US embassy cable - 09MEXICO3260

DRUGS AND DOWNTURN ON THE BORDER

Identifier: 09MEXICO3260
Wikileaks: View 09MEXICO3260 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Mexico
Created: 2009-11-17 23:12:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PREL PGOV PHUM SNAR ECON KCRM MX
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO0890
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #3260/01 3212312
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 172312Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9068
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 003260 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, SNAR, ECON, KCRM, MX 
SUBJECT: DRUGS AND DOWNTURN ON THE BORDER 
 
REF: A. MEXICO CITY 3018 
     B. CIUDAD JUAREZ FORTHCOMING 
     C. TIJUANA 685 
     D. TIJUANA 1102 
     E. CIUDAD JUAREZ 577 
     F. MEXICO CITY 3042 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Ambassador met with the governors of Baja 
California and Chihuahua, the mayors of Matamoros, Tijuana, and 
Ciudad Juarez, military and civil security force commanders, maquila 
managers, non-governmental organizations, community activists, drug 
clinic doctors, renewable energy pioneers, and wastewater plant 
engineers during visits to Matamoros September 24-25, Tijuana 
October 6-7, and Juarez October 7-10.  He found an unsteady security 
situation, crowded border crossings, a hobbled economy, and civil 
society fighting intimidation by cartels.  In the borderlands, most 
issues of the broader bilateral relationship are present in 
microcosm.  While questions cloud the security situation, the 
regional economy will rebound as U.S. growth returns.  END SUMMARY. 
 
 
SECURITY: CORNER NOT TURNED 
--------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) The borderlands are the flint face of a three thousand-mile 
trade route.  Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) land Colombian 
product in Lazaro Cardenas, strategize in Sinaloa, and earn revenue 
in Atlanta -- but spark conflict at the U.S.-Mexico border, gateway 
to the U.S. market and primary battleground.  The 2009 death toll in 
Juarez surpassed the total for 2008 in September (twelve murders 
occurred in the first twenty-four hours of the Ambassador's visit). 
Joint Operation Chihuahua has not stopped cartel-on-cartel violence. 
 In Matamoros, the reactive stance of security forces suggests the 
sharing of best practice between areas of operation along the border 
is weaker than it should be (ref A).  Reduced violence in Tijuana is 
a bright spot, but more needs to be done to assess and understand 
the causal relationships. 
 
3. (SBU) State and local government and police leaders defer to the 
military.  Civilians generally are glad for the troop presence but, 
fearing crossfire, avoid their patrols.  Joint civil-military 
patrols in Juarez have reduced DTO targeting of local police.  There 
is recognition the military is filling a police role for which it is 
untrained and must transition to a support role over time.  The army 
generates inadequate local intelligence and shares what it does find 
too slowly.  The result too often is a force both blind to events 
and unfamiliar with the local landscape.  In Chihuahua, the top 
human rights complaint is of raids conducted without search 
warrants.  (The president of the Chihuahua Human Rights Commission 
noted, with some sympathy for the military, that the judges who 
grant warrants work atypically short schedules; until very recently 
no judge was on call to decide time-sensitive off-hours warrant 
requests.) 
 
4. (SBU) The conventional view of local and state police forces is 
that they are corrupt, DTO-infiltrated, and vulnerable to coercion. 
Vetting programs are improving and seeing wider implementation. 
These usually include a mix of financial history, interviews with 
neighbors, toxicology, and polygraphs.  After firing, 
early-retiring, or otherwise driving out 400 police in Tijuana (20% 
of the force) and 700 in Juarez (44%), political and security 
leaders are betting on expanded and vetted forces to improve local 
policing.  They are cleaning house, but the question is whether they 
can hold the line afterward.  In Tijuana, the retrained municipal 
police were deployed over 20 months, and there are signs of 
progress.  In Juarez, the municipal force is on the street after 
just three months training, with no real mentoring from seasoned 
professionals.  Under such circumstances, and despite attempts to 
recruit countrywide, we can predict that they will be just as 
tempted by narco-corruption as their predecessors.  Meanwhile, the 
more-trusted federal police (SSP) have insufficient forces to 
sustain deployments everywhere at once, nor should they be made into 
a street patrol force.  When DTO la Familia targeted police in 
Michoacan in July, a large SSP contingent had to withdraw from 
Juarez to reinforce garrisons to the south. 
 
