An Arsenal of Experience
By Dialogo July 01, 2010
Since taking office in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón has sent tens of thousands of troops to Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez, Culiacán, Tijuana and other cities to counter the onslaught from cartels battling over drug smuggling routes. Mexican authorities are also partnering with Colombia, a country with experience combating narcotraffickers.
In the past two years, Mexico has received support from the Colombian government in combating drug traffickers and locating key cartel targets. On August 13, 2009, Mexico and Colombia agreed to intensify their security efforts in combating drug trafficking organizations. President Calderón and his Colombian counterpart, then-President Álvaro Uribe, announced the bilateral security cooperation in a news conference in Bogotá.
Colombia is “a country that shares your government’s efforts to recover security, to defeat drug trafficking and all the crime that surrounds it,” President Uribe told President Calderón. The agreement also addresses economic and cultural matters.
Training and Strategy
The Colombia-Mexico agreement includes the training of more than 11,000 Mexican federal police agents by 2011. Colombian National Police instructors will provide expertise in operations targeting kidnapping and narcotics trafficking.
“Colombia is participating in the instruction of 11,500 police officers from Mexico [and] has brought to the country [Colombia] nearly 156 police commanders of different Mexican states to train them in police services administration management,” Colombia’s national police chief, Gen. Óscar Naranjo, told the news agency Reuters in December 2009.
“We are working on intelligence and judicial assistance matters with the attorney’s office and the district attorney’s office, providing a two-pronged effort between Colombia and Mexico against drug traffickers that has resulted in important blows against them,” Gen. Naranjo added. President Calderón stressed the experience the Colombian police force has in forming anti-kidnapping units, according to the Mexican newspaper El Universal. One of President Calderón’s initial responses to the violence in his country was the creation of anti-kidnapping squads in 2008.
A few years ago, drug cartels, gang members and guerrilla fighters terrorized Colombian citizens, carrying out kidnappings, slayings and bombings.
Successful strategies, such as increasing the number of urban and rural security forces and providing rewards for information leading to the capture of traffickers, have reduced the violence. The Colombian anti-narcotic strategies dealt a blow to the leaders of the Medellín and Cali cartels and guerrilla groups.
Aside from collaborating with Mexico, the Colombian National Police have also trained agents from other countries as part of the government’s plan to defeat criminal organizations worldwide.
As part of the Colombia-Mexico training, 4,500 Mexican police from cities such as Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Mexico City and the port of Manzanillo received instruction, according to the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. Baja California police officers attended training sessions in Colombia at the anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion school of the Colombian National Police. The program included classes on drug interdiction, intelligence, police investigative techniques and hostage negotiation, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
The training is directed by a special operations unit, the Unified Action Groups for Personal Freedom (Grupos de Acción Unificada por la Libertad Personal), or GAULA. The elite unit was created in 1996 to combat kidnapping and extortion and is made up of personnel from the Colombian National Police and Military Forces of Colombia. The unit has helped reduce kidnappings in the country. From 2000 to 2008, kidnappings decreased 85 percent, from 2,882 victims to 437, according to the Colombian Army website www.ejercito.mil.co. Currently, Colombia has 34 GAULA groups: 15 with the national police in cities and 19 units with the armed forces coordinating actions in rural areas.
As part of the agreement between Colombia and Mexico, the Federal Police Intelligence Center was inaugurated in Mexico City in November 2009. Colombia’s Antinarcotics Jungle Company provided consulting on the logistic capabilities for the center’s infrastructure. The center is part of the Public Security Secretariat and serves as the headquarters for Platform Mexico, a new International Interconnection Network of Mexico’s municipalities, states, departments and federal government. The network provides timely information to counter criminal organizations, according to the Mexican website www.oem.com.mx.
At the center’s inauguration, President Calderón urged authorities to become involved in the task of exchanging information on crime. He also said that the center is a computer brain “that will enable [the country] to keep a step ahead of crime,” according to the Mexican government website, www.presidencia.gob.mx.
The center’s facility is made up of four modules divided into three levels: security, operations, national alerts and strategic installations. It also connects computing equipment to more than 600 locations throughout states, municipalities and 169 federal police stations, according to the website www.oem.com.mx report. The modern facilities are on par with police facilities in England and Spain, with an information system “impenetrable” to crime, according to Mexican Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna.