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Brewer: Violence on U.S.

-Mexico border is terrorism

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Brewer: Violence on U.S.-Mexico border is terrorism



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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Tony Garza, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, recently described a brutal gun battle that took place on July 28 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, between "armed criminal groups," as having "included unusually advanced weapons." This since the combatants used an arsenal that combined automatic weapons, bazookas and hand grenades, in the attack on an apparent safe house of one drug cartel by those of another. Actually hundreds of different caliber shells were later found at the war zone-like scene, along with AK-47 rifles, handguns, and ski masks. And if that is not disturbing enough, a state police officer who asked not to be identified said that investigators found numerous photographs of municipal police officers at the residence an apparent hit list of officials sentenced to death. Further intelligence revealed that each of the photographs listed the officer's name and assigned location, along with maps to their homes. As a result of this firefight and other killings, kidnappings and crimes in the violence-torn city across the border from Laredo, Garza said the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo would be closed, temporarily at least. And then, on Aug. 5, Nuevo Laredo City Councilman Leopoldo Ramos Ortega was shot dead as he innocently sat in his truck. Ramos also chaired the council's security committee. Yet after meeting with Mexican officials, Garza announced that the consulate would reopen Aug. 8. Immediately following the cartels' shootout in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico's presidential spokesman, Ruben Aguilar said federal efforts to stop the violence in Nuevo Laredo "have been successful." (1 of 3)10/20/2005 8:06:52 AM

Brewer: Violence on U.S.-Mexico border is terrorism

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But to those without rose-colored glasses, the attacks and the death toll continue to mount at an alarming rate, and the sophistication and firepower of the Mexican Mafiosos are astounding. Officials are quick to call this a war between rival drug cartels, and they brazenly state that Americans are not targets of the violence. Yet U.S. Border Patrol agents are being fired upon, and U.S. border-area police officials are witnessing Mexican paramilitary types escorting drug shipments north onto U.S. soil. The targeting of law enforcement officials on both sides of the border, and specifically the planning and routine execution of Nuevo Laredo police officers and city officials, shows that the specter of terrorism is hiding out in the open along our national border with Mexico, although not everyone sees this clearly. Terrorists are ideologically, politically or issue oriented. They commonly work in small, well-organized groups or cells. They are sophisticated, skilled with weapons and attack strategies, and they possess efficient planning capabilities. And the differing types of terrorists pose national, international and paramilitary threats. The attacks on Mexican and U.S. soil, along with the paramilitary sightings, should convince U.S. and Mexican officials, as well as the public at large, that these are terrorist attacks. Must there be suicide-homicide bombers to convince us that these are terrorist acts? The U.S. embassy has offered to help reorganize the Tamaulipas state police. There is a lot of talk on both sides about swiftly bringing the situation under control a lot of kneejerk lip service. However, there can be no reasonable expectation of any police force in Mexico having, or acquiring on its own, the resources necessary to effectively fight gangs and groups that are so well-armed, trained and financed. These terrorists pose an immediate threat to anyone who attempts to stop or control them. They have clearly demonstrated that they are bold and resourceful and will intimidate, kidnap, torture and kill anyone who is in conflict with them. Misdiagnosing and ignoring the symptoms of this plague will continue to prove disastrous, for these criminals and wannabes-to-follow will exploit every weakness in pursuit of their goals. As the U.S. government continues to assess the risk to citizens and consulate offices in Nuevo Laredo, the Counter-Terrorism Center of the Central Intelligence Agency, and its Latin America division, have their work cut out for them. A week certainly could not give them a "snapshot" of the overall border problem. Operational and vulnerability assessments take time. Operational planning and execution to identify high-risk personnel, and to effectively counter potential hostile activity, should be the mandate. Country surveys and facility/personnel assessments, although needed and probably outdated, require a systematic, diligent effort. The findings should result in recommendations of ways to neutralize our vulnerabilities, and we should be quick to implement them. The United States must take a stand in protecting this border, as well as U.S.-based businesses and their employees living in Mexico. Brewer is vice president of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm headquartered in Montgomery, Ala. He can be reached via e-mail at

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Brewer: Violence on U.S.-Mexico border is terrorism

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