Lately I've seen a great deal of media flack about terrorists and Mexican smugglers. I've also spoken to many, many people on border violence, and this issue seems to continue to rise to the surface of the conversation.
Let me begin by stating a well known fact among Border Patrol, Intel analysts who focus on the border, and just about anyone who deals with trying to stop illicit products - people and goods - from crossing north.
"Smugglers are smugglers" one intel analyst and veteran field operative told me this morning.
This is perhaps the only reason why we should keep an eye on the theory that terrorists could leverage contacts with Mexican organized crime to enter the United States.
I call it a "troll under the bridge" arrangement. All border crossing zones into the United States are either tightly controlled or contested (such as Juarez these days). Those border crossings, or plazas, all have one man who oversees the south-north traffic into the United States. He is an economic actor motivated by power and wealth. He is the troll.
If anyone who is not part of his integrated network comes along and wants to cross the bridge into the United States, the troll will be paid. This exchange is sometimes called a tax or a fee in Mexico.
This is where the theory of terrorists crossing into the US through Mexico holds water. The troll will let anyone cross the bridge if they can pay the tax, with the exception of rivals within Mexico, of course.
To take this theory one step farther, and beyond where most US-based media stops the analysis, we will have to consider the existence of Hezbollah in Latin America.
Apart from the Iranian presence in the Americas, which is an overlapping issue - there is a de facto presence of Hezbollah operatives in the region, likely concentrated now somewhere in Venezuela.
My guess would be in northwestern Venezuela, near the border with Colombia. Email me if you want details on why.
Other places are:
The TBA (tri-border area between Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil), and possibly other tri-border areas in South America;
Bolivia, Peru, and Chile;
Beyond the presence of Hezbollah operatives in the Americas, however, is the very real existence of a culture of Islamic fundamentalism. I admit, I'm not an expert on this, but I have seen enough evidence of Islamic fundamentalist activity in South America, especially Venezuela, that leads me and others to consider that "home-grown" Venezuelans could become converts to a Hezbollah operative's way of thinking and viewing the world.
The possibility that a Venezuelan national, who looks Latino and speaks fluent Spanish, converts to a fundamentalist Islamic way of thinking is just that: a possibility.
This possibility, when combined with the reality that a smuggler is just a smuggler in Mexico, strengthens the theory that terrorists could cross into the United States from Mexico.
But I'm not an alarmist on this. In a recent conversation I was labeled "bullish" by a new friend in New York who is working on a piece on this issue.
But the truth is, there is very little evidence to suggest that Hezbollah operatives are crawling around in Mexico. And apart from a crossing tax, what do Mexican criminals get out of it?
...Likely reduction in their market size.
A piece in Newsmax, published on 5 June, pulls together conclusions from a secret intelligence mission. To me, this piece is more media flack than anything.
But the truth is that Washington is paying attention to this issue, and our leaders there should because Mexico needs all the help it can get. Prevention is the best medicine, and I'm relieved to know that the DIA, NSA, and CIA are all aware of this issue and trying to stay on top of it.