The U.S. is enhancing the efforts of Mexican military officials in their fight against the Mexican drug cartels, and there is some concern that the enhanced techniques may not only lead to more human rights abuses by the Mexican military but also ultimately wind up in the hands of the drug cartels themselves.
The U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), which has been working with Mexican military officials to target the drug cartels for the last ten years, is not concerned. Their training in the use of new techniques by the Mexican military to track and find drug cartels will be similar to the techniques the U.S. has used to track and find Al Qaeda.
Capt. Jeff Davis of USNORTHCOM asserted that there will be no U.S. Special Operations missions helping Mexico in its war against the cartels, saying,”There are no military missions — we do professional military exchanges where we look over their shoulders and they look over ours. It’s a matter of security cooperation.”
The concern that the Mexican military may abuse human rights is a real one; there were 691 human rights complaints filed them between 2003 and 2006, and between 2007 and 2012, there was a dramatic increase to 7,350 complaints.
But the U.S. Department of Defense isn’t worried; one official said, “The Department of Defense incorporates human rights principles into its cooperation activities with the military services of all partner nations. This is a fundamental principle of U.S. government assistance, in Mexico and around the world.”
The fear of the drug cartels obtaining the new techniques is based on what happened in the 1990’s, when some U.S.-trained Mexican Special Forces troops deserted, later becoming Los Zetas, the most violent cartel in Mexico.
The U.S. government is trying to circumvent the Leahy Provision, which does not allow the U.S. to give military aid to any country that has a record of violating human rights.