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Cablegate: Mexico: Itq,S Different On the Border

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DE RUEHME #6185/01 3482255
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 142255Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9917
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 006185

SIPDIS

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM SNAR SMIG ECON EINV KDEM PINR
PHUM, MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO: ITQ,S DIFFERENT ON THE BORDER

1. Summary. Deputy PolCouns recently traveled to several
destinations on the Mexican border with the U.S. as part of
an orientation trip. The visit reaffirmed the perception
that life in the north of Mexico and, in particular on the
border with the U.S., is different from any other place in
Mexico. On the positive side, the region is characterized by
greater prosperity and a deeper sense of community with the
U.S. On the downside, it suffers more acutely from the
effects of narcotics trafficking and the movement of migrants
from southern Mexico heading north. All segments of society
signaled openness to greater cooperation with the U.S. in
combating organized crime but also exhibited a genuine
reluctance bordering on fear about discussing in depth
perpetrators of drug trafficking. End Summary.

We're Neighbors Up Here
-----------------------

2. Deputy PolCouns visited with Mexicans from many different
segments of society Q) government officials, businessmen, and
NGO representatives Q) in Nuevo Laredo, Nogales, Hermosillo
and Tijuana. Almost all universally talked of the sense of
community they share with their U.S. neighbors to the North.
Businessmen in Nuevo Laredo and local PAN politicians in
Hermosillo stressed the importance they attach to regular
meetings with their counterparts respectively in Texas and
Arizona to tackle challenges that know no borders such as
water, pollution, and crime. Many have property in the U.S.
or frequently cross the border to spend vacations with
friends. They don't regard Americans as their adversaries or
even their competitors but, more often than not, their
partners in pursuing economic opportunities or allies in
looking for solutions to problems.

Drug Trafficking: The Elephant in the Living Room
--------------------------------------------- ----

3. Government officials, businessmen, and NGOs all share a
common concern about the impact of drug trafficking and the
attendant violence and crime on the region. Officials in
Nuevo Laredo suggested violence had declined over the last
year, thanks in no small measure to the visible presence of
the military in the region. At the same time, they
acknowledged underreporting could be a problem with reporters
either disinclined to report on violence either out of
concern about the impact on region's reputation or out of
fear for their lives due to threats from traffickers. PRI
insider Antonio Pena openly acknowledged that few politicians
in the region weren't in some way tainted by association with
drug traffickers. Amcits continue to face assaults upon
crossing the border and the cases of some 24 missing
Americans have not been resolved. While there was some
anecdotal evidence of emergent economic activity in the wake
of reduced violence, Americans were still not crossing the
borders in numbers akin to 10 years ago.

4. Businessmen in Nuevo Laredo worried about the direct and
indirect effects the drug trade was producing on life in the
region. Drug traffickers would pressure businessmen and
officials to help move their product. They also increasingly
shake down businessmen for monthly payments if they don't
want to be harassed. Asked if they register complaints with
security officials, the businessmen exhibited reluctance
bordering on fear. First, they don't trust officials to act
effectively on information they share with them. Second,
they are clearly afraid that traffickers would go after them
if they discovered they were informing on their activities.

5. PAN politicians in Hermosillo, Sonora sought to play down
the threat drug trafficking posed to their state suggesting
problems were more an issue in neighboring Sinaloa, the home
of the Sinaloa Cartel. They maintained that their state had
not suffered the same kind of violence as other states within
the region and, to date, the state government had resisted
deployment of the military in significant numbers in the
state. Representatives of the NGO Sonora Ciudadana had a
different take. This group, headed by young, energetic,
bright activists, represents a citizensQ, watch organization
dedicated to reporting on government malfeasance and
incompetence, particularly as it relates to budget
expenditures. The group produces well-documented reports to
back up their hard-hitting attacks on government officials.
However, when asked about their investigation into drug
cartels, the group's Director Guillermo Ruibal explicitly
stated they had no intention of getting involved on this
issue. The cartels killed people who threatened their
interests, and he had no desire to expose his people to that
kind of risk.


MEXICO 00006185 002 OF 003


6. Assistant to the Attorney General in Tijuana, Jorge
Arturo Ramirez Lugo, was proud of government efforts to crack
down on drug traffickers in the region. He drew attention to
the arrest of important cartel leaders and major busts. The
military had assumed a significant role in recent success.
Adela Navarro, the prize-winning Director of the weekly
newspaper Zeta, manifested no fear of the consequences of
going after violent criminal interests. Kidnappings are
occurring in greater numbers in the Tijuana area and Navarro
had recently authored an investigatory report into links
within the police ranks. Assailants attempted to assassinate
the newspaper's editor/founder several years ago after the
paper produced a report revealing the structure of the
Arellano Felix Organization. However, Navarro maintained she
had received no threats on her life to date. She planned to
continue reporting on criminal activities and conjectured
that if she were killed it probably would happen without
warning.

Help Us Help You
----------------

7. Mexicans from practically all segments welcomed greater
cooperation with the U.S. Zeta Director Navarro called for
efforts to assist the police, both local and federal. She
remarked that federal police stationed temporarily in Baja
California are provided with meager resources. They sleep in
cramped quarters and are rationed out little food and
provided shoddy weapons. Coordination among the different
elements of the security forces remains poor and
characterized by distrust. The local forces, in particular,
are riddled by corruption. When the military confiscated the
weapons of the police in the process of trying to trace
bullets used in the commission of a high-profile crime,
assaults and murders actually went down. She urged the U.S.
to do more to strengthen and reform the police at all levels.
She also stressed the need for the U.S. to do more to curb
the trafficking of arms into Mexico.

