mexico, as well as a common cover for CIA agents-the role formerly filled
by the Office of Public Safety (OPS) before its formal suspen-
sion in 1973. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) has
confirmed that the hundreds of DEA agents overseas are engaged in many of the same activities as their OPS predecessors.
In February, 1975, in fact, Jack Anderson revealed that 13
narcotic agents trained at a super-secret CIA counter-espionage school are still working for the DEA and that 64 former CIA employees now work for DEA.

DEA agents also administer the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) on the Mexican border, which houses a complex computer system linking the center to 14 federal information systems, including the FBI"s crime computer. EPIC is staffed by 15 agents, some recruited from the CIA and the military, and is in charge of monitoring drug traffic. "We're not really criminal investigators as such,' admitted Charles Updegraph Jr., a DEA agent and chief analyst at EPIC, "We're mostly intelligence folks."

Through the International Narcotics Control program, Mexican police have received more than $47 million since 1973 and are projected to receive another $10 million this year and
$13.5 million in 1979. "Most of this assistance," according to a GAO report, "has been provided to the Mexican Attorney General's Air Services Section for aircraft and related support for improving the mobility of enforcement and eradication personnel."

The GAO admits that, because of the similarity in the equipment used for narcotics control and regular police functions, it is almost impossible to prevent DEA- supplied hardware from being used in non-drug related operations.

Currently, for example, in the northern Mexican states of
Durango and Sinaloa-scene of many militant peasant land occupations in the past two years- 7,000 Mexican soldiers, aided by 226 DEA advisers are "conducting a 'special war' " against the indians of the Sierra Madre mountains. According to the U.S. Catholic Conference publication, LADOC, 19 planes, 30 Bell helicopters, tanks and cannons are being used against three million indians under the pretext of destroying marijuana fields. LADOC reports that thousands of tons of
Vietnam War-type herbicides, such as the infamous 245T, are
being sprayed on indian land, destroying crops and "driving
the population to hunger."

DEA agents are also active in the southern states of Oaxaca
and Guerrero, two areas of the country under virtual military
siege as a result of government efforts to smash the activities of growing peasant-worker-student alliances.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, at the request of Senator Charles Percy, has asked the Secretaries of State and Defense to "study the (potential] use by U.S. civilian agencies [in Mexico] of such military technology as surveillance and communications facilities.. specifically... more extensive use of sensors, FLIR (forward-looking-infared) systems and radar, including mobile
radar units." Such "military reconnaissance," the Committee
claims, may "enhance the capacity for monitoring poppy cultivation." It will also obviously enhance the capacity for "monitoring" guerrilla activities.


As a result of increased immigration from Mexico, the Carter Administration has placed before Congress a plan to stem the flow of Mexicans into the U.S. and to control those already
here (See Update Sept.-Oct. 1977). Key to the Carter plan is
the further militarization of the border and a build-up of the INS Border Patrol.

The INS historically has played a repressive role in this
country, targeting immigrant workers as the cause of unemployment and the source of "foreign ideologies." Currently, the INS is being used to break strikes of militant undocumented Mexican workers throughout the U.S. southwest, most notably in recent strikes at the Goldwaterowned Arrowhead citrus ranch in Maricopa County, Arizona. According to the recently disclosed FBI documents, the INS is also used by the Bureau as a cover to interrogate politically active Mexicans and Chicanos "who might be of interest in terms of national

Contrary to cries raised by Border Patrol officials at a February press conference in San Francisco, protesting that border agents are "an endangered species threatened with extinction," the Carter Administration plans to double the INS' border police to 4,600 by 1980. In addition, the Administration is considering a plan of "coordinated management of the border" which would put a security force of 6,000 federal agents and 8,000 police from Texas, New Mexico,
Arizona and California along the border, according to the
Mexican daily Excelsior.

The INS Border Patrol is currently receiving training in counterinsurgency techniques and the U.S. Customs Air Support
Branch plans to modernize its aircraft fleet with a half-dozen
new turbine-powered planes fitted with the latest radar and FLIR systems developed by the Navy.

The current build-up of repressive forces along the border
poses a serious threat to the entire labor movement in the
region and is designed to maintain what John Marks claims is a
primary U.S. foreign policy objective: a tranquil U.S.-Mexico

By the NACLA-West Mexico Project


Sources include Excelsior (various issues in Nov., Dec . 1977, Jan. 1978), Transcript of U.S. Congressional Conference on National Security May 11-12. 1977: LADOC. Nov.-Dec 1977; NACLA Report (Jul-Aug. 1976). M. Klare, Supplying Repression (1977): Center for Research on Criminal Justice. Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove (1977). U.S. Senate Report No. 95-195, May 16, 1977, Aviation Week (April 11, 1977), Chicago Tribune. (Jan 25. 1978). FY79 Congressional Presentation Document by State/Defense Dept. "Justification for Military Aid."

Tags: Mexico, military aid, military training, DEA, INS

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