U.S. intelligence chief: Mexico not on brink of collapse

Published 27 March 2009

There is a debate among different U.S. intelligent services about how close to a collapse Mexico is; Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, says the drug cartels’ escalating violence is a product of their weakening state not their strength

Two months ago we reported that a report released by the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned of the potential for “rapid and sudden collapse” of the Mexican government due to the corrupting influence of criminal gangs and drug cartels. The Joint Operating Environment 2008 document (pdf) also lists Pakistan as the other of two large and important states that “bear consideration,” explaining that these would be “worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world.”

The Mexican possibility may seem less likely [than the possibility that Pakistan’s government collapsing], but the [Mexican] government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels,” the report explains. “How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state” (see 24 January 2009 HS Daily Wire).

There appears to be some debate over just how precarious the situation in Mexico is. The U.S.’s top intelligence official reiterated that Mexico is not teetering on collapse yesterday — but Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) backed his state’s request for additional National Guardsmen for border security as worries mount Mexican drug cartel violence will spill more widely onto U.S. soil.

Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence (DNI), said the drug cartels’ escalating violence is a product of their weakening state not their strength.

Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. [Let me] repeat that. Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state. The violence we see now is the result of Mexico taking action against the drug cartels. So it is in fact the result of positive moves, which the Mexican government has taken to break the baneful influence that many of these cartels have had on many aspects of Mexican government and Mexican life,” Blair said.

Launched at the end of 2006, Mexican president Felipe Calderon has deployed 40,000 troops inside Mexico to take the fight to the country’s drug cartels. Mexican and U.S. officials say that the offensive has led to the recent upsurge in violence as the cartels fight each other over the drug market as well as the soldiers and police officers pursuing them. Over the last fifteen months, approximately 7,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug wars, many in cities like Cuidad Juarez, which border the United States.

Blair’s comments came two days after the Obama administration unveiled its southwest border security initiative that will send over 500 additional federal agents and new technologies to the Mexican border to address security concerns (see 25 March 2009 HS Daily Wire).

Matthew Harwood writes that, in the United States, a recent rash of kidnappings and home invasions in cities like Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, as well as killings in Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia, have been blamed on Mexican drug cartels’ reach into the United States. In response, Arizona governor Jan Brewer wants National Guard troops deployed to her state’s border with Mexico. Texas governor Rick Perry has also requested National Guardsmen to bolster border security.

McCain agrees. “We do not have sufficient personnel down there. So I agree with the governors of Arizona and Texas in their request for more help with enforcement, at least until we get sufficient trained personnel sent down there,” McCain told The Arizona Republic