“Whose war is it?” is a routine question here in Mexico, "and who else has a stake in this fight?" Does it make sense to talk about the U.S. role in Mexico’s War Against Organized Crime, or is it more accurate to refer to Mexico’s role in the U.S. War Against Drugs and Terrorism?
A year and a half ago, under the title, “Washington Invades Mexico Little by Little,” the magazine Proceso reported on the presence of a U.S. Office of Bi-National Intelligence (OBI), occupying several suites of offices in a tall building on Mexico City’s upscale Paseo de la Reforma, just a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy. The OBI openly housed (and continues to house) an alphabet soup of U.S. intelligence agencies, the DEA, DIA, CIA, FBI, ATF, and others. The operation of these U.S. agencies on foreign soil had been authorized by the Obama administration in a document called “A National Anti-Narcotics Strategy for the Southern Border,” and was agreed to by the government of Felipe Calderón.
Soon after the Proceso article was published, the OBI—not surprisingly—became an object of nationalist anger. Senator Carlos Sotelo of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), led a “symbolic closing” of its offices. “From the building at Reforma 265,” he remarked to reporters, “U.S. agents design programs for high officials of the Attorney General’s office, the secretaries of the Navy, National Defense and Public Security.”
Since late 2006, with the full knowledge and cooperation of the Calderón administration, the DEA has had 54 agents in Mexico, all registered as liaisons with the U.S. Embassy. These agents have no apparent restrictions on their activities beyond combating drug trafficking and organized crime, leading to suspicions—never proven—that they are in Mexico to conduct various types of espionage.
And beyond espionage, Charlie Savage of The New York Times reported this past Sunday on the “commando-style squads” deployed by the DEA to several countries—not including Mexico—in the Americas. The article, entitled “D.E.A. Squads Extend Reach of Drug War,” refers not only to the geographical reach, but also the functional reach of the agency. Cutting across ideological lines, this extension of U.S. reach is what many Mexicans fear above all. How long will it take before U.S. commando-style squads make their presence felt in Mexico?
The above photo is of the building at Reforma 265, home to U.S. intelligence offices (Credit: Eduardo Miranda). For more on the Mexican drug war, read the May/June 2011 NACLA Report "Mexico's Drug Crisis." For more from Fred Rosen's blog, "Mexico, Bewildered and Contested," visit nacla.org/blog/mexico-bewildered-contested. You can also read NACLA blogs, Border Wars or Traffick Jam, for more on the U.S.-Mexico border or drug trafficking in the region.