Monday, May 28, 2012

In Bad Company: Mexico Arrests Three Army Generals, U.S. War for Drugs Continues

Earlier this month, the Mexican government arrested three high-ranking Army generals "including a former second in command at the Defense Ministry," The New York Times reported.

According to multiple press reports, Tomás Ángeles Dauahare, who retired in 2008, was an under secretary at the Defense Ministry during the first two years of President Felipe Calderón's "war" against some narcotrafficking cartels and had even been mentioned as a "possible choice for the top job."

The Times disclosed that in the early 1990s Ángeles "served as the defense attaché at the Mexican Embassy in Washington," a plum position with plenty of perks awarded to someone thought by his Pentagon brethren to have impeccable credentials; that is, if smoothing the way the for drugs to flow can be viewed as a bright spot on one's résumé.

The other top military men detained in Mexico City were "Brig. Gen. Roberto Dawe González, assigned to a base in Colima State, and Gen. Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, who is retired."

Reuters reported that "Dawe headed an army division in the Pacific state of Colima, which lies on a key smuggling route for drugs heading to the United States, and had also served in the violent border state of Chihuahua."

When queried at a May 18 press conference in Washington, "whether and to what extent" these officers participated in the $1.6 billion taxpayer-financed boondoggle known as the Mérida Initiative or had received American training, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert L. Ditchey II tersely told reporters, "We are not going to get into those specifics."

Inquiring minds can't help but wonder what does the Pentagon, or certain three-lettered secret state agencies, have to hide?

CIA-Pentagon Death Squads

Although little explored by corporate media, the CIA and Defense Department's role in escalating violence across Mexico is part of a long-standing strategy by American policy planners to deploy what the late Col. L. Fletcher Prouty called The Secret Team, "skilled professionals under the direct control of someone higher up." According to Prouty, "Team members are like lawyers and agents, they work for someone. They generally do not plan their work. They do what their client tells them to do."

In the context of the misbegotten "War on Drugs," that "client" is the U.S. government and the nexus of bent banks, crooked cops, shady airplane brokers, chemical manufacturers, and spooky defense and surveillance firms who all profit from the chaos they help sustain.

As Narco News disclosed last summer, "A small but growing proxy war is underway in Mexico pitting US-assisted assassin teams composed of elite Mexican special operations soldiers against the leadership of an emerging cadre of independent drug organizations that are far more ruthless than the old-guard Mexican 'cartels' that gave birth to them."

"These Mexican assassin teams now in the field for at least half a year, sources tell Narco News, are supported by a sophisticated US intelligence network composed of CIA and civilian US military operatives as well as covert special-forces soldiers under Pentagon command--which are helping to identify targets for the Mexican hit teams."

"So it should be no surprise," Bill Conroy wrote, "that information is now surfacing from reliable sources indicating that the US government is once again employing a long-running counter-insurgency strategy that has been pulled off the shelf and deployed in conflicts dating back to Vietnam in the 1960s, in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, and beyond, and in more recent conflicts, such as in Iraq."

That strategy, as numerous journalists and researchers have reported, provides specialized training and heavy-weapons to neocolonial clients that the imperial Godfather believes will do their bidding. More often than not however, there are serious consequences for doing so.

As The Brownsville Herald revealed nearly a decade ago, the Zetas were the former enforcement arm of Juan García Ábrego's Gulf Cartel; then Mexico's richest and most powerful drug trafficking organization.

During the 1980s, the Gulf group negotiated an alliance with Colombia's Cali Cartel, amongst the CIA's staunchest drug-trafficking allies during the Iran-Contra period. By the 1990s, the Mexican Attorney General's Office estimated that the organization handled as much as "one-third of all cocaine shipments" into the United States from their suppliers and were worth an estimated $10 billion.

But as the Herald disclosed, the Zetas, now considered by the U.S. government to be the "most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico" were "once part of an elite division of the Mexican Army, the Special Air Mobile Force Group. At least one-third of this battalion's deserters was trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga., according to documents from the Mexican secretary of defense."

By 2010, the Zetas had broken with their former Gulf partners to become one of the most formidable, and brutal, DTOs in the area. According to published reports, the organization's core operatives include corrupt former federal, state and local police officers, renegade soldiers and ex-Kabiles, the CIA and Pentagon-trained Special Forces of the Guatemalan military, responsible for horrendous atrocities during that country's U.S.-sponsored "scorched earth" campaign against leftist guerrillas; a war which killed an estimated 250,000 people, largely at the hands of the military and right-wing death squads.

Perhaps this is one reason why the Pentagon "won't get into" the "specifics" behind the generals' recent arrests, nor will the Justice Department come clean about the "quid-pro-quo immunity deal with the US government in which they [the Sinaloa Cartel] were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations," as Narco News reported.

While the implications of these policies may be scandalous to the average citizen, they're part of a recurring pattern, one might even say a modus operandi reproduced ad nauseam.

More than three decades ago we learned from Danish journalist Henrik Krüger in The Great Heroin Coup, that the CIA was at the center of the "remarkable shift from Marseilles (Corsican) to Southeast Asian and Mexican (Mafia) heroin in the United States," and that the legendary take-down of the "French Connection" actually represented "a deliberate move to reconstruct and redirect the heroin trade... not to eliminate it." (emphasis added)

A similar process is underway in Mexico today as drug distribution networks battle it out for control over the multibillion dollar market flooding Europe and North America with processed cocaine from South America's fabled Crystal Triangle. In fact, the illicit trade would be nigh impossible without official complicity and corruption, on both sides of the border, and at the highest levels of what sociologist C. Wright Mills called the Power Elite.

Without batting an eye however, the Times told us that the arrest of Mexico's top "drug fighting" generals "is sure to rattle American law enforcement and military officers, who in the best of times often work warily with their Mexican counterparts, typically subjecting them to screening for any criminal ties."


