Reporting on the July 16 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez led one journalist to evoke images of the battle against Islamist terrorist in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The attack, seemingly lifted from an al-Qaeda playbook, demonstrated once again that the cartels are a step ahead of both an already guarded public and federal police, who have recently taken over command from the military of the battle against traffickers in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from El Paso, Texas.
The proper analogy is not the Middle East or Afghanistan but Colombia. There the use of car bombs and IEDS is also a hallmark of the narco-terrorists of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Most recently, FARC detonated a car bomb that killed 9 in the Colombian city of Buenaventura. Car bombs were also a dreaded weapon of choice used by the notorious Pablo Escobar, head of the deadly Medellin cartel in the 1980s and 1990s. The numerous bombings carried out by the Medellin Cartel included a 1989 car bombing of a police headquarters in Bogotá that killed 80.
Commenting on the Ciudad Juarez bombing, one security analyst noted, “Friday’s car bombing did not appear very sophisticated.” He added “Mexican drug cartels are often advised by former members of Colombian cartels” and maybe influenced by FARC, which “has lots of experience with explosives.”
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The Washington Post carried a report on the growing use of hand grenades as weapons and tools of terror in Mexico. Grenades used there come mainly from Central America where they were acquired from the U.S., Soviet Union, and others sources during the Cold War-era conflicts of the 1980s. Insecure stocks, corruption, and the operations of criminal gangs or maras have allowed hundreds of these lethal weapons to pass into criminal hands in the ensuing 20 years.
The bottom line is: The Obama Administration has expended considerable energy trying to convince the American public that an “iron river of guns” flowing out of the U.S., coupled with our patterns of drug consumption, are the primary causal factors in Mexico’s spiraling cycle of drug violence.
Certainly the southward, illegal flow of arms is a serious problem, but the truth is that the Mexican cartels waste little time in turning south to Central America for arms as well as to the Andes where the narco-terrorists of FARC, drug dealers, and the anti-American regimes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales are creating a climate of lawlessness and insecurity.
Mexico’s troubling security situation inevitably connects to the drug source in the Andes. Under outgoing President Uribe, Colombia scored significant success against the FARC and drug traffickers. Venezuela is a different story. Fresh information regarding FARC base camps in Venezuela, credible evidence of the Basque terrorists group ETA-FARC connections in Venezuela, and the rise of drug shipments transiting Venezuela point to a probable connection between an emerging criminal, narco-state in Venezuela and mounting drug violence in Mexico.
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A comprehensive response to this regional drug challenge requires increased presidential engagement; enhanced cooperation with Mexico and other nations; and coordination of U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, and military assets to tackle dangerous criminal networks.