Fears are growing in Washington over organised and violent crime in Mexico but defiant rhetoric must be backed up by defiant actions.
US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued a bold message to the gangsters south of the border recently:
“Don’t even think about bringing your violence and tactics across this border. You will be met by an overwhelming response. And we’re going to continue to work with our partners in Mexico to dismantle and defeat you.”
Napolitano also elaborated on fears that Al-Qaeda could get in contact with some of the gangs in efforts to exert more destabilising influence over the region.
However, Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake rejected the idea that, in particular, Los Zetas could start to get cosy with the Islamist terror group. He emphasised the differences between the situations, with Al-Qaeda driven by religious interpretation and the Mexican gangs by drug-trafficking and organised crime.
Jihad or not, gang members in Mexico won’t be too bothered by this latest challenge from Washington. Words have come and gone before. There have been some major bilateral policies, such as the Merida Initiative.
However, despite the help it offers Mexico, the lack of support that scheme gives for Central American nations tarnished by inflitrating Mexican gangsters is a problem. The US obviously takes its border security very seriously and major strengthening efforts have been concentrated in frontier states, although this is not an area free from controversy.
This is an important year for Mexican politicians, with the presidential election coming up in 2012. Gangs have been extending links into Central America and the US is still nervous. Napolitano’s call could be seen as a spur in the side of the politicians, reminding them that whoever moves into Los Pinos, the presidential residence, next summer must remain focussed on the war.
The US can help and it works closely with Mexican intelligence services, but this is a nudge to remind everyone where this all started. Mexicans prefer to highlight the incessant consumer demand in the US. Finger-pointing doesn’t help and dialogue often simply puts off substantial movements; meaningful actions must continue to be the main focus of both Mexico City and Washington.