Not if a U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Field Manual (FM 3-05.130), titled Unconventional Warfare, serves as a guide for the Pentagon's current strategic thinking on the conflict in Mexico. Published in 2008 by WikiLeaks, the anonymous authors informed us that:

Irregulars, or irregular forces, are individuals or groups of individuals who are not members of a regular armed force, police, or other internal security force. They are usually nonstate-sponsored and unconstrained by sovereign nation legalities and boundaries. These forces may include, but are not limited to, specific paramilitary forces, contractors, individuals, businesses, foreign political organizations, resistance or insurgent organizations, expatriates, transnational terrorism adversaries, disillusioned transnational terrorism members, black marketers, and other social or political "undesirables." (Unconventional Warfare, p. 1-3)

From this perspective such "irregular forces" sound suspiciously like today's army of professional contract killers or sicarios, who act as mercenaries for the cartels and as political enforcers for local elites.

According to carefully-crafted media fairy tales, we're to believe that unlike corrupt Federal and local police, the Army, which has deployed nearly 50,000 troops across Mexico are somehow magically immune to the global tide of corruption associated with an illicit trade worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

However, ubiquitous facts on the ground tell a different tale. Like their U.S. counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Mexican Army stands accused of serious human rights violations. And, like marauding U.S. imperial invaders, Mexico's Army regularly carry out illegal detentions, extortion, extrajudicial killings, torture along with the "disappearance" of indigenous and left-wing activists.

Indeed, like their American and NATO counterparts in Afghanistan today, some elements within the Mexican Army have forged highly-profitable alliances with drug traffickers, especially among organized crime groups afforded "cover" by the CIA. But unlike the global godfathers in Washington however, Mexican authorities have brought criminal charges against corrupt officials.

In the Times' report we're informed that "a retired general, Juan Manuel Barragán Espinosa, was detained in February, accused of having leaked information to a drug gang. Another general, Manuel Moreno Avina, and several soldiers he commanded are on charges of murder, torture and drug trafficking in a border town in northern Mexico."

The Houston Chronicle disclosed that the "investigation of the generals reportedly was spurred by informants' testimony linked to the August 2010 arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, the Laredo native known as La Barbie who served as the Beltran Leyva's top enforcer."

According to the Chronicle, "accusations of political motivation--by the generals' wives, lawyers and others--have been raised because of prosecutors' nearly two-year delay in acting on the informant's testimony and because the arrests come less than six weeks ahead of Mexico's presidential elections."

In fact, just days before being taken into custody, Ángeles "participated in a national security conference organized by supporters of presidential front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI."

But Ángeles' inconvenient arrest just weeks before contentious national elections isn't the only problem that PRI front-runner Peña Nieto has to worry about.

The Associated Press reported that Peña Nieto's one-time ally, the former governor of the violence-plagued state of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, has been accused in a civil action filed by federal prosecutors in Texas that he "'acquired millions of dollars in payments' while in public office from drug cartels 'and from various extortion or bribery schemes'."

"Yarrington," AP disclosed, "then used various front men and businesses 'to become a major real estate investor through various money laundering mechanisms,' according to documents filed in Corpus Christi."

The former governor "was also named earlier this year in the federal indictment of Antonio Peña Arguelles, who was also charged with money laundering in San Antonio. That indictment alleged that leaders of the Gulf and Zetas cartels paid millions to Institutional Revolutionary Party members, including Yarrington," AP reported.

Curiously enough however, that AP report failed to mention Yarrington's close political ties to politicians on this side of the border. Indeed, according to Digital Journal writer Lynn Herrmann, "Yarrington was at Texas Governor Rick Perry's swearing into office for his first full term in 2003. Prior to that, the Tamaulipas governor was a recipient of a Texas Senate resolution honoring him."

"Even closer was the relationship between Yarrington and President George W. Bush," Herrmann wrote, "a relationship apparently developed when junior was governor of Texas. In 2000, the Los Angeles Times quoted Bush as saying, 'Tomás is terrific, worked with him a lot'."

Now why wouldn't the AP report that?!

While one cannot dismiss that political motivations may lie behind the arrests, salient facts coloring these latest examples of drug war shenanigans again betray that this phony war is being waged not to stamp-out the grim trade but over who controls it.

Another Day, Another Bent General

The arrests were hardly precedent setting if truth be told. Indeed, the best known case of collaboration between the Army and the Cartels was that of Gen. José de Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.

After having risen in the ranks to become a Three-Star Divisional Commander in the 1990s, Gutiérrez was appointed by the Attorney General of Mexico during the reign of President Ernesto Zedillo, currently a director of the drug-tainted financial black hole Citigroup, accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars in drug money for Raúl Salinas de Gortari, the brother of Carlos Salinas, the former president of Mexico. With powerful connections, the general became that country's top-ranking drug interdiction officer as head of the Instituto Nacional para el Combate a las Drogas (INCD).

From his perch, Gutiérrez had access to intelligence provided to the government by Mexican and U.S. secret state agencies. The treasure trove of data available to the general and his patrons included files on antidrug investigations, wiretaps on cartel leaders and informant identities.

There was just one small problem.

After receiving a tip that Gutiérrez had moved into an upscale Mexico City neighborhood in an apartment "whose rent could not be paid for with the wage received by a public servant," the Attorney General's Office opened an investigation.

It turned out that Gutiérrez had moved into palatial digs owned by a confederate of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the legendary head of the Juárez Cartel and "Lord of the Heavens." The drug lord earned that moniker because he moved vast quantities of cocaine into the U.S. aboard a fleet of airplanes purchased from bent brokers on the American side of the border. This too is a recurring pattern, as Daniel Hopsicker revealed during his investigation into the secret history of a fleet of fifty drug planes bought with hot money laundered through U.S. banks.

During the course of their investigation, Mexican authorities obtained a recording of Gutiérrez and Carrillo Fuentes which discussed payments to the General; remuneration for his role in leaving the Juárez Cartel alone, then Mexico's largest drug corporation.