5. (SBU) On the legal side, military commanders and state attorneys 
general admit that, given SEDENA's lead role in fighting the DTOs 
and the lack of state and local jurisdiction for drug trafficking 
crimes, many arrests and seizures never lead to prosecutions.  At 
its worst, the military contaminates crime scenes, conducts 
inadmissible interrogations, and illegally detains suspects, actions 
which either prevent cases from reaching trial or get cases thrown 
out by judges.  In Chihuahua, jurisdictional discord between state 
and federal courts also sets suspects free.  Federal judges grant 
injunctions staying multiple homicide charges referred by state 
prosecutors when evidence linking the homicides to organized crime 
 
MEXICO 00003260  002 OF 003 
 
 
is insufficient.  This raises questions about the adequacy of 
Mexican law for prosecuting organized crime.  Mexico does not have 
the equivalent of the RICO statutes or conspiracy laws (ref B).  The 
governor of Baja California admits his state does not have 
jurisdiction over drug trafficking, but in Tijuana state and local 
government actively search for ways to leverage their competencies. 
Here, public prosecutors enter military bases to conduct 
interrogations, at least making the evidence admissible in the 
judicial system. 
 
ECONOMY: VIBRANT NORTHERN STATES TAKE THEIR KNOCKS 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
6. (SBU) Border manufacturing, concentrated in export industries, 
hits economic peaks and troughs harder than the overall economy. 
This results in volatile production and has a direct negative impact 
on employment.  The governor of Chihuahua commented that he had 
spent four years adding 100,000 jobs in the state, and then lost 
80,000 jobs in the last twelve months.  Though employment numbers in 
Chihuahua showed tentative recovery in the third quarter, the 
cumulative decline provides ready recruits for DTOs. 
 
7. (U) The recession has hammered foreign direct investment (FDI) in 
the six Mexican border states.  Economy Secretariat data show 
inflows of USD 1.6 billion in the first two quarters of 2009, about 
50% of the 2008 and 46% of the 2007 figures.  While the drop in 
employment and FDI is marked, it is cushioned somewhat by the cheap 
peso, which is attractive to companies considering investments (Ref 
C).  FDI and local investment lost due to insecurity is more 
difficult to quantify.  Anecdotally, multinationals may simply be 
factoring in security as one more cost of doing business.  Both 
international managers and local business people in Juarez are 
overnighting in El Paso in increasing numbers, while in Matamoros 
the mayor reports relocations to San Antonio are up. 
 
8. (U) Border denizens unanimously say southbound tourism at the 
frontier has slowed to a trickle.  The governor of Baja California 
calculated Tijuana's annualized loss of U.S. tourist dollars at more 
than USD 1 billion.  Retail sales on the Mexican side of the border 
have received a compensatory injection from Mexican consumers 
shopping at home, as the peso's loss of value has made 
dollar-denominated goods more expensive.  The Federal Reserve Bank 
of Dallas has recorded a corresponding fall off in sales in Texas 
border towns.  Surprisingly, federal Tourism Secretariat (SECTUR) 
data indicate more U.S. tourists are crossing into Mexico at the 
border -- 2009 numbers through July are 19% higher than those for 
first-half 2008 and 31% higher than in first-half 2007.  SECTUR 
contacts maintain border tourism is sustaining the otherwise 
battered tourism sector. 
 
9. (U) The long term economic picture hinges on competitiveness. 
The 2001 recession vividly demonstrated that Mexico had lost the low 
labor cost contest with Asia in cities like Juarez, where maquila 
sector employment has never surpassed its turn-of-the-millennium 
peak.  Since 2001, the maquilas have recovered by exiting sectors 
like textiles and moving upmarket.  If the maquila industry was 
historically valued as a jobs program, new maquila job numbers over 
the last decade have lagged relative to output and productivity 
gains.  Tijuana and Juarez business and political leaders claim 
their future is in areas like the biomedical and renewable energy 
industries.  The border states continue to benefit from their 
location, long-standing trade relationships with the U.S., large, 
work-aged demographic, and resource richness (wind power, ref D).  A 
recent study by the USAID-funded Mexican Institute for 
Competitiveness ranked all six states in Mexico's top ten on 
competition. 
 
