Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mexican drug cartels "more cautious" in U.S., but still present a threat, Senate told

Intelligence chief also warns there is risk for U.S. citizens and officials in Mexico

James R. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today that although drug cartels are present in the United States, it's unlikely that the level of violence experienced by Mexico will cross the border. Joining Clapper at the hearing was retired general and C.I.A. Director David Petraeus. But both men agreed that the international drug trade and related criminal enterprises present a threat to the United States which must not be underestimated.

Clapper said that the cartels conduct themselves more cautiously in the U.S. because they understand the preparedness of American law enforcement. He also noted that much of Mexico's bloody drug war, which was launched in December 2006 by president Felipe Calderón, has been the result of bitter competition between cartels as they struggle to control narcotics trafficking routes towards the United States. Echoing frequent comments of the Calderón administration, Clapper maintained that the "vast majority" of those killed in the 61 month old conflict have been criminals. Contrasting the situation north of the border, Clapper said that Mexican cartels operating in the U.S. are primarily focused on drug retailing to individuals, a business which is inherently less violent.

But drug traffickers still present a danger to the United States, Clapper told the committee. He cited the growing presence in Central America of Mexican cartels which have expanded their operations southward, and which threaten democratically elected governments in the region. Clapper praised the Calderón government for its "ambitious agenda" in pursuing cartel bosses aggressively, and noted that in the past five years 23 of the 37 most wanted Mexican capos have been captured or killed.

Clapper said that Mexican drug war violence is also a potential risk to U.S. citizens and officials in Mexico. Although he did not mention the case by name, Clapper may have had in mind the Feb. 15, 2011 murder of a federal immigration agent, and the wounding of his partner, in Mexico's northern San Luis Potosi state. I have written about that case several times. Here's the primary post: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/los-zetas-killer-charged-in-death-of-us.html.

Republicans vote to declare Mexican drug cartels "terrorists": http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/house-republicans-vote-to-declare-drug.html.
Guatemala asks for U.S. help in fighting drug cartels: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/almost-bankrupt-guatemala-calls-upon-us.html.
Honduran drug traffickers ship 100 tons of cocaine annually to U.S., "where the consumers are": http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/honduras-invaded-by-drug-traffickers.html.
DEA: Calderón drug strategy producing results: http://mexicogulfreporter-supplement.blogspot.com/2011/11/calderon-strategy-against-drug-cartels.html.

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