In a 1997 interview with The Boston Globe, Francisco Molina, the former head of the anti-narcotics unit, said that during the change of command, "he personally handed over to Gutiérrez all of Mexico's 'most delicate' drug-fighting information."

"The files included thousands of documents on open investigations," the Globe reported, "pending operations, wire taps and voluminous material on Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the trafficker to whom Gutiérrez was linked."

That information, Molina said, "places many people at risk, and it throws into the garbage the huge amount of resources, money, and time that were spent" on operations. "It's like letting the enemy in to dig around in the files."

And with the U.S. State Department poised to expand the Mexican secret state's access to the latest in communications' intercept technologies as Antifascist Calling recently reported, the Cartels may soon have even more information at their disposal and the wherewithal to strike their adversaries with ruthless efficiency.

'Dirty Warrior' and 'Lord of the Heavens' United in the Great Beyond

It remains to be seen whether the accused military men will suffer the fate of another narco-linked Army commander, retired Gen. Mario Acosta Chaparro.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reported last month that Acosta, "who was convicted of drug-gang ties a decade ago but subsequently exonerated, has died of wounds suffered in a gunshot attack, sources with the capital's district attorney's office said."

According to McClatchy's "Mexico Unmasked" blog, the general was killed "as he descended from his chauffeured vehicle to pick up his Mercedes Benz (how many generals can afford to buy MBs?) in a suburban area of Mexico City. A guy in a motorcycle fired 3 rounds from a 9mm handgun into Acosta's head."

As Antifascist Calling reported in 2010, this was the same general who was shot and wounded in Mexico City during an alleged "robbery attempt." At the time, El Universal reported that police claimed a thief wanted to "steal the general's watch" and shot him several times in the abdomen when he resisted.

It must have been a nice watch.

But with last month's murder it appears that Acosta's past caught up with him. "In 2007," Antifascist Calling reported, "after a six-year imprisonment on charges of providing protection to late drug trafficking kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes ... Acosta Chaparro was released from custody after his conviction was overturned on appeal."

Freed on technicalities despite testimony by witnesses under the protection of the Mexican government, documents published by WikiLeaks revealed that the Swiss Bank Julius Baer's Cayman Islands unit hid "several million dollars" of funds controlled by Acosta and his wife, Silvia, through a firm known as Symac Investments.

WikiLeaks wondered whether Mexican authorities would "want to know whether the several millions of USD had anything to do with the allegations that Mr Chaparro, a former police chief from the Mexican state of Guerrero, stopped chasing his local drug dealers and joined them in business."

The secret-spilling web site averred: "With the assistance of Julius Baer, Mr Chaparro was able to invest several millions of USD in Symac with all the secrecy which the Caymans allowed and to draw out some $12,000 a month until he suddenly stopped it in July 1998. The following year, a particularly notorious colleague from the Mexican police became an FBI informer and offered new evidence against him."

During his 2002 trial on drug trafficking and corruption charges one of the witnesses, Gustavo Tarín Chávez testified that Acosta answered a phone call and a voice on the other end of the line said: "Son! How are you? Son!" Tarín Chávez told the court that the only person who called the general "son" was none other then Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

During that call, the late drug lord told Acosta that he had spoken with Rubén Figueroa Alcocer, the former governor of Guerrero, and that "everything was settled."

Multiple reports in the Mexican press subsequently revealed that the general had been given orders to pick up fifty AK-47 assault rifles, thirty semiautomatic pistols, twenty two-way radios and a SUV from Carrillo Fuentes and deliver them to the governor.

Talk about a high-priced errand boy!

Tarín Chávez also testified that Acosta did all the technical planning for the Juárez group and made arrangements for the arrival of Colombian aircraft loaded with cocaine and that this logistics work involved the delivery of vehicles, cash and communications' equipment to other military officers who worked for the drug lord.

Though his case was tossed out by the Mexican Supreme Court due to a "lack of evidence" (perhaps one or all of those witnesses lost their "protection" and "vanished," into an unmarked grave perhaps?), like other close U.S. allies in the "War on Drugs," Acosta had been linked to Mexico's "dirty war" against the left during the 1970s under the administration of President Luis Echeverría.

Echeverría was Interior Minister during President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz's corrupt, repressive regime. Díaz, with much encouragement from the Pentagon, State Department and the CIA, ordered the murders of hundreds of student protesters in the now-infamous Tlatelolco Plaza massacre a few days before the start of the 1968 Summer Olympics.

In 2006, investigative journalist Jefferson Morley and The National Security Archive obtained previously classified documents which revealed "CIA recruitment of agents within the upper echelons of the Mexican government between 1956 and 1969. The informants used in this secret program included President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and future President Luis Echeverría."

Those documents detailed "the relationships cultivated between senior CIA officers, such as chief of station Winston Scott, and Mexican government officials through a secret spy network code-named 'LITEMPO.' Operating out of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, Scott used the LITEMPO project to provide 'an unofficial channel for the exchange of selected sensitive political information which each government wanted the other to receive but not through public protocol exchanges'."

Scott, a strident anticommunist who saw Moscow's "hidden hand" everywhere, suspected that student protests were "a communist controlled rebellion," and argued that the movement represented "a classic example of the Communists' ability to divert a peaceful demonstration into a major riot." Never mind that radical students despised the Stalinist Communist Party of Mexico and viewed them as conservative sell-outs; for Scott and his CIA masters, the fable of an International Communist Conspiracy directed by the Kremlin had to be maintained at all costs.

"As the student protests grew larger," Morley wrote, "Scott's information from the LITEMPO agents informed Ambassador Freeman's increasingly dire cables to Washington, which noted that Díaz Ordaz and the people around him were talking tougher. The government 'implicitly accepts consequence that this will produce casualties,' the ambassador wrote. 'Leaders of student agitation have been and are being taken into custody....In other words, the [government] offensive against student disorder has opened on physical and psychological fronts'."

The rest, as they say, is history. Army units stationed around the perimeter of Tlatelolco Plaza and in the windows of adjoining buildings began to open fire on the protesters; hundreds were killed and more than fifteen hundred people were arrested, many of whom were subsequently tortured and then "disappeared."

