DEVELOPMENTS (Dec. 23, 2009)
Back in March, in another venue, I reported that U.S. military and intelligence officials were growing increasingly concerned that instability stemming from Mexico’s extremely violent drug wars could pose a national security threat north of the border in the years to come. News from Mexico City this week indicates those concerns may be well-founded as President Felipe Calderon’s three-year war against drug cartels has sparked horrific new violence.
Numerous news sites are reporting on the violent backlash to a successful military action that left drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva and six of his gunmen dead. A day after a Mexican naval special forces officer slain in the fire fight was buried with full military honors, gunmen sprayed his family’s home with gunfire, killing the slain officer’s mother and three relatives.
In the March 3 edition of Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (subscription required) I wrote that U.S. Marine Corps planners had placed Mexico on their list of countries and regions that could become trouble spots later in the century. In the same article, it was noted that Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. was providing training as well as reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to assist the Mexican military. At the same time, CIA Director Leon Panetta said his agency was paying close attention to developments in Mexico.
It will be interesting to see how Mexican military and police officers react to this latest threat escalation — especially since it affects their families.
Latin America Arms Race?
Earlier this month we noted two reports indicating there were lessons to be learned from the decades-long insurgency in Colombia and how the government there has handled it (See Lessons Learned). Now comes word that the FARC guerillas are apparently active again following the high profile kidnapping and murder of the governor of the state of Caqueta. The Los Angeles Times and other news outlets note that tensions have been high in the region between Colombia and neighboring Venezuela.
Colombia has claimed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is giving FARC rebels a safe haven in his country. meanwhile, Chavez has placed his military on a war footing, claiming Colombia is flying U.S.-made spy drones through Venezuelan airspace.
Both countries are beefing up their militaries and observers fear that could lead to an arms race in the region. Already Brazil is planning to acquire new military vehicles, fighter jets and revive its satellite program.
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