According to Proceso, Mexico won’t get any Black Hawks.
The following article was published almost three weeks ago in the Mexican weekly Proceso, but we’ve just seen it now. It’s still important enough to translate and share.
It presents more information than any other source about the mostly military aid package for Mexico that the Bush administration is likely to request of the U.S. Congress this fall. (The article in Spanish is available for a fee on the Proceso website.)
Among the information that is new to us:
- The aid package (like the original “Plan Colombia”) will be for six years.
- The total amount will be between $700 million and $1 billion over those six years, which is only about one-fifth to one-quarter the size of Plan Colombia.
- Mexico will contribute another $200 million to the package.
- The package will not include Black Hawk helicopters. (The 2000 Plan Colombia aid package had 18 Black Hawks, which cost about $15 million each.)
- The Black Hawks, apparently, will be absent because of fears that the U.S. Congress would require stronger human rights conditions if they were included!
- The main components of the package will be fast boats for drug interdiction; gamma-ray container screening equipment for Mexican ports; equipment to intercept phone and Internet communications; and lots of training.
- U.S. government negotiators, led by Undersecretary of State John Negroponte, want Mexico to allow a larger presence of DEA agents on its soil.
- The Bush administration’s goal is for the U.S. Congress to approve the aid package – which it has not even presented yet – by the end of the year.
Proceso (Mexico), September 1, 2007
Bush’s support is delayed
WASHINGTON – The government of Felipe CalderÃ³n will receive from the United States a six-year package of financial support that could go from $700 million to $1 billion, to strengthen the militarized fight against narcotrafficking. Washington may condition this support on an increase in the number of DEA agents in Mexican territory.
“We are completing the last details of the negotiation. The accord will be announced at the end of September, or, at the very latest, during the first weeks of October, and it will have a budget of up to $1 billion for the entire six-year period,” a Mexican official involved in the talks with the Bush administration, who agreed to speak in exchange for anonymity, told Proceso.
“Mexico will contribute to this commitment of U.S. cooperation … another $200 million,” the official added.
In an interview with the El Universal newspaper published August 20, Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Patricia Espinosa Cantellano indicated that the U.S. anti-narcotics aid package could be $800 million, but she did not specify how the Felipe CalderÃ³n government would use the money.
“It is a proposal for which we will devise a general aid plan, which implies commitments from both parties about actions to be carried out in their own territories,” the foreign-relations secretary told the Mexico City daily.
Since he assumed the presidency on December 1, 2006, CalderÃ³n committed himself to a war without quarter against narcotrafficking, for which he has deployed the Mexican Army in the states where the federal government believes the cartels are dominant.
“Obviously the United States wants some concessions in exchange for the aid, but none that violate Mexican law will be accepted. For example, the presence in Mexico of U.S. military personnel or agents to direct or support anti-narcotics operations is not even on the table,” notes the Mexican official who agreed to be interviewed.
“It is being discussed whether the DEA will be permitted to increase the number of its agents in Mexico, but not even that is defined yet,” he or she added.
The Mexican government tried to obtain its own concessions; for example, PGR (attorney-general’s office) access to the systems of the El Paso, Texas Intelligence Center (EPIC), where the DEA, FBI, CIA and other U.S. agencies process information.
To achieve this purpose, the CalderÃ³n government counts on the urgency with which the United States views a strengthening of the war against Mexican narcotraffickers, who continue to smuggle drugs and propagate violence in their southern border cities.
The money that the White House will support to CalderÃ³n’s six-year fight against narcotrafficking must be approved by the U.S. Congress, and will serve to buy fast boats for the Navy Department, but not for the purchase of armed Black Hawk helicopters, which the Mexican Army had requested in order to confront narcotraffickers.
The above-cited Mexican official and U.S. government sources told our reporter that hte aid package will not include sophisticated weapons like the Black Hawks, because this would have implied a direct intervention from the U.S. Congress to certify that the Mexican Armed Forces are respecting human rights.
Instead of the armed Black Hawks it requested, the Mexican Army will receive transport helicopters and radars to intercept narcotraffickers’ communications.
This way, the most expensive part of the U.S. anti-drug aid – $150 to $180 million per year – are the fast boats for the Navy and the installation of gamma-ray screening equipment in Mexican ports, which will be under the jurisdiction of the [Mexican] Secretary of the Treasury.
“In the original proposal, the Treasury Department requested gamma rays only for three or four ports of entry into the country, but President CalderÃ³n himself decided that a budget and a program to install this equipment in all ports of entry into national territory be considered,” the Mexican official explained.
Meanwhile, U.S. government sources confirmed to Proceso that there will be no equipment whose use would require a level of supervision that violates Mexico’s sovereignty or constitution, because the need to improve bilateral cooperation against organized crime is “genuine,” they said.
Beyond the cost of the fast boats and equipment to effectively supervise all types of cargo that enters Mexico by sea, the rest of the U.S. support will be used to purchase military radars to monitor the border zone.
The intention is that Mexico might have equipment like that used by the Pentagon in the Afghanistan war since October 2001 and the Iraq invation in March 2003. With that technology, the Mexican government can locate narcotraffickers, drug-trafficking routes including tunnels, clandestine airstrips, narcotics processing laboratories, as well as cultivations of marijuana and opium poppy.
If the Congress approves the aid package for Mexico, the State Department would give a green light for Mexican authorities to acquire, in the United States, computerized and electronic equipment for telephone and Internet espionage.
This would make it possible to intercept the communications of drug cartels and other criminal organizations, even in the most remote corners of Mexican territory. “It is a fundamental component that will help increase and improve the exchange of intelligence information between the Mexican and U.S. agencies, which will perfect anti-narco operations,” says the Mexican source.
The Pentagon and U.S. federal agencies like the DEA, FBI, Customs Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) will train Mexican Army personnel and agents of the Public Security Department (SecretarÃa de Seguridad PÃºblica) and the PGR for operations against arms and drug trafficking, as well as money laundering.
After Washington performs rigorous scrutiny to ensure that none have any relation to organized crime, the Mexican military and police personnel will improve their skills with communications-intercept equipment, and will train in combat techniques.
According to the Mexican official, the secrecy with which the Mexican and U.S. governments have carried out their discussions of the anti-drug package owes to the possibility that speculations and misunderstandings might make approval difficult in the U.S. Congress.
On the Mexican side, the negotiations are directly managed by the Presidency of the Republic, the Foreign Relations Department, and the Center of National Investigation and Security (CISEN) of the Interior Department (SecretarÃa de GobernaciÃ³n).
For the United States, the chief negotiator is John Dmitri Negroponte, the undersecretary of stat and former ambassador in Mexico. Ambassador Tony Garza is excluded from these conversations. Both governments intend to see the Capitol [the U.S. Congress] approve the Mexico aid package this year, and they have readied a strategy to lobby U.S. legislators, which will be set into motion the first week of this month.
In fact, for months the Mexican embassy in Washington has been carrying out an informal series of polls of U.S. congresspeople about the possibilities of approving the package, as well as the setbacks it might eventually face.