Heroin Coups and Iran-Contra Connections

Díaz and Echeverría did more than just ignore crimes perpetrated by the drug and CIA-linked intelligence agency, the Direcciòn Federal de Seguridad, or DFS; in the wake of the massacre, they handed DFS and the Army a blank check to carry out an anti-leftist purge which claimed thousands of lives.

Analyzing the CIA's role in global drug trafficking networks, researcher Peter Dale Scott wrote: "One of the most crime-ridden CIA assets we know of is the Mexican DFS, which the US helped to create. From its foundation in the 1940s, the DFS, like other similar kryptocracies in Latin America, was deeply involved with international drug-traffickers. By the 1980s possession of a DFS card was recognized by DEA agents as a 'license to traffic'."

According to Scott, "DFS agents rode security for drug truck convoys, and used their police radios to check of signs of American police surveillance. Eventually the DFS became so identified with the criminal drug-trafficking organizations it managed and protected, that in the 1980s the DFS was (at least officially) closed down."

Though 90 at the time of this writing, Echeverría, until recently, was considered the éminence grise of Mexican politics. He continued to wield considerable power long after his presidential term ended, mostly through his influence over the "old guard" of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, the special police and army forces stood up under his watch, along with his alleged ties to the drug cartels.

As Scott and Jonathan Marshall disclosed in Cocaine Politics, the "failure" of various anti-trafficking programs such as Operation Condor "were inevitable given the records of the two Mexican presidents" who oversaw the operation.

"Luis Echeverría, under whom the program began," Scott and Marshall wrote, "appears to have been linked to [drug trafficker and CIA asset Alberto] Sicilia Falcón through his wife, whose family members had suspected ties to the European heroin trade." And when José López Portillo "took charge in 1976," Scott and Marshall averred, he "reportedly amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in criminal profits and bought large estates in Spain with the proceeds."

As Henrik Krüger related in The Great Heroin Coup, when he was arrested in 1975, Sicilia Falcón "claimed to be an agent of the CIA, and that his drug ring had been set up on orders and with the support of the agency."

"Part of his profits," Krüger wrote, "were to go towards the purchase of weapons and ammunition for distribution throughout Central America for the destabilization of 'undesirable' governments. If true, U.S. heroin addicts were again footing the bill for clandestine paramilitary operations and anti-Communist terror campaigns."

But the former president's shady connections didn't stop there. Indeed, Echeverría's brother-in-law, Rubén Zuno Arce, was convicted in U.S. Federal District Court in California in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for his role as a top-tier leader of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo's Guadalajara drug cartel and for the torture-murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in 1985.

Camarena had amassed evidence that the CIA and U.S. State Department considered Gallardo "untouchable" because of the "special relationship" forged by the Agency amongst drug traffickers and the Nicaraguan Contras. Scott and Marshall disclosed that "Mexico's biggest smuggler, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, responsible for moving four tons of cocaine a month into the United States, was also 'a big supporter' of the Contras, according to his pilot Werner Lotz. Lotz told the DEA that his boss advanced him more than $150,000 to pass on to the Contras."

In an 1996 PBS interview with former DEA deep-cover specialist turned whistleblower, Michael Levine, the co-host of The Expert Witness Radio Show, Levine related that "Camarena was a DEA agent working on high level drug investigations. He was stationed in Guadalajara, Mexico and his investigations were taking him right into the Contra resupply lines, that is, the Contras trafficking in drugs with the support of the Hondurans, the Mexicans, and everybody else and Enrique was down there working this case with an informer and suddenly he's arrested in broad daylight by Mexican police. He's taken to a ranch of a top Mexican criminal and slowly tortured to death over a 24 hour period."

"And later what is... what's found is Enrique was investigating [Honduran drug lord Juan Ramón] Matta-Ballesteros and Matta-Ballesteros' partner Gallardo and Matta-Ballesteros, by the way, was on the State Department payroll... in spite of being a documented heavy drug trafficker. His airline that we knew was used to traffic drugs, was used on the US government payroll to fly these Contra resupply mission. So here's this murderer who was later convicted of murdering... or conspiring to murder Kiki Camarena and he was on the US government payroll in spite of the fact that the DEA called him a drug trafficker, in spite of the fact that Kiki Camarena was investigating him. Now here's Kiki Camarena investigating the Oliver North supply line and he's tortured to death."

As investigative journalist Robert Parry revealed two years later on the Consortium News web site, Matta-Ballesteros' airline, SETCO, "emerged as the principal company for ferrying supplies to the contras in Honduras."

"During congressional Iran-contra hearings, FDN political leader Adolfo Calero testified that SETCO was paid from bank accounts controlled by Oliver North. SETCO also received $185,924 from the State Department for ferrying supplies to the contras in 1986."

Let's get this straight: Ollie North, a convicted felon who turned a blind eye to drug trafficking Contra networks he helped stand up runs for the U.S. Senate, hosts a "national defense" program on Fox News and earns millions of dollars. "Kiki" Camarena, who's investigating North's criminal assets is brutally murdered by those same "resistance" fighters.

Curiously enough, when Sinaloa Cartel head Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped in 2001 from a maximum-security prison during the "reform" administration of Vicente Fox, then the leader of the neoliberal Partido Acción Nacional, or PAN, and whose Federal Police chief was recommended by Luis Echeverría, it emerged that Guzmán once worked for Matta-Ballesteros, Gallardo and Zuno Acre's Guadalajara Cartel.

Small world.

But then again, with the CIA suppressing evidence that they negotiated a quid-pro-quo with the Sinaloa Cartel and can't talk about it because of "national security," or that an FBI drug-trafficking informant was at the center of the Justice Department's gun-walking "Fast and Furious" fiasco and can't be prosecuted, perhaps controlled chaos is just what the Global Godfather wants.

