A War of Information: US Intervention in Mexico’s Drug War

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Plaza Publica questions Mexico’s willingness to accept the U.S.’s opinion on its struggle against organized crime, and asks where the U.S. gets its information on events on the ground in its southern neighbor.

The following is InSight Crime’s translation of an opinion article from Plaza Publica:

Last July I had the opportunity to present a paper at the Center for Mexican National Intelligence and Security (Cisen).

Known in other circles as the “NO… SE… N,” [I know n(othing)] Cisen organizes permanent round tables with regional experts in various fields. Among these subjects, the topic of organized crime could not be missed out.

In the context of these pseudo-academic meetings, it was always very funny to me the ease with which Mexican officials and specialists (not to mention Latin Americans) take as scientific truth the information, opinions and perspectives presented by Americans. Claims about the operational size of the cartels (incidentally, the UN calls them mafia and the Americans call them terrorist cells), new routes, mode of attack, or the fragmentation of organizations are some of the recent items appearing in the reports of Stratfor consultancy. Collecting such information, if it is to be considered valid, requires presence on the ground or the extraction of information through informants. And since, in the case of organized crime, participant observation in the Malinowsky style is a little difficult, the diligent reader can’t fail to ask various questions.

First: Does the U.S. have agents infiltrated in Mexican soil to collect this volume of information? Second: Are there Mexican intelligence leaks that fall first into foreign hands? Or (third): are these taken from the gringos, but accepted in the logic of Ad Baculum fallacies?

It is a supposed open secret that many of the recent arrests of major drug lords (The Boss of Bosses and the Barbie) were a product of U.S. intelligence. Of course, the U.S. uses unmanned drones for territorial reconnaissance, but this information would not be as detailed as that presented in the reports. Detailed information on the typologies of behavior characteristic of the mafia (whatever that is) requires short and medium term stays on the ground where the deeds take place, in order to measure reconfigurations in the realms of criminal subcultures. Therefore, any respected analyst of the ethnography of organized crime (whether Italian or Mexican) must travel in the territory of the mafia, talk with the locals and try to see how the dynamics are affected by organized crime. The worst thing is analysts describing reality from their desks.

We are, therefore, facing a war of information and disinformation.

What is most amusing is that data from U.S. agencies about what is happening in Mexican territory is quickly viewed as credible, when they were unable to prevent the attacks of September 11 in their own territory. Suggestions and strategies “sold” by proto-military think tanks are the latest addition to the lexicon of security analysts, but they come from a government that played down the capacity of the rebel insurgency in Iraq to respond. So why are the Americans so easily believed?

Little is fixed, while the U.S. diagnosis of the conflict in Mexico slowly comes closer to the convenient need for greater foreign presence. Coincidence?

We would do well to take everything that comes from the United States not as episteme but as doxa. And remind them that they have failed to protect themselves and stop terrorism in their own territory.

Reprinted with permission from Plaza Publica. See the original article here.

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