Mexico News and Analysis: June 15-21, 2009

1. More troops deployed to Ciudad Juarez
2. No US strategy for curtailing weapons to Mexico
3. Senate approves US$420 million for Mexico
4. PRD falling apart


1. More troops deployed to Ciudad Juarez
President Calderon deployed 1,500 additional army troops to Ciudad Juarez on Saturday.  Drug-related violence is increasing in recent weeks in this border city of 1.5 million, despite the presence of more than 8,000 troops and federal police deployed in March amid much media fanfare.  Only weeks ago, officials were celebrating a decrease in drug-related violence – murders were down to about one a day - and predicting an imminent reduction in army troops.  But now the government’s security strategies are very much in question.  Drug-related murders are averaging eight or nine per day, according to the state attorney general, and there have been about 800 murders through mid-June.  The military’s anti-drug program is similar to other army-driven strategies throughout Mexico, focusing on low level cartel members managing drug transport routes, rather than devoting intelligence work to money-laundering.  Last year, experts estimated that up to 85% of the city’s police were on cartel payrolls.  The army is overseeing replacement of much of the local police, hoping to increase the current force of 1,200 to 3,000 by the end of the year.  More than 900 officers were fired, quit or retired over the past year, and plans to begin removing troops by the end of the year may have to be delayed as new trainees try to step quickly into difficult terrain.


2. No US strategy for curtailing weapons to Mexico
The US has no coherent strategy for curtailing illegal weapons shipments to Mexico, according to a report released this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  The report singled out officials from Immigration and Customs and their counterparts in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for not coordinating efforts.  Weapons easily acquired at guns shops and trade shows on the US side of the border are illegally imported into Mexico by drug cartels, who are often better armed than local police or army troops.  Ninety percent of weapons seized in Mexico originated in the US.  The GAO claims that until June, “the US government did not have a strategy explicitly addressed to arms trafficking to Mexico.”


3. Senate approves US$420 million for Mexico
On Thursday, the US Senate approved US$420 million for Mexico, with most of the funds directed at military equipment and training ostensibly to fight the drug war.  The appropriation was part of a US$106 billion bill to fund the war in Iraq.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill this coming week.  US$260 million is reserved for the purchase of aircraft, including troop transports and helicopters, destined for Mexico’s Navy.  The funds are part of a three year program dubbed the Merida Initiative.  As part of the bill, Congress mandated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to report on progress in the murder investigation of US reporter Brad Will, gunned down in Oaxaca in 2006 by paramilitary groups.


4. PRD falling apart
The PRD, Mexico’s ostensibly left-center political party, continued to self destruct this week as party bosses fought over the official candidate in Iztapalapa, Mexico City’s largest barrio with 6 million inhabitants.  You’ll remember the PRD as the party that was unable to organize clean internal elections last year.  Two party factions have been battling ever since for control of lucrative posts and federal funds.  In anticipation of this summer’s mid-term elections, the factions agreed to a tentative peace, but a fight over control of the huge Iztapalapa delegation broke the agreement in spectacular form.  Long time party hack and “New Left” leader Rene Arce wants his wife, Silvia Oliva, to run the delegation, while the “United Left,” aligned with former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, prefers Clara Brugada.  Internal PRD organs controlled by the United Left gave Brugada the candidacy, but Oliva challenged the decision in Mexico City’s Electoral Tribunal, a state agency with heavy PAN influence, where she was awarded the official candidacy this week.  Now Lopez Obrador is asking the electorate to vote for the Workers Party candidate, who would turn the post over to Brugada if he wins the election.  Party officials are threatening to expel Lopez Obrador from the PRD for supporting a rival party - but not until after the elections.  Apparently the appearance of “party unity” is more important than a nasty battle over the widely popular Lopez Obrador’s status.  If this all seems impossibly complicated, imagine what voters will have to sort out in July, or what the Mexican public has to face every day as the political class literally disintegrates before their eyes.