Friday, November 21, 2008

Gang Threat Could Top Al Qaeda, Mr. President-Elect

Gang Threat Could Top Al Qaeda, Mr. President-Elect
November 17, 2008 b - 11:43:00

By Noah Shachtman,

This is the second of our Danger Room Debriefs, where we ask some of the smartest folks in the military, intelligence, and homeland defense fields to outline under-the-radar security issues, and point the way towards potential, often-unorthodox solutions.

Today we hear from John P. Sullivan, the co-founder of the Los Angeles Terrorism Early Warning group. He's a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, focusing on emerging threats. Sullivan co-edited Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network.

While the public and media are occupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential conflict with Iran, the downward spiral in Pakistan, and a global economic meltdown, a new, rapidly-evolving danger - narco-cartels and gangs - has been developing in Mexico and Latin America. And it has the potential to trump global terrorism as a threat to the United States.

Mexico is gripped by a set of inter-locking, networked criminal insurgencies. Daily violence, kidnappings, assassinations of police and government officials, beheadings and shoot-outs are the result of violent combat between drug cartels, gangs, and the police. The cartels vying for domination of the lucrative drug trade are seeking both market dominance and freedom from government interference. Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and other border towns are racked with violence. Mexico City itself is not immune. An infusion of police and military remains stymied as corrupt officials chose to side with the cartels.

The drug mafias have abandoned subtle co-option of the government and are instead embracing active violence to secure safe havens to ply their trade.

This de facto 'criminal insurgency' threatens the stability of the Mexican state. As the L.A. Times noted yesterday, it is already starting to reverberate north of the Rio Grande in America. Money fuels global expansion, and transnational organized crime has learned it can thrive in the face of governmental crisis...

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