The long-awaited end to Mexico’s deadly War on Drugs may be farther off than hoped, reports New America Media. Advisors to President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto have signaled that the rebirth of the PRI party means the $50 billion war is going international. Well, at least more international than it already is:
Far from “re-envisioning” the approach taken by outgoing President Felipe Calderon, credited with having launched the crackdown on the country’s drug cartels in 2006, Peña Nieto is preparing the Mexican people for a major escalation. It is a shift that could draw in military forces from Mexico’s neighbors, including the United States.
“A transnational phenomenon requires a transnational strategy,” Óscar Naranjo, Colombia’s former director of the National Police and current advisor to Peña Nieto, told reporters last week. “No country can succeed in an insular and isolated manner if it is to achieve timely or definitive victories.”
This "internationalization" of the war that's cost Mexico about 50,000 deaths has come just a few weeks after leaked reports revealed increased surveillance of Mexican citizens under the guise of combatting cartels. Between March 2011 and March 2012, the Secretariat of National Defense awarded five secret contracts to surveillance companies—without opening them up to bidders. On Saturday, Slate reported that under these contracts, spyware companies provided the Mexican government with over $350 million USD worth of surveillance technology, from cell phone interception devices to radar scannars that actually allow officals from Mexico's Department of Defense to see through walls:
Aside from purchasing mobile phone surveillance technology, the Mexican Department of Defense also reportedly splashed out on a kind of radar scanner that allows them to see through walls. These devices have been available to law enforcement agencies for several years, but little is known about where or when they are used. Similar technology was designed by a British company in 2006, and last year researchers at MIT announced that they had developed an “urban war fighter” radar to detect movement through walls from up to 60 feet away.
Unfortunately, these futuristic Peeping Tom scanners seem to be the only display of transparency in this multimillion dollar spy deal. According to Slate, Mexican officials have been anything but clear with the details of what could be a very expensive violation of human rights. The contracts were negotiated in secret, and when reporters attempted to find any information about the companies involved, they got nowhere:
Mexican reporters have also been focusing on the shadowy company named in the contracts as the provider of the technology. Security Tracking Devices, which does not appear to have a website, is listed online as being based near Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. But El Universal tracked the address to a run-down residential area, where it reported it found no evidence of the company’s existence.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation last week criticized the purchase of the technology disclosed in the secret contracts, saying it builds upon a trend of Mexico increasing its surveillance capacity. Mexico has had ongoing help from the United States to install up to 107 monitoring stations for intercepting communications nationwide.
The lack of information surrounding these spyware purchases, along with known corruption in Mexico's judicial system could mean a privacy nightmare for Mexicans, from political opponents to journalists investigating the costly-on-so-many-levels war.