This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mexican organized crime inside the United States

Keep in mind, these points represent reports of a presence, which doesn’t necessarily mean a strong presence. Thanks to the LA Times for pulling this map together together with this story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A new map for the US?

The FBI recently released information (see Washington Times article) that their agents in Texas believe Los Zetas have extended their operational control to north of the Mexico-Texas border. Zetas operating in Texas each operate in distinct areas, organized and divided to reflect the various border crossings or "plazas" at Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros, and others.

In light of this not-very-surprising-information, I thought I would post here a new map of the US, sent over by a friend in Texas.

Pictures are worth a thousand words...

Monday, November 10, 2008

A few words on Bolivia

In the best interests of maintaining a balance between work and play, I decided many months ago to stop trying to cover the whole region. Bolivia is one of the countries I have allowed slip off my radar. I do receive quite a bit of information from sources in the country, but I can no longer take the time to sift through that information and try to present a sensible analysis for my readers.

But I cannot ignore how much Bolivia has distanced itself from Washington in the past few months.

Bolivia has lost trade preferences for a long list of its export products, meaning the US is no longer an export market for Bolivia. This decision hinged mostly on Bolivia’s ongoing cooperation in the War on Drugs. Seizures and the arrest of drug traffickers makes up part of what seems to be a largely subjective decision, mostly based on how much Washington “likes” the current administration in Bolivia.

Morales has been very clear about using the United States as a scapegoat in his domestic battle to keep the whole country under his control. I believe that when he expels the US ambassador and USAID, he does so mostly to keep his core constituency happy. Unfortunately the fallout on the international level is one where Washington will not stand by and let a Bolivian leader sling mud.

Now the Peace Core is packing up and leaving, as is the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I would argue that Bolivia is now firmly inside the Venezuelan orbit. Morales has effectively cut himself off from any would be channels of dialogue or mutual support with Washington and has apparently placed his bets with the success of the Chavez regime – a considerable risk simply considering that all his geopolitical eggs should not be in one basket.

I wouldn’t venture to guess what will happen next in Bolivia, but wanted to point out Bolivia’s current status to call attention to a situation I think will seriously deteriorate over the coming months and could likely explode before the end of 2009, if not before.

Best case scenario: Morales manages to keep the low lands under his control and moves the country forward on shaky legs.

Worst case scenario: Bolivia slides into civil war, with Chavez backing Morales in a fight to keep control of the low lands. If this were to unfold, it will be interesting to see how Brazil and Argentina react – both receive a significant portion of gas imports from Bolivia’s low land regions.

Friday, November 07, 2008

An Obama Promise and Plane Crash Implications

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called President-elect Barak Obama on 6 November to congratulate him and discuss matters of Mexican security.

Obama reassured Calderon he is committed to helping Mexico with his security challenges. And Calderon invited Obama to visit Mexico.

Let the promises begin. Early in Bush's presidency, he made similiar promises to former Mexican president Vicente Fox only to nearly completely ignore the southern neighbor.

Many of us will watch closely the development of this important relationship.

Meanwhile, the recent plane crash in Mexico City that killed Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino and the former director of federal organized crime investigations, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos and possibly other high-ranking government officials has got conspiracy theorists working over time.

There were some reports that the plane exploded in mid-air, but no confirmation has since surfaced.

Did Mexican organized crime sabotage the plane? It seems pretty clear now that there was no direct attack on the plane from a point on the ground, as in a surface to air missile, but the Mexican government has so far not ruled out sabotage or other such activity. Nor has it ruled out that the crash was an accident.

If this crash was not an accident, the implications are serious and very worrying. The Mexican government is stretched to the maximum with troop deployment and financial resources deployed to combat narcotrafficking across a number of Mexican states, especially the border regions with the United States and Guatemala.

I'm not sure how the government would be able to handle yet another escalation in the country's ongoing war against organized crime. I am fairly certain, however, that the cartels are in a position to take this conflict to the next level. I have doubts about the Mexican government.

More on this developing situation soon...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A new direction

This blog will take a new direction. Posts will be shorter and more frequent.

The commentaries I posted on this blog and prepared for Southern Pulse up until a couple weeks ago will continue to be published by International Security Network. They will also be available on my web site through occasional updates.

This blog will continue to focus on security in Latin America, but I will place here ideas, observations, and off the record information I can not publish simply because the information cannot be corroborated or has come from an unconfirmed source.

Finally, the information and analysis in the blog posts after this one reflect my own opinions, not those of the Southern Pulse network or any of my publishers.

Now, with the introduction and that disclaimer out of the way, let us begin...
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