Mexican drug cartels may target U.S. companies

Published 4 October 2009

The U.S. growing involvement in Mexico’s drug war could put more American interests at risk

American interests could become targets of Mexico’s drug cartels as Washington deepens its involvement in the war against drugs south of the border, according to a leading global intelligence and security corporation.

In a report by Miami-based Kroll Associates issued by one of its executives at the Americas Conference in Coral Gables, the company cautions that ”the more the U.S. government gets involved … it is not unlikely that U.S. companies may be faced with extortion, that local managers are kidnapped for ransom and that truck hijacking increases.”

Aid to Mexico
Under former president George W. Bush, Congress passed a law to provide $1.4 billion worth of equipment, training and intelligence in the span of three years to help Mexico fight drug cartels.

The Miami Herald’s Alejandra Labanca writes that on Wednesday, Dan Restrepo, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, said that the administration is committed to cooperating with Mexico. He said Washington has increased resources for drug programs and beefed up security along the border to constrain the rampant smuggling of assault weapons into Mexico.

It is believed that 90 percent of smuggled weapons go to Mexico’s four national drug cartels — Sinaloa, Gulf, Tijuana, and Juarez. As a result, these are better armed and more technologically advanced than the law enforcement agencies, said David Robillard, head of Kroll operations in Mexico.

Drug violence is also spilling across the border, with numerous cases of kidnappings for ransom and extortion reported in U.S. border states.

Labanca writes that Kroll expects that the escalating war will also impose high costs for foreign companies operating in Mexico, which will have to invest additional resources to protect personnel and infrastructure. ”Virtually everybody today in Mexico is being directly or indirectly affected by security issues,” Robillard said. ”More than 6,000 lives have been lost to cartel violence last year.”

Mexico’s drug trafficking problem dates back to the 1980s, but became more apparent after President Felipe Calderón took over in 2006 and declared a war on drugs. Since then, Mexico looks dangerously like Colombia a decade ago, Robillard said.

The country is facing many of the same challenges Bogotá faced in 2000, he said, but it has good chances of succeeding in quashing the violence and defeating the powerful cartels, which generate between $25 billion and $40 billion a year and use part of it to corrupt law enforcement officials and government institutions.

Like Colombia
Luis Enrique Mercado, a congressman for Calderón’s PAN party, agreed with Robillard that Mexico is looking more and more like Colombia at the peak of its fight against drug trafficking and that the challenges facing the government will take time to resolve.

Robillard cited the pervasiveness of extortion and kidnapping, the high level of sophistication of the weapons acquired by the cartels and the impressive monetary power of the Mexican cartels as similarities with Colombia’s war at the beginning of this decade. ”One thing in Mexico’s favor, however, is that we don’t have guerrillas…. That makes the job easier,” he said in an interview with the Miami Herald after his presentation.