The Pentagon’s point man on continental security is asking Canada to step up its efforts to fight Mexico’s drug cartels.
“So much of what we do in the U.S. military must be done from a distance. I think Canada has a future in working with the two American neighbours to fight a common corrosive and growing threat to all of our societies,” Admiral James Winnefeld said during a Toronto speech on Thursday.
The head of U.S. Northern Command and the NORAD defence pact, Adm. Winnefeld told Canada’s Empire Club that he views growing violence in Mexico as one of North America’s most significant threats. “I look forward to the opportunities to work with our Canadian partners and to find a complimentary way to join with Mexico and master this serious challenge,” he said.
While Washington and, to a lesser extent, Ottawa, have started to do what they can to build up the Mexico’s police and military, the country may need a lot more help.
Mexican-based “transnational criminal organizations” are responsible for turf wars that have claimed an estimated 30,000 lives during the past four years, Adm. Winnefeld said.
Earlier this year, President Felipe Calderon praised Canada for sending eight Mounties to train police, and $4-million for programs meant to strengthen Mexico’s judicial system.
But in many quarters, there is a sense more needs to be done – and urgently.
This week’s dump of thousands of U.S. State Department documents from WikiLeaks highlights some of the issues.
“Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as anothe’s failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of,” reads a cable sent earlier this year.
“Military surges that are not co-ordinated with local city officials,” it adds, “and civilian law enforcement, particularly local prosecutors, have not worked.”
The cartels are said to have grown in power to the point where they may now be intractable.
“They can wait out a military deployment; they have an almost unlimited human resource pool to draw from in the marginalized neighborhoods,” the cable said. “And they can fan complaints about human rights violations to undermine any progress the military might make with hearts and minds.”