HomeNewsAnalysisUS-Based Security Contractors Expand Operations in Mexico
ANALYSIS

US-Based Security Contractors Expand Operations in Mexico

MERIDA INITIATIVE / 3 MAR 2011 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

With Mexico’s drug violence breaking records, a number of United States-based security companies are expanding operations in the country. Although many of these firms are highly involved in counter-narcotics efforts there, some in the U.S. are concerned about their effect on law enforcement efforts and their relatively low level of oversight.

In 2008, an anonymous United States embassy official in Mexico told Reuters that the majority of the $1.8 billion Merida Initiative would go to American security contractors like DynCorps and Northrop Grumman, who have been hired to spray illicit drugs, work in government ministries and help train army and police forces. However, an exact breakdown of the funding provided by the Merida Initiative is unavailable, as the Defense and State Departments have refused to release this information to the general public.

This lack of transparency has some concerned that defense contractors - a controversial industry - may be expanding their role in Washington's anti-drug policy in Latin America.  At a Senate hearing last May, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill admonished the U.S. Defense and State Departments for not accounting for the billions of dollars spent on private contractors in the region, and threatened to issue subpoenas against them.

"We asked for this information from the State Department and the Defense Department more than three months ago,” said McCaskill. “Despite our repeated requests, neither department has been able to answer our questions yet."

In addition to the American security contractors working in Mexico, U.S.-based kidnapping negotiating businesses are also increasing their operations in the country. Kidnappings in Mexico are at an all-time high, and just last year there were documented 1,847 cases in the country. This spike in kidnapping has prompted a “boom” in business for companies offering ransom negotiating services to wealthy families and firms, as a recent Washington Post article notes.

However, this trend may be causing kidnapping cases to go unreported, as these firms represent (for those who can afford it) a safer alternative to Mexico’s notoriously corrupt police. In fact, many American citizens living in the border area and who have relatives that have been kidnapped are also turning to private companies instead of the police.

According to former Chula Vista, California police commander Capt. Leonard Miranda, these private companies have the potential to disrupt U.S. and Mexican investigations into drug trafficking.  "I think we should be very concerned that families in our communities are being victimized and that U.S. law enforcement has a limited capacity to track how often it's happening," he told the Post.

Still, although many of these firms employ former FBI and CIA agents as consultants and have reputations for being more effective than law enforcement, they themselves are not immune from the dangers of crime in Mexico. Felix Batista, an anti-kidnapping advisor for ASI Global LLC was himself kidnapped in Coahuila in December 2008. Batista’s family has not heard from his abductors since.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 11 MAR 2011

A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) discusses money laundering issues between the U.S. and Mexico, and how…

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 FEB 2021

A dozen police officers have been implicated in the massacre of 19 people along the US-Mexico border at the end…

HOMICIDES / 10 AUG 2015

The recent release of murder statistics for 2014 in Mexico reveals that the North's longstanding role as the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.