THE INDEX — March 15, 2010

Shock waves ripped through the U.S. State Department in the aftermath of a shootout in Mexico that left a U.S. consulate official and her husband dead. The shootings, which happened in Cuidad Juarez, just across Mexico’s border with Texas, were attributed to a surge in drug-related violence along the trafficking routes between Mexico and the United States. According to the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson:  “We take very seriously when our employees are harmed, whether the intention was to harm U.S. employees or not. The question of whether this represents some ratcheting up of the drug war will depend on the reason behind the killings.” On Sunday, FBI agents were sent to Cuidad Juarez to assist State Department officials and the Mexican government in the investigation. This latest spate of drug-related violence comes in the midst of ongoing efforts on the part of Mexican federal authorities to break the country’s drug syndicates. In December 2006, the newly elected Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, made the decision to employ the country’s military in the fight against these gangs, amid growing evidence that local police forces, state bureaucrats, and even federal anti-drug officials had been co-opted by narcotics traffickers. Yet, while Calderón has insisted that the uptick in drug-related violence is a sign of the government’s success in putting pressure on the country’s criminal gangs, others disagree. Former Mexican foreign minister, Jorge Castañeda, said recently, “The Mexican drug war is costly, unwinnable, and predicated on dangerous myths.” Castañeda went onto argue that if President Calderón is serious about pursuing his current strategy of military deployment as a weapon in the drug wars, Mexico would need substantially more military assistance from the United States—much more than the Mexican government finds politically tenable.

For an in-depth look at Mexico’s drug wars, be sure to check out the forthcoming  Spring issue of World Policy Journal, which includes an article by Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone, “Inside Mexico’s Drug War.”

In the wake of a damning report by United Nations Human Rights Council on the causes of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations, together with the United States, formally accused Congo’s military of responsibility for much of the rampant sexual violence in the region. According to the report, which was written by a UN group of experts on Congo: “In North Kivu, an assistance provider for victims of sexual violence recorded 3,106 cases between January and July 2009; half of these cases were perpetrated by FARDC [Congolese military] members." This report on Congo—the second published by the UN in four months—comes in the wake of a December 2009 UN resolution to cease cooperating with Congolese troops amid allegations that the UN, by supporting Congo’s beleaguered army, was indirectly assisting in the perpetration of violence in the region. Until recently, the UN’s humanitarian mission in Congo coordinated many of its activities with Congo’s army.  Over the course of the past year, the UN mission has come under increased scrutiny for its perceived failure to secure Congo’s population centers from a series of massacres that were deemed by external observers to be within the UN’s ability to stave off. The current revelations surrounding the actions of certain brigades within Congo’s military only adds