Country watch: Moribund MexicoMexican drug cartels employ more foot soldiers than Mexican army

Published 4 March 2009

Mexico is spinning out of control; narco-terrorists have infiltrated the Mexican government, creating a shadow regime that complicates efforts to contain and destroy the drug cartels; Mexico ranks behind only Pakistan and Iran as a top U.S. national security concern — but above Afghanistan and Iraq

Back in January we wrote that “With drug-related killings doubling in 2008 over 2007, and with drug lords becoming more brazen in their attacks on the state, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warns of the potential for ‘rapid and sudden collapse’ of the Mexican government” (24 January 2009 HS Daily Wire). A month later we wrote that “A combination of a dramatic increase in crime — from drug-related murders to kidnapping for ransom — and a growing perception that government agencies cannot or would not do much about it, have led to a boom for private security companies in Central and Latin America” (15 February 2009 HS Daily Wire).

In a detailed and unsettling report, the Washington Times’s Sara Carter writes that the U.S. Defense Department now thinks Mexico’s two most deadly drug cartels together have fielded more than 100,000 foot soldiers — an army that rivals Mexico’s armed forces and threatens to turn the country into a narco-state. “It’s moving to crisis proportions,” a senior U.S. defense official told the Washington Times. The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of his work, said the cartels’ “foot soldiers” are on a par with Mexico’s army of about 130,000.

Carter writes that the disclosure underlines the enormity of the challenge Mexico and the United States face as they struggle to contain what is increasingly looking like a civil war or an insurgency along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year, about 7,000 people have died — more than 1,000 in January alone. The conflict has become increasingly brutal, with victims beheaded and bodies dissolved in vats of acid.

Note that the death toll dwarfs that in Afghanistan, where about 200 fatalities, including 29 U.S. troops, were reported in the first two months of 2009. About 400 people, including 31 U.S. military personnel, died in Iraq during the same period.

The biggest and most violent combatants are the Sinaloa cartel, known by U.S. and Mexican federal law enforcement officials as the “Federation” or “Golden Triangle,” and its main rival, “Los Zetas” or the Gulf Cartel, whose territory runs along the Laredo,Texas, borderlands. The two cartels appear to be negotiating a truce or merger to defeat rivals and better withstand government pressure. U.S. officials say the consequences of such a pact would be grave. “I think if they merge or decide to cooperate in a greater