President Felipe Calderon has developed a strategy of criticizing and blaming the US government for the violence inflicted on the Mexican people by the drug cartels, saying it is not doing all it can to reduce drug consumption domestically and it is neglecting the fight against drug trafficking. As a result, some members of Bush's cabinet and several federal legislators have responded very negatively and now look at Mexico more cautiously and are less interested in bilateral cooperation.A US State Department official told Esquivel that Calderon "made a big mistake" by criticizing President Bush, who has apparently taken such populist appeals personally. The Mexican President's "mistake in the bilateral struggle against organized crime," Esquivel writes, "may be criticizing the US openly when it is headed up by the most conservative, vengeful and unilateralist president in recent history."
As a result, an anonymous DEA agent assigned to the Texas Mexico border told Esquivel that:
For now, unfortunately drug traffickers are the only ones capable of stopping or slowing down drug-related violence in Mexico. These criminals control a large part of the state and municipal police forces in northern Mexico and that makes them practically invulnerable to President Calderon's offensive.We also get from the article a little more insight into why the aid request is so heavily laden on the front end with military hardware. He quotes a Mexican diplomat who says that:
the Mexican military is taking advantage of the fact that Calderon needs it, and not the reverse, to demand that he get sophisticated offensive hardware from the United States. They demand this without realizing that, politically, this requires the intervention of Capitol Hill.Congressman Tom Lantos questioned the inclusion of millions for new helicopters, and the VOM article sheds more light on that request: The Mexican diplomat criticized "the Mexican army's demands and disregard for the details of their political consequences" for creating a package that may not be politically viable. "Mexico's armed forces dream of US combat helicopters and highly sophisticated weapons to meet head on the country's drug kingpins," writes Esquivel, "who undoubtedly have a better arsenal than our police forces."
But the demand invites a feud with Congress, said Esquivel, because the Pentagon requires US trainers and oversight when giving foreign armies new weapons systems. This creates a conflict, because "the presence of foreign military personnel in Mexico is unthinkable given the nationalist legislation that the Calderon administration subscribes to and Mexico's Congress very jealously defends."
(An aside, flattering a Texas reporter: Esquivel called Dallas News correspondent Albert Corchado "perhaps the US reporter with the greatest knowledge about how Mexican drug traffickers operate." It's true: Corchado routinely may be found on the front lines where other media sources are silent.)
Neither Bush nor Calderon consulted with their respective legislative branches before they came up with the contents of the proposed $1.4 billion aid package. If Bush and Calderon are now really on the outs, and if the "Merida Initiative" as proposed can't pass muster with both the US and Mexican Congresses, it doesn't seem likely that Bush will expend much political capital during his final lame-duck year on behalf of his Mexican counterpart.
A few weeks ago the aid proposal received a lot of attention and appeared to have momentum, then ground to a halt before the holidays. I'd attributed that to winter doldrums, but perhaps some of these dynamics had more to do with the legislation's slow down.