A bent general or two is the least of our problems.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why Is the State Department 'Arming' Mexico's Intelligence Agencies with Advanced Intercept Technologies?

Amid recent reports that the bodies of four Mexican journalists were discovered in a canal in the port city of Veracruz, less than a week after another journalist based in that city was found strangled in her home, the U.S. State Department "plans to award a contract to provide a Mexican government security agency with a system that can intercept and analyze information from all types of communications systems," NextGov reported.

The most glaring and obvious question is: why?

Since President Felipe Calderón declared "war" against some of the region's murderous drug cartels in 2006, some 50,000 Mexicans have been butchered. Activists, journalists, honest law enforcement officials but also ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire, the vast majority of victims, have been the targets of mafia-controlled death squads, corrupt police and the military.

Underscoring the savage nature of another "just war" funded by U.S. taxpayers, last week The Dallas Morning News reported that "23 people were found dead Friday--nine hanging from a bridge and 14 decapitated--across the Texas border in the city of Nuevo Laredo."

The arcane and highly-ritualized character of the violence, often accompanied by sardonic touches meant to instill fear amongst people already ground underfoot by crushing poverty and official corruption that would make the Borgias blush, convey an unmistakable message: "We rule here!"

"The latest massacres are part of a continuing battle between the paramilitary group known as the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel," the Morning News averred. "The violence appears to be part of a strategy by the Sinaloa cartel to disrupt one of the most lucrative routes for drug smugglers by bringing increased attention from the federal government."

According to investigators the "two warring cartels are fighting for control of the corridor that leads into Interstate 35, known as one of the most lucrative routes for smugglers."

But as Laura Carlsen, the director of the Americas Program pointed out last month in CounterPunch, "In a series of 'Joint Operations' between Federal Police and Armed Forces, the Mexican government has deployed more than 45,000 troops into various regions of the country in an unprecedented domestic low-intensity conflict."

The militarization of Mexican society, as in the "Colossus to the North," has also seen the expansion of a bloated Surveillance State. Carlsen averred that when the Army and Federal Police are "deployed to communities where civilians are defined as suspected enemies, soldiers and officers have responded too often with arbitrary arrests, personal agendas and corruption, extrajudicial executions, the use of torture, and excessive use of force."

But expanding the surveillance capabilities of secret state agencies as the State Department proposes in its multimillion dollar gift to the Israeli-founded firm, Verint Systems, far from inhibiting violence by drug gangs and the security apparatus, on the contrary, will only rationalize repression as new "targets" are identified and electronic communications are data-mined for "actionable intelligence."

Indeed, The New York Times reported last summer that "after months of negotiations, the United States established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base."

Although anonymous "American officials" cited by the Times "declined to provide details about the work being done" by a team of spooks drawn from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA and "retired military personnel members from the Pentagon's Northern Command," they said that "the compound had been modeled after 'fusion intelligence centers' that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups."

Such developments are hardly encouraging considering the role played by "fusion centers" here in the heimat. As the ACLU has amply documented, "Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints, and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public."

In Mexico, the results will be immeasurably worse; with corruption endemic on both sides of the border, who's to say authorities won't sell personal data gleaned from these digital sweeps to the highest bidder?

Only this time, the data scrapped from internet search queries, emails, smartphone chatter or text messages grabbed by bent officials won't result in annoying targeted ads on your browser but in piles of corpses.

Guns In, Drugs Out: Iran/Contra Redux

While Obama administration officials hypocritically washed their hands of responsibility for failing to clamp-down on what journalist Daniel Hopsicker christened The New American Drug Lords, an old boys club of dodgy bankers, shady investment consultants, defense contractors and other glad handers, the violence following drug flows north like a swarm of locusts is fueled in no small part by arms which federal intelligence and law enforcement allowed to "walk" across the border.

Indeed, as Hopsicker pointed out in MadCow Morning News: "Ten years ago Miami Private Detective Gary McDaniel, a 30-year veteran investigator for both Government prosecutors and attorneys for major drug traffickers, educated me on the basics of the drug trade."

"'Every successful drug trafficking organization (DTO) needs four things to be successful,' he said. He ticked each one off on his fingers: 'Production, distribution, transportation, and--most important of all--protection'."

To McDaniel's list we can add a fifth element: intelligence gleaned from the latest advances in communications' technologies.

If all this sounds familiar, it should.

During the 1980s, as the Reagan administration waged its anticommunist crusade across Central and South America, the CIA forged their now-infamous "Dark Alliance" with far-right terrorists (our "boys," the Nicaraguan Contras), Argentine, Bolivian and Chilean death-squad generals and the up-and-coming cocaine cartels who had more on their minds than ideological purity.

By the end of that blood-soaked decade, with much encouragement from Washington, including a get-out-of-jail-free card for their dope dealing assets in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding between the CIA and the Justice Department, the region was on its way towards becoming a multibillion dollar growth engine for the well-connected.

Does history repeat? You bet it does!

As Narco News investigative journalist Bill Conroy reported, "A top enforcer for the Sinaloa drug organization and his army of assassins in Juarez, Mexico--responsible for a surge in violence in that city that has led to thousands of deaths in recent years--may well have been supplied hundreds, if not thousands, of weapons through an ill-fated US law-enforcement operation known as Fast and Furious."

But which agency has the wherewithal to guarantee that weapon flows from the United States fall into the right hands? More than a few analysts believe that Fast and Furious was an "intelligence" gambit overseen by the CIA.

Indeed, Narco News reported: "When it comes to prime intelligence targets, they don't come much better than the leaders of Mexican drug organizations, who have their tentacles planted deep inside Latin American governments due to the corrupt reach of the drug trade. So it is not unreasonable to suspect that part of the reason that ATF's Fast and Furious makes no sense in terms of a law enforcement operation is because it wasn't one at all." (emphasis added)

"In fact," Conroy wrote, "it may well have been co-opted and trumped by a covert U.S. intelligence agency operation, such as one run by CIA, that is shielded even from most members of Congress--possibly even the White House, if it was launched under a prior administration and parts of it have since run off the tracks on their own."

