Monday, October 5, 2009

U.S. businesses at risk of becoming targets of Mexican drug cartels

This another great reason to legalize drugs just like we did with alcohol. During the first prohibition there blood baths and corruption was a big problem.  Just as it is now.  If we legalize drugs then the Taliban and the drug cartels would be out of business…not the US.

By ALEJANDRA LABANCA

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 high-jacking increases.''

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.

On Wednesday, Dan Restrepo, special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, pointed out that the current administration is committed to continue cooperating with Mexico. He said Washington has increased resources for drug programs and beefed up security along the southwest border to try to constrain the rampant smuggling of assault weapons heading 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.

Kroll expects that the escalating war will also impose high costs for foreign companies operating in Mexico, who 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,'' said Robillard. ``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's a decade ago, said Robillard.

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 and $40 billion a year and use part of it to corrupt law enforcement officials and government institutions.

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.

``Yes, Mexico is getting `Colombianized'. Let's expect that we'll have the same capacity as Colombia to defeat the problem,'' he said.

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.

A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico among its members showed that 75 percent of respondents felt that the insecurity had already had an impact on their businesses -- especially in the northwest region of the country. Fifty-seven percent said their companies planned to increase their security budget within the next two years.

U.S. businesses at risk of becoming targets of Mexican drug cartels - Americas - MiamiHerald.com

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