Op-ed: Use Brains, not Brawn, to Handle Migrant Crisis

July 14, 2014

By Christopher Wilson and Eric L. Olson

The Hill, 7/14/14

FBchildren-northern-mexico-credit-kelly-donlan2The huge wave of families and unaccompanied children arriving in South Texas from Central America has ignited a debate on how to best dissuade the influx.

Many have proposed managing the problem at the border by beefing up the Border Patrol with more agents. Some have even called for the National Guard to be sent in as a stopgap measure. A case could be made for modest staffing increases to the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley, where the number of overall unauthorized migrant apprehensions has more than doubled since 2011, but it is important to note that adding more boots on the ground would do little or nothing to stem the flow of children across the border.  The real solutions lie in addressing the push factors in the source countries.

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Mexico’s Drug War Made Crisis Worse, Pena Nieto Administration Says

December 21, 2012

Fox News Latino, 12/19/2012

While the approach was praised by some, it’s a far cry from the 80,000-member  corps he promoted on the campaign trail, said Eric Olson, a México analyst at  the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“It reflects that reality is setting in that they don’t have people sitting  idly to join these forces,” he added.

Despite his promises of reform, some human rights experts worry that Peña  Nieto has not been transparent enough with his plans and needs to reveal more  details of his new strategy

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Mexico’s Drug War Takes New Direction

December 21, 2012

Wall Street Journal, 12/17/2012

Olson_EricEric Olson, a Mexico analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, said Mr. Peña Nieto’s emphasis on building Mexico’s institutions over battling drugs could cause concern among U.S. lawmakers who still see stopping the flow of drugs as a primary objective for Mexico. However, he said many policy makers are coming around to Mr. Peña Nieto’s diversified approach.

“It’s not bad idea and frankly more realistic,” he said.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said Monday that it was natural for Mr. Peña Nieto, as an incoming president, to revise security plans.

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Mexico Says Prints Identified Zetas Boss Before Body Disappeared

October 10, 2012

Bloomberg, 10/9/12

Mexican authorities said fingerprints confirmed that a suspect killed in a gun battle two days ago was the top leader of the Zetas cartel before his corpse was stolen from a funeral home by armed commandos…

“It’s a very bizarre situation, so it will raise questions in some people’s minds about what really happened,” said Eric Olson, associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. While a significant blow for the Zetas, Lazcano’s death may lead to more violence in the short-term as the remnants of the group “fight for their own survival and control,” he said.

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Costa Rica: Narco-families emerge as traffickers [in Spanish]

September 25, 2012

Infosurhoy, 9/21/12

Out of the 619 groups distributing drugs in Costa Rica 27.5% of them are made up of families in which all generations distribute drugs.

According to Eric L. Olson, Assistant Director of the Mexico Institutue at the Woodrow Wilson Center, this is similar to what happened in Mexico, for example with the Arellano-Felix and Beltran-Leyva Organizations.  Olson says that he thinks that this is because people are loyal to family and trust them.

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U.S. Shifts Mexico Drug Fight

September 18, 2012

The Wall Street Journal, 9/17/12

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets her Mexican counterparts at a security summit in Washington Tuesday to discuss the next phase in the drug war: how to train the judges and prosecutors that will be trying suspected drug lords.

The Merida Initiative, the U.S.’s $1.9 billion assistance program to Mexico, began mostly as a means to buy military hardware like Black Hawk helicopters for Mexico. But over the past two years, it has entered a new phase, in which purchases for the Mexican military are taking a back seat to measures to mend the branches of Mexico’s civilian government…

Despite the collaboration, one reality can’t be avoided when the leaders meet Tuesday: Mexico still has a long way to go in this second phase of the drug war.

Eric L. Olson, a Mexico expert at Washington think-tank the Wilson Center went to an oral trial in Morelos, one of the first adopters of the new system, and says the hearings reached an awkward moment where a judge was scolding the attorneys for wanting to read from sheets rather than argue properly.

Mr. Olson says the proceedings were a step in the right direction, even if there are missteps. Still, he says: “Both sides have always had difficulty defining what the criteria for success are,” he says. “That has not happened yet.”

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Troubles Vex Mexico Crime-Fighting Force

September 11, 2012

The Wall Street Journal, 9/9/12

The incidents are an embarrassing setback for Mr. Calderón, who has hailed the creation of the Federal Police as the future of Mexican policing and one of his biggest accomplishments since taking power in 2006. His government created the force three years ago out of a smaller, existing agency and it was meant to be a trustworthy counterbalance to Mexico’s many local and state police…

The agency relied heavily on the use of lie detector tests to vet new recruits. But many police commanders felt the Mexican officials in charge of the polygraph tests weren’t well enough trained, said Daniel Sabet, a Georgetown University researcher who was invited by the federal police to evaluate its disciplinary system last year…

While vetting new recruits is important, the police also lack a robust internal-affairs department, said Eric L. Olson, who has studied the Mexican Federal Police at the Washington-based think tank Wilson Center.

Mr. Olsen says that as of last year, roughly 95% of the internal investigations under way at the agency involved administrative issues like officers not wearing uniforms or showing up to work. The agency had recently set up a program to catch corrupt cops through sting operations, but had only employed it twice—in both cases to catch police who were asking for minor bribes on roads outside of the industrial hub of Monterrey, Mr. Olson said.

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Mexico Institute Event: The Peace Movement in Mexico: Efforts to bring justice to the victims of violence in the country

September 5, 2012

Woodrow Wilson Center Mexico Institute

In the midst of the drug-related violence that has resulted in over 50,000 deaths since 2006, Mexican civil society has begun to mobilize as an energized peace movement and thousands have marched across Mexico to demand an end to the violence, a change in security policy and justice for the victims. This August, the movement took its march to the United States. On August 12, 2012 the Peace Caravan left San Diego. We are pleased to be hosting members of the movement on September 11 at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

The event will occur on September 11, 2012  from 8:30am —  10:00am.

To RSVP click Here

Americans Shot in Mexico Were C.I.A. Operatives Aiding in Drug War

August 29, 2012

The New York Times, 8/28/12

The two Americans who were wounded when gunmen fired on an American Embassy vehicle last week were Central Intelligence Agency employees sent as part of a multiagency effort to bolster Mexican efforts to fight drug traffickers, officials said on Tuesday.

The two operatives, who were hurt on Friday, were participating in a training program that involved the Mexican Navy. They were traveling with a Mexican Navy captain in an embassy sport utility vehicle that had diplomatic license plates, heading toward a military shooting range 35 miles south of the capital when gunmen, some or all of them from the Federal Police, attacked the vehicle, Mexican officials have said.

Eric Olson, an expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s MexicoInstitute in Washington, said the shooting could only sow some doubts about the police, and at best pointed to a lack of communication among Mexico’s military and the police.

“This seems to suggest there isn’t better communication between the various elements of the Mexican government,” he said. “One fundamental issue is the lack of trust.”

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Global State of Security in the US/Mexico Border Region Explored in New Report

August 24, 2012

Homeland Security Today, 8/23/12

A new paper released this month hopes to establish a “framework for measuring border security” that will “begin to set a base line for measuring border security between the United States and Mexico…”

The working paper, The State of Security in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region, explores these challenges and some potential solutions, will be published this fall as a chapter in the forthcoming State of the Border Report that seeks to provide a comprehensive yet accessible look at the state of affairs in border management and the border region, focusing on four core areas: trade and economic development, security, sustainability, and quality of life.

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