Conroy revealed that enforcer, Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, who was arrested in February by Mexican authorities, "is now the subject of a 14-count US indictment unsealed in late April in San Antonio, Texas, that also charges the alleged leaders of the Sinaloa organization (Joaquin Guzman Loera, or El Chapo; and Ismael Zambada Garcia, or El Mayo) and 21 other individuals with engaging in drug and firearms trafficking, money laundering and murder in 'furtherance of a criminal enterprise'."

According to officials, Marrufo was allegedly responsible for the murders of some 18 patients at a Juárez drug treatment center in 2009. However, the significance of the gangster's arrest may be overshadowed by the additional disclosure that his close associates, Eduardo and Jesus A. Miramontes Varela "worked for the Sinaloa Cartel when they became informants for the FBI in 2009."

"Under Fast and Furious," Conroy wrote, "the nation's federal gun-law enforcer, ATF, in conjunction with a task force composed of several other federal agencies, including the FBI, allowed nearly 2,000 weapons to be smuggled into Mexico."

Amongst the firearms allowed to "walk," according to multiple published reports, were AK-47 assault rifles, Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles, .38 caliber revolvers and FN Five-seven automatic pistols. Most of the arms purchased with ATF and Justice Department approval went to the Sinaloa or other drug cartels and have since turned up at some 170 crime scenes in Mexico.

While field level investigators objected to the operation and voiced their opposition to higher-ups in ATF, they were smacked-down by senior supervisors David Voth.

Responding to strong objections from his own agents, Voth wrote a threatening email to disgruntled officers in March 2010: "I will be damned if this case is going to suffer due to petty arguing, rumors, or other adolescent behavior. I don't know what all the issues are but we are all adults, we are all professionals, and we have an exciting opportunity to use the biggest tool in our law enforcement tool box. If you don't think this is fun you are in the wrong line of work--period!"

Fun? Try telling that to the families of U.S. Border Patrol officer Brian Terry, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata or the families of hundreds of unnamed Mexican victims who turned up dead, murdered with weapons supplied by the U.S. government.

Conroy also informed us that "deadly weapons were allowed to 'walk' across the border, where they were put into the clutches of criminal organizations, such as those overseen by alleged Sinaloa enforcer Marrufo, so that US law enforcers could supposedly later trace the trail of those guns to the so-called kingpins of Mexico's criminal organizations."

There was just one small catch. "A Feb. 1, 2012, memo drafted by staff for [U.S. Senator Charles] Grassley and [U.S. Rep. Darryl] Issa, thickens the plot, indicating that there were, in fact, two FBI informants involved with purchasing weapons from [Manuel Celis] Acosta, [presumably the "main target" of Fast and Furious] and ATF had no clue that these so-called 'big fish,' the high-level targets of Fast and Furious, were, in fact, working for a sister agency."

According to that Congressional memo:

"During the course of this separate investigation, the FBI designated these two cartel associates as national security assets. [essentially foreign-intelligence agents, or informants]. In exchange for one individual's guilty plea to a minor count of 'Alien in Possession of a Firearm,' both became FBI informants and are now considered to be unindictable. This means that the entire goal of Fast and Furious--to target these two individuals and bring them to justice--was a failure. ATF's discovery that the primary targets of their investigation were not indictable was 'a major disappointment'.

Brilliant, right? If one were to fall for "conspiracy theories," one would almost believe that U.S. secret state agencies, like their Mexican counterparts, were favoring one narcotrafficking gang (the Sinaloa cartel) over their rivals, the equally violent and sinister group Los Zetas or the Juárez cartel founded by self-described "Lord of the Heavens," Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

In fact, it wasn't only the ATF-DEA-FBI that allowed guns to "walk" across the border into the hands of state-connected killers. To the list of the clueless, add the Pentagon.

In an earlier report, Conroy disclosed, citing State Department cables published by the secrecy-shredding web site WikiLeaks, that grenades used to attack the Televisa TV station and the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey in 2008-2009 "involved military grade explosives made in the USA that somehow found their way to Mexico." A second cable confirms that "U.S. military munitions sold in the 1990s to a foreign military were subsequently diverted to Mexican narco-traffickers."

Narco News also reported that the State Department cables confirm "that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn't linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually."

Indeed, "bellicose government policies, such as the U.S.-sponsored Mérida Initiative, that are premised on further militarizing the effort to impose prohibition on civil society only serve to expand the profit margin on the bloodshed."

But what if that is precisely the goal of U.S. policy planners and their masters, corrupt American financial institutions like Wachovia Bank or the defense contractors who reap billions from the slaughter?

In that case then, the so-called "War on Drugs" is really a war over who controls the drug flow and the fabulous profits derived from the illicit trade.

Back to the Future

While Colombia continues to be the principle source of processed cocaine entering Europe and the United States, despite some $7.5 billion dispensed to that country's repressive military and police apparatus under Plan Colombia, wholesale distribution of narcotics entering the U.S. are now controlled by Mexican DTOs.

It is a demonstrable fact that Plan Colombia failed to stop the tsunami of narcotics entering the U.S. and that "success" or "failure" in that enterprise was besides the point. As multiple analysts and investigative journalists across the decades have documented, U.S. intelligence agencies, principally the CIA, have cultivated ties and operational links to DTOs and their ruling class enablers, favoring cartels that advanced U.S. geopolitical goals whilst targeting those perceived as liabilities.

As researchers Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle pointed out in Cocaine, Death Squads and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia: "Among the compradores, short-term arrangements were made on coca production that paved the road for longer-term agreements of all kinds, one of which supported the emergence of the narco-bourgeoisie, whose business operations had remained relatively independent."

Villar and Cottle averred: "Emerging narco-capitalism permeated Colombia's financial system, creating financial connections throughout the Colombian economy. The active participation of banks in the cocaine industry greatly strengthened financial connections among the narco-bourgeoisie. The Cali cartel metamorphosed into numerous legitimate business enterprises such as pharmaceutical companies and real estate firms to operate the cocaine trade, whereas the Medellín cartel focused on money-laundering."

This production and distribution system was highly unstable however, and "created fierce competition among traffickers with connections to the Colombian ruling class," Villar and Cottle wrote. "The Medellín cartel waged a desperate battle against enterprises that refused to enter into an alliance with them. All manner of underhanded methods, from blackmail to murder, were employed in this battle. The violent liquidation of rival enterprises, many who collaborated with the CIA, provoked retaliation from the United States which declared a war on drugs that targeted Pablo Escobar."

As with Plan Colombia, under terms of the Mérida Initiative, the U.S. Congress has authorized some $1.6 billion for Mexico and Central American states blown away by the narcotics hurricane. However, much of the funds doled out to Mexican military and police organizations never leave the United States. Instead, as with other "foreign aid" boondoggles these funds flow directly into the coffers of giant U.S. defense firms and will be used to purchase aircraft, surveillance equipment and other hardware produced by the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex.

As in Colombia during the 1990s, a similar consolidation process, accompanied by spectacular levels of violence, is currently wracking Mexican society as drug gangs vie for control over the lucrative distribution market and are said to control 90% of the trafficking routes entering the U.S.

According to some estimates, approximately $49.4 billion annually pour into the accounts of major DTOs, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported back in 2007. However, most studies of global drug trafficking fail to analyze the benefits accrued by major U.S. financial institutions--banks, the stock market, hedge funds, etc.--who have been the direct beneficiaries of the $352 billion in annual drug profits "absorbed into the economic system," as The Observer reported in 2009.

"In a nutshell," Villar and Cottle wrote, "the war of drugs and terror is part of a counterrevolutionary strategy designed to maintain rather than eliminate the economic conditions that allow the drug trade to thrive." That pattern is being replicated today in Mexico. "From Reagan to Obama, U.S. covert intervention has, paradoxically, only accentuated the social violence and systematized the production and distribution of cocaine."

Corporate grifters, profiting on everything from weapons' sales to surveillance kit have names. In the context of the Mérida Initiative, one firm stands out, the Israeli-founded spy shop Verint Systems Inc.

Drugs, Terror, War... Whatever

Like the "War on Terror," the "War on Drugs" is predicated on the fallacy that "persistent situational awareness" obtained through the driftnet surveillance of electronic communications will give secret state agencies a leg-up on their adversaries.

Better think again! As Villar and Cottle pointed out, "the 1994 discovery of a computer owned by members of the Cali cartel offered clues on the complexities of the system and illustrated the technological sophistication of Colombia's narco-economy."

Indeed, the $1.5 million IBM AS400 mainframe "networked with half a dozen terminals and monitors and six technicians overseeing its operations," and its "custom-written data-mining software cross-referenced the Cali phone exchange's traffic with the phone numbers of American personnel and Colombian intelligence and law enforcement officials."

That network was "set up by a retired Colombian army intelligence officer," a fact which the Colombian government denied despite strong evidence to the contrary. And when Colombian officials "established a toll-free hotline for information about the Cali cartel leaders," Villar and Cottle reported that a "former high-level DEA official said: 'All of these anonymous callers were immediately identified, and they were killed."

By today's standards, that IBM mainframe is a throwback to the stone age. With advanced communications and encryption technologies readily available to anyone, and with any number of dodgy spy firms specializing in everything from the mass harvesting of information from social networks to the installation of malware on personal computers and GPS smartphone tracking as the WikiLeaks Spyfiles revealed, only a fool--or a State Department bureaucrat--would believe that weaponized spy kit won't fall into the hands of billion dollar organized crime groups. Yet that's exactly what Washington plans to do.

In the NextGov report cited above, we were informed that the State Department's "Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, in a contract notice published late Friday, said it will fund what it called the Mexico Technical Surveillance System for use by that country's Public Security Secretariat to 'continue to help deter, prevent and mitigate acts of major federal crimes in Mexico that include narcotics trafficking and terrorism'."

The contract proposal specifies that "all awards will be based on the following criteria in order of importance for 1) Technical Approach/Understanding/Personnel, 2) Corporate Experience, 3) Past Performance and 4) Price. Technical merit (captured in the three (3) technical evaluation factors enumerated above, taken together) is significantly more important than cost/price."

But as NextGov reported while the procurement, at least on paper, is "competitive," the State Department "came close to ruling out any other bidder except Verint with the caveat that 'the new equipment must function seamlessly with the existing in a single system or be entirely replaced'."

That pretty much "levels the playing field" for the Israeli firm and the suite of surveillance tools it offers, the Reliant Monitoring System, which "intercepts virtually any wired, wireless or broadband communication network and service." Indeed, the State Department plans to "triple the capacity of the current Verint system from 30 workstations to 107," according to NextGov. Given the spooky nature of the company, no doubt El Chapo is drooling over the prospect.

As James Bamford pointed out in The Shadow Factory and in a series of recent articles in Wired Magazine, "Verint was founded in Israel by Israelis, including Jacob 'Kobi' Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer. Some 800 employees work for Verint, including 350 who are based in Israel, primarily working in research and development and operations."

As Antifascist Calling disclosed back in 2008 (see: "Thick as Thieves: The Private (and very profitable) World of Corporate Spying"): "When Comverse Infosys [now Verint] founder and CEO Jacob 'Kobi' Alexander fled to Israel and later Namibia in 2006, the former Israeli intelligence officer and entrepreneur took along a little extra cash for his extended 'vacation'--$57 million to be precise."

Alexander, a veteran of Israel's ultra-secretive Unit 8200, the equivalent of America's National Security Agency, fled to Namibia because he faced a 32-count indictment by the Justice Department over allegations that he masterminded a scheme to backdate millions of Comverse stock options which allowed the enterprising corporate grifter to embezzle some $138 million from company shareholders.

