CNN has a story on the Mexico cables that hits most of the substantive high points: President Felipe Calderon's military intervention in Juarez failed miserably, causing the US to encourage him to bring in the federal police instead, which happened earlier this year. Because soldiers aren't trained to gather evidence, just 2% of arrests under the military occupation resulted in prosecutions.
This cable from last year offered a pessimistic assessment of the Merida Initiative: "[Mexican Undersecretary for Governance Geronimo] Gutierrez Fernandez then turned to the Merida Initiative, saying that in retrospect he and other GOM [Government of Mexico] officials realize that not enough strategic thought went into Merida in the early phase. There was too much emphasis in the initial planning on equipment, which they now know is slow to arrive and even slower to be of direct utility in the fight against the DTOs. Of more immediate importance is building institutions that can effectively use the equipment."
"Gutierrez went on to say, however, that he now realizes there is not even time for the institution building to take hold in the remaining years of the Calderon administration. 'We have 18 months,' he said, 'and if we do not produce a tangible success that is recognizable to the Mexican people, it will be difficult to sustain the confrontation into the next administration.'"
FWIW, it was fairly obvious from the get-go that the Merida Initiative focused too much on equipment and not enough on strengthening institutions. That was not something that required 20/20 hindsight to figure out.
Another cable had this interesting assessment of Calderon's political situation:
President Calderon has entered the last three years of his six-year term facing a complicated political and economic environment. His National Action Party (PAN) emerged seriously weakened from a dramatic set-back suffered in the July congressional elections and was unable to recoup any real momentum during the last legislative session. Calderon’s bold plan for ten ambitious areas for reform, announced in September, has yet to translate into politically viable initiatives. His personal popularity numbers have dropped, driven largely by massive economic contraction and a public sense that there is little strategy to create new and sustainable jobs. Overall, Calderon’s approval ratings are still well above 50 percent, sustained largely by his campaign against organized crime. Increasingly, Mexicans realize that combating DTOs is a matter of citizen security, and thus support a tough stance. Yet the failure to reduce violence is also a liability. ...
Indeed, the GOM’s inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides in places like Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere - the nationwide total topped 7,700 in 2009 - has become one of Calderon’s principal political liabilities as the general public has grown more concerned about citizen security. Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as another’s failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of. Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among “clean” law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants. Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trail. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.Also notable was this explanation of why Mexico's military intervention failed:
Military surges that are not coordinated with local city officials and civilian law enforcement, particularly local prosecutors, have not worked. In Ciudad Juarez, a dramatic increase in troop deployments to the city early last year brought a two-month reduction in violence levels before narcotics-related violence spiked again. The DTOs are sophisticated players: they can wait out a military deployment; they have an almost unlimited human resource pool to draw from in the marginalized neighborhoods; and they can fan complaints about human rights violations to undermine any progress the military might make with hearts and minds.Indeed, says the cable, the issue of human rights abuses by the military remains a key political stumbling block domestically in Mexico. While the military
has moved to address human rights criticisms, its efforts are mechanistic and wrapped in a message that often transmits defensiveness about bringing a hermetically sealed military culture into the twenty-first century. The military justice system (fuero militar) is used not only for a legitimate prosecutorial function, but also to preserve the military’s institutional independence. Even the Mexican Supreme Court will not claim civilian jurisdiction over crimes involving the military, regardless of whether a military mission is involved. Fortunately, the Mexican military is under increasing pressure to change on a number of fronts. A recent Inter-American Human Rights Court ruling found Article 57 of Mexico’s code of military justice, which effectively allows the military to keep all violators within its own justice system, violate Mexico’s constitution and mandated improvements in the way cases involving alleged human rights abuses by the military are handled. A report issued by Amnesty International in December noted that complaints to the National Commission on Human Rights against the military increased from 367 in 2007 to over 2000 from 2008-June 2009.Perhaps the most remarkable thing about these Mexico cables is that items labeled "secret" or "confidential" in fact contained little if anything the government has a legitimate interest in concealing. Much of the information comes from public sources - an Amnesty International report, court decisions, etc. - and one takes away little from the cables that a well-read person couldn't have gleaned from public accounts. These cables - the ones on Mexico, at least - aren't anything the government should be keeping secret in the first place, making me think a) WAAAAAY too much stuff is being labeled secret or confidential by the feds, and b) government officials complaining so bitterly about Wikileaks doth protest too much.