US Special Forces are operating in Mexico

A former CIA operative has claimed that US Special Forces are operating in Mexico not only in providing intelligence and training  security forces but also “taking direct action against narco-trafficking organizations.”

According to William Robert “Tosh” Plumlee the group of heavily armed operatives are referred to as “Task Force 7” and played an important role in tracking down Arturo Beltran Leyva, a cartel boss killed in a huge military operation last December.

To many it will not be a surprise that US Special Forces are operating in Mexico. The Mexican military already receives substantial funding from the US government and the CIA and US military have a long history of conducting operations in Latin America. The operations used to be justified as stopping the spread of communism however after the Cold War ended drugs have been used as a warrant for subsequent incursions.

In 2008 George W Bush signed the Merida Intiative, a $400m funding package to assist Mexico in the war on drugs. Although the money will not exclusively be for the military, substantial amounts are earmarked for equipment and training of the security services. The day after the initiative was signed a video was circulated of US security contractor teacher Mexican police officers torture techniques. In the footage one victim is dragged through his own vomit, another has water forced up his nose and his head forced into a pit filled with rats and excrement. Such torture violates Mexican law but the US military has a shady past when it comes to human rights and the memories of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have done a lot of damage to the US reputation.

Violence due to the drug trade has increased significantly over the last few years especially along the US border. However many critics argue that stopping the violence might not be the main motive for US involvement in Mexico. The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Antonio Maria Costa has recently stated that the increasing violence in Mexico is actually beneficial to the US. He said "one reason for the drug-related violence in Mexico is that cartels are fighting over a shrinking market…this in-fight is a blessing for America, as the resulting cocaine drought is causing lower addiction rates, higher prices and lesser purity of doses."

Although the situation on the Mexican side of the border has deteriorated the threat of a "spillover" of violence on to the US side has been exagerrated by the media. There is only a border that seperates El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, however the former is the 2nd safest city in the US while the latter is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Despite this there is still genuine fear amongst US citizens and retired Major General Paul Vallely called this week for an invasion of Mexico to protect the "American people."

Even though the rhetoric of fear coming from Washington has changed from communism to drugs it is clear that the underlying issue still is to secure private ownership of land and US investments in the region. In 1994 when peasant farmers revolted in Chiapas, the poorest state in Mexico, their threats of land redistribution prompted the US to act quickly and assist the Mexican government put down the rebellion and militarise the region. Similar operations where conducted all throughout Latin America during the Cold War and the US government trained death squads to put down rebellion and support for land distribution. In 2005 it was leaked that the US military had funded a group of geographers to map the regions Of Oaxaca and San Luis Potosi in the south of Mexico. Both regions have large indigenous communities who over the years have had some success with asserting autonomy and self-determination through collectively governing and owning their territory. However Lt. Col. Geoffrey B. Demarest, who is in charge of the project, has stated that “informally owned and unregulated land ownership favors illicit use and violence,” and that the only solution to these breeding grounds of crime and insurgency is the privatization and titling of the land.

Since 2006 the Mexican Human Rights Commission has received 3,430 citizens accusations against the military. Although many were allegations of theft a report released by Human Rights Watch detailed more serious abuses such as arbitrary detention rape and torture. Many of theses abuses were committed against members of indigenous communities and bore the hallmarks of government sponsored repression. Human rights activists argue that the US government should not be supporting the Mexican military because of these activities.

Ironically some of the gunmen now working for the drugs cartels would of received military training from US military advisers either in their own country or in the infamous School of the Americas in Georgia. Los Zetas, a powerful of drug cartel, was founded by deserters from the Mexican Special Forces. They also have recruited many members from the Guatemalan Special Forces, who were trained by US military advisors to conduct counter-insurgency operations during the Guatemalan civil war.

CIA operative Plumlee was employed by the 1980s to fly weapons down to Central American and fly cocaine back to the USA. He now seems to be intent on blowing the whistle on secret US military operations and has reported that there are also US Special Forces operatives on the ground in Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. The history of covert operation in the US will have many questioning the real motive of these deployments.

On the surface US military intervention in Mexico might be justified as an effort to stop the drug related violence and protect US citizens from a “spillover.” However we must remind ourselves that in the past the underlying motives for US incursions have been based around economic investment issues and in these cases the protection of human rights is usually secondary.