8. Jose Maria Ramos Garcia, the Director General of Academic
Studies at Tijuana's El Colegio de la Frontera Norte,
expressed strong support for greater U.S. cooperation but
worried that U.S. attention and assistance would wane. He
also stressed the need to address the soft side of the fight
against drugs. Mexico was dealing with its own drug
consumption problem and needed to dedicate more resources to
fight demand. He appreciated the security force's need for
more resources to disrupt the cartelsQ, activities.
Ultimately, however, the largest challenge facing Mexico's
police was cultural. He was familiar with the Culture of
Lawfulness program and urged that the program be expanded so
it could serve a cornerstone of our efforts to transform the
police into an effective crime fighting organization. He
also called attention to strengthening the ability of the
police to investigate crime as part of an effort to free up
more time of prosecutors to prosecute and convict criminals.

Dealing with Migration
----------------------

9. Migration was a common theme in meetings with both
Mexicans and U.S. officials on the border. Deputy PolCouns
visited U.S. Ports of Entry in Laredo, Sasabe, and Tijuana,
observing first hand the challenges that face U.S. agencies
and the kinds of resources the U.S. government is dedicating
to protection of our border with Mexico.

-- Laredo represents the most important border crossing
points for trucks with an average of 6,100 trucks crossing
into the U.S. at the World Trade Bridge and Colombia Bridge
daily. Presently, Laredo has 8 lanes dedicated to truck
crossing at the World Trade Bridge but is looking to
establish 7 more. Every truck is inspected for radioactive
materials. CBP officials rely on their instincts and experts
reviewing trafficking trends to select trucks for inspection
(that last 1 to 1 + hours) for drugs or other contraband.
CBP officials remarked that at least three firms, registered
to participate in the Demonstration Trucking Project that
allows Mexican drivers to deliver their loads into the
interior of the U.S., have been transporting their goods
across the World Trade Bridge. At the Lincoln-Juarez Bridge
alone, 100 buses cross each day while 13,000 cars cross
monthly. Through September, Laredo officials had seized
approximately 7,000 lbs of cocaine and 35,000 lbs of
marijuana.

-- Altar, a city of some 7,500 inhabitants located
approximately 80 km south of the border crossing at Sasabe,
serves a staging ground for Mexicans looking to cross

MEXICO 00006185 003 OF 003


illegally into the U.S. Upscale buses deliver young Mexican
males from around the country in preparation for their trip
north. Open markets specialize in dark clothing, hiking
shoes, insect repellent, suntan lotion, backpacks, and energy
bars for the hardy traveler to the U.S. Romeo Monteverde
Estrella, the President of the Municipal Council in Altar, a
former illegal migrant to the U.S. himself, told Deputy
PolCouns that the number of hopeful migrants to the U.S. had
not declined in recent years, maintaining his city continued
to produce as much trash as neighboring towns twice the size
of Altar. He conveyed sensitivity about U.S. concerns
regarding the movement of potential terrorists across the
border. He recalled the case of several Iraqis apprehended
locally whom he said had been sentenced to several years in
jail. An elderly man collects 30 pesos (approximately $2.75)
from each vehicle heading north for the 80 km trip on an
unpaved road from Altar to the border on the border. An army
outpost located some 12 km from the border stops vans making
the trip, ostensibly looking for drugs, before travelers
continue north for the last segment.

-- The border crossing at Sasabe is dominated by construction
of the Q&wallQ8 which consists of solid 18-20 ft long steel
poles that extend another 5-6 ft underground and weigh
4,000-5,000 lbs each. Presently, the wall extends some 2 +
miles west and 4 + miles east of the port of entry. CBP
officials report illegal crossings in the vicinity of the
wall are down dramatically, attributing the reduction
directly to the wall.

-- Tijuana receives the greatest number of visitors of any
U.S. POE. CBP officials man 24 vehicle primary lanes at the
principal port (San Ysidro) and another 13 at the Otay Mesa
crossing. At San Ysidro, CBP processes approximately 110,000
visitors daily crossing either in some 50,000 cars or by
foot. Otay Mesa processes approximately 15,000 cars and
9,000 pedestrians. CBP is awaiting construction of a new
$600 million port to be completed in 2014 that would have a
total of 58 stacked booths in 29 lanes. The current POE has
reserved a room for Mexican Consular officials to use in
meeting with any minors who are detained while attempting to
cross the border. ICE officials reported greater success in
working more closely with Mexican officials to recover
vehicles and disrupt drug operations. CBP officials stressed
that they would like to see a CBP liaison officer assigned to
Consulate in Tijuana facilitate informational exchange on
operations and developments. Rafael Alarcon, the Director of
the Social Studies Department at Tijuana's Colegio de la
Frontera Norte and an expert on Mexican migration to the
U.S., believed tough U.S. immigration policies were impacting
the numbers of Mexicans making the sojourn north. He
suggested these policies would contribute to a Q&migration of
the fittest,Q8 with fewer women and children seeking to make
the trip but young men continuing to take their chances.

10. Comment. Mexicans living on the border with the U.S.
recognize that their relative prosperity flows in large
measure from their extensive economic ties with the U.S.
They embrace opportunities to deepen that relationship
through cooperation on economic projects and on efforts to
address common challenges. They are also acutely sensitive
to the threat drug trafficking poses to their way of life.
Drug-related violence along the border remains high as is
concern about the influence organized crime brings to bear
upon political institutions and the local businessmen. Most
strongly support greater cooperation with the U.S. in
combating organized crime but call for particular attention
to strengthening local and federal police forces. They
tolerate the increased delays that come with stricter border
controls but worry about the growing number of migrants who
take up residence in their States when they are turned back
from the U.S. Strengthening the relationship that exists
amongst the communities on both sides of the border should
only help our countries better meet the challenges we share.
End Comment.

Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
BASSETT

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