 
SOCIETIES UNDER STRESS 
---------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) The future is murky for children growing up in the drug 
maelstrom on the border; easy money and bad role models erode the 
already stressed family structure in border towns, where single 
working mothers have traditionally formed a large segment of the 
maquila workforce.  The State of Baja California is building a 
network of Boys and Girls Clubs and Juarez NGOs also concentrate 
their efforts on children at risk.  They are in competition with 
DTOs that target the same teenagers to refill ranks reduced by the 
turf wars.  The DTOs even recruit in Juarez's NGO drug treatment 
centers.  Drug use is on the rise in Mexico, up 30% since 2002. 
Treatment centers in Juarez and Tijuana are seeing more addicts. 
The recidivism rate at one of Juarez's better facilities is 75%. 
The full network of rehabilitation centers does not have sufficient 
capacity to treat the majority of the city's estimated 5,000 heroin 
addicts (ref E). 
 
 
MEXICO 00003260  003 OF 003 
 
 
11. (SBU) The border states are among the richest in Mexico, and 
their populations in the main do not qualify for baseline poverty 
programs such as Oportunidades, depriving them of a potential safety 
net.  The states also have a young demographic profile -- population 
growth at the border has outpaced the Mexican average by 0.5% per 
year since 1990.  In the face of this population pressure, the 
Border Environment Cooperation Commission has enabled a notable 
expansion of drinking water, wastewater, solid waste, and sewerage 
services along the border that contributes materially to well-being 
and deserves continued funding.  Efforts such as these can help 
check the region's elevated rates of hepatitis and respiratory 
ailments. 
 
12. (SBU) The Juarez political class, including the mayor, retreats 
across the border every night to El Paso, a fact not lost on the 
public.  Politicians are not the only ones deciding to relocate to 
the north.  Though the outflow is difficult to quantify, El Paso's 
robust real estate market is one sign people are leaving Juarez.  An 
El Paso city councilman told the Wall Street Journal that the 
current flight is "the largest migration of wealthy Mexican 
nationals [to El Paso] since the Mexican Revolution."  Border city 
and state governments are underequipped to combat the ills that have 
beset their communities.  Political decentralization has come faster 
than administrative and financial decentralization in Mexico.  State 
and local governments have limited capacity to fill their own 
coffers.  In a rare revenue-raising example, the mayor of Tijuana 
appealed to residents to accept a tax hike, and combined the tax 
take with capital from the North American Development Bank to fund 
the paving of city streets.  The initiative has fueled his 
popularity -- and held the municipal government accountable to its 
residents in a manner central government cash grants to the city do 
not. 
 
13. (SBU) COMMENT: The GOM has agreed to dispatch a joint USG-GOM 
evaluation team to Tijuana and Juarez to measure counternarcotics 
successes and failures, and assess requirements for complementary 
socioeconomic measures, within the four pillar framework of our 
beyond Merida strategy.  The joint evaluation will support transfer 
of effective strategies across areas of operation.  Based on 
discussions at the Alliance of Youth Movements summit in mid-October 
(ref F), Mission Mexico is assessing piloting the use of cell phone 
text messages to supplement anonymous tip lines in the same cities. 
The effectiveness of an SMS-based hotline is contingent, as with 
current phone hotlines, on citizen trust in the institutions that 
field the communication.  While we cannot generate trust for the 
police in Matamoros, Tijuana, or Juarez, we should ensure more of 
our institutional capacity building efforts reach the state and 
local level. 
 
14. (SBU) On economics, the recession has hurt the border economy, 
but commerce will recover.  The region's future competitiveness 
requires that ports of entry, cross-border energy grids, and 
environmental infrastructure keep pace with growth.  So, too a 
skilled labor force: if border industry is to continue the move into 
higher value added sectors, Mexico needs a better return on the 6.5% 
of GDP (high by OECD standards) it invests in education.  Finally, 
the cross-border ties between the 13 million residents of border 
counties and municipalities are broader than any two-government 
dialogue.  Our border consulates already leverage these 
long-standing community ties and can play a pivotal role in 
expanding partnerships with and between universities and civil 
society north and south.  END COMMENT. 
 
PASCUAL 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04