As I wrote back then, "despite alarms raised by a score of federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), fearful that sensitive wiretap information was finding its way into the hands of international narcotrafficking cartels, virtually nothing has been done to halt the outsourcing of America's surveillance apparatus to firms with intimate ties to foreign intelligence entities. Indeed, as America's spy system is turned inward against the American people, corporations such as Verint work hand-in-glove with a spooky network of security agencies and their corporatist pals in the telecommunications industry."

But as we know, software and the spy trojans embedded in their code are "neutral." What can be used by law enforcement agencies such as Mexico's Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (SSP) and the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI) can also be handed over by corrupt officials to their presumed targets, the Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, Knights Templar, Tijuana or Los Zetas narcotrafficking cartels, all of whom have ties to Mexico's narco-bourgeoisie, police and the military.

It wouldn't be the first time that "retired" Israeli military officers or "ex" Mossad men were exposed as trainers for some of the drug world's most notorious killers.

Nearly a decade ago, investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood revealed in Narco News that drug gangster and far-right political actor Carlos Castaño, the future founder of the blood-soaked Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or AUC, "was only 18 years old when he arrived in Israel in 1983 to take a year-long course called '562.' Castaño, a Colombian, had come to the Holy Land as a pilgrim of sorts, but not to find peace. Course 562 was about war, and how to wage it, and it was something Carlos Castaño would eventually excel at, becoming the most adept and ruthless paramilitary leader in Latin America's history."

Bigwood reported that Castaño's IDF trainers emphasized instruction in "urban strategies," which included the use of fragmentation grenades, RPG-7s as well as "complementary courses" on terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Narco News informed us that "not all was study for Castaño in Israel, and he used his free time to meet with Colombian soldiers undergoing regular military training there--soldiers of the worst human rights violators in the western hemisphere were being trained by some of the worst human rights violators in the Middle East. But these were precisely the connections that would prove so useful in the future."

A future that encompassed the wholesale massacre of Colombian peasants, union organizers and left-wing activists as the AUC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the CIA-anointed Cali cartel, founded by Iran/Contra drug kingpins, the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, engaged in a brutal war to the death with Pablo Escobars' Medellín cartel in the 1990s.

According to declassified CIA, DEA and State Department documents published by the National Security Archive in 2008, "U.S. espionage operations targeting top Colombian government officials in 1993 provided key evidence linking the U.S.-Colombia task force charged with tracking down fugitive drug lord Pablo Escobar to one of Colombia's most notorious paramilitary chiefs."

Documents published by the Archive "include two heavily-censored CIA memos describing briefings provided by members of a 'Blue Ribbon Panel' of CIA investigators to members of U.S. congressional intelligence committees and the National Security Council. The Panel--which included personnel from the CIA's directorate for clandestine intelligence operations--had been investigating the possibility that intelligence shared with the Medellín Task Force in 1993 ended up in the hands of Colombian paramilitaries and narcotraffickers from the Pepes. That investigation concluded on December 3, 1993, the day Escobar was killed."

"The collaboration between paramilitaries and government security forces evident in the Pepes episode is a direct precursor of today's 'para-political' scandal," said Michael Evans, director of the National Security Archive's Colombia Documentation Project. "The Pepes affair is the archetype for the pattern of collaboration between drug cartels, paramilitary warlords and Colombian security forces that developed over the next decade into one of the most dangerous threats to Colombian security and U.S. anti-narcotics programs. Evidence still concealed within secret U.S. intelligence files forms a critical part of that hidden history."

While both the Cali and Medellín cartels have faded into history, cocaine processed on an industrial scale continues to flood out of Colombia and other "legs" of the Crystal Triangle. Control over that distribution network, worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually, much of which finds its way into U.S. banks, is the source of the bloodshed currently tearing Mexico and Central America to pieces.

Is history repeating itself when it comes to favoring one drug gang over another? The answer is yes. According to a 2010 National Public Radio report, "an NPR News investigation has found strong evidence of collusion between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the violent border city of Juarez."

"Dozens of interviews with current and former law enforcement agents, organized crime experts, elected representatives, and victims of violence suggest that the Sinaloans depend on bribes to top government officials to help their leader, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, elude capture, expand his empire and keep his operatives out of jail."

Sound far-fetched? As Bill Conroy reported last year in Narco News, court pleadings in the case of accused Sinaloa capo Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla "demonstrate the insidious nature of the cooperation that exists between the US government and Mexico’s Sinaloa mafia organization."

"According to Zambada Neibla, he and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership, through the informant [Humberto] Loya Castro, negotiated a quid-pro-quo immunity deal with the US government in which they were guaranteed protection from prosecution in exchange for providing US law enforcers and intelligence agencies with information that could be used to compromise rival Mexican cartels and their operations."

"The alleged deal," Conroy averred, "assured protection for the Sinaloa Cartel's business operations while also undermining its competition--such as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization out of Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world."

Inquiring minds can't help but wonder why, if Zambada Neibla's allegations are so much hot-air, would U.S. prosecutors invoke "national security" under provisions of the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) "in his trial in an attempt to assure certain sensitive and/or embarrassing evidence is not made available to Zambada Niebla's attorneys"?

As Narco News disclosed, "Perhaps any deal that might exist between the Sinaloa leadership is limited to Chapo Guzman and Ismael Zambada, perhaps it was put in place by a US intelligence agency under the guise of law enforcement, or through some secret pact cobbled together by the US State Department that does not have to be honored by the Justice Department because it applies only in Mexico. In this case, the devil is in the details, and in all those scenarios, the cloak of national security could easily be invoked to prevent evidence of the pact surfacing in a court of law."

With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake and a "drug war" that favors one group of cut-throats over another to obtain leverage over corrupt politicians, along with an endless source of funds for intelligence-connected black operations, the Verint deal seems like a slam-dunk.

After all, with powerful communications' intercept technologies in the hands of the Mexican secret state, "national security," on both sides of the border, is little more than code for business as usual.

(Image courtesy of Daniel Hopsicker's MadCow Morning News)