U.S. citizens are not so naďve as to believe that our 2,000 mile border with Mexico is the dividing line where transnational drug traffickers and organized crime insurgents check their manners, respect the locals, and simply go after their markets and competition.
The maladies of transnational organized crime and terror are real and graphic, and they are nightmarish elements in the western hemisphere. However, there is little doubt that the U.S. proactively leads in this war, and its actions are evident in the funding, training, and support to those democracies south of our border that are reaching out for a lifeline.
Mexico, under President Felipe Calderon's administration, has boldly stepped forward in facing this scourge against their homeland, in defense of the rule of law and Mexico's sovereignty. The use of the military and its superior power in lieu of an inadequate and failed policing infrastructure has not been popular with many citizens, but clearly necessary to face such a tactically armed ad brutal enemy that murders not only adversaries, but too women and children, migrants, and other innocents.
Any form of destabilization of the internal order of a nation, especially by armed insurgents, paramilitary-styled groups, gangs and/or criminal factions, creates a seismic reaction to neighboring borders, resulting in the need for appropriate and adequate resources to combat the threats, real and potential. Weak government and law enforcement entities are simply overrun and/or corrupted by superior weaponry, or the massive finances that pave the way.
The potential to totally destabilize a hemisphere is not farfetched. Weak economies, scarce resources, and inadequate training and indoctrination for police to interdict these enemies, without military involvement, are realities to be faced.
Look at El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and now Belize, which today have the dubious distinction of suffering the highest murder rates in the world. And, making things even worse, murder with impunity has been prolific.
The U.S. Border Patrol has met this enemy tragically along the southern border. The criminal insurgents, influenced and educated through traditional terrorist modus operandi, have utilized elite transportation networks, satellite generated electronics, and military tactical cover and concealment strategies. They have adopted compartmentalization (small cellular groups) as a method of survival, and to keep themselves as well as their contraband from being infiltrated or eliminated in total. They exploit every weakness perceived in pursuit of their goals.
A democratic government has a fundamental mandate and commitment to defend its homeland against all enemies. Where weakness prevails for a nation to achieve security and stability for its people, broad cooperation from neighbor nations through strong relationships and partnerships is a critical component of stabilizing the environment. Latin America is faced with a rather broad spectrum of threat that includes rogue leftist regimes, and their sinister and violent oppressive intelligence services, and tolerance of armed criminal, narco and terror organizations such as the FARC and ELN. Deterring extremism and aggression by sophisticated weaponry and tactics is indeed a monumental task in this hemisphere.
A case in point is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's slippery rise and sustainment of power. Corruption has escalated under Chavez, and the country now ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world. Chavez's active solicitation and facilitation in Iran's involvement in the region has become a serious threat to security in the hemisphere. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated, "I'm concerned about the level of, frankly, subversive activity the Iranians are carrying on in a number of places in Latin America, particularly South and Central America."
Can much of Latin America's current state of chaos be attributed to leftist regimes?
It is hardly a secret that Venezuela's leftist President Chavez has spent much of his 12 years in power working to recruit and support leftist presidential candidates in this hemisphere. His influence has been felt from Argentina to Mexico. During his tenure, even suitcases of cash originating out of Venezuela for leftist candidates were found in Nicaragua and Argentina.
The safety and security of free democracies in Latin America necessitates a sound intelligence infrastructure to conduct better threat assessments and anticipate attacks on their sovereignty by terror elements, rogue state security services, criminals and others looking to disrupt free government. From the Tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with its significant Middle Eastern population, to the U.S. border with Mexico, revolutionary terror must be met strategically, swiftly and jointly by a united group of free Latin American nations.
Guatemala's Minister of Defense recently acknowledged inherent weaknesses of the army in combating the drug trade, human trafficking and smuggling. With 43 border crossings between Mexico and Guatemala, a number being either uncontrolled or informal in nature, the threats posed to both nations are enormous.
Disrupting, deterring and defeating the organized crime networks of gangs, narco-terrorists, rebels, guerrillas and radicalized transnational insurgents requires a linear process of creative, strategic, aggressive and tactically driven initiatives. And these joint and cooperative actions are needed in the western hemisphere.
**Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.