US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has announced a contingency plan for civilian and possibly military law enforcement on the border of the US and Mexico. The announcement has come in response to escalating drug-related violence in Mexico, and fears it will spill across the border and target US nationals.
“We completed a contingency plan for border violence, so if we did get a significant spillover, we have a surge — if I may use that word — capability to bring in our own assets,” Chertoff told the New York Times.
Drug-related criminal activity in Mexico caused more than 5,300 deaths in 2008. Victims included members of warring cartels, law enforcement officials and bystanders, often not far from the border. Mexican president Felipe Calderón is facing a problematic year in office due to the coming midterm elections and a slowing economy, as well as having to take on already unprecedented levels of drug-related violence.
These latest developments have come at a frustrating time as the US increases efforts towards the Merida Initiative, a US$1.4bn programme aimed at providing Mexico with technology, training and military equipment.
A US intelligence official based along the Texas border warned that US officials, businessmen and journalists will “become targets, if they’re not already”, and suggested that attacks are likely to hit in the form of car bombs placed outside consulate offices and embassies.
Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor and expert on terrorism, said: “The situation hasn’t yet registered in the mind-set of Americans, but it will, especially when Americans become the target.” US nationals travelling to Mexico have been advised to check State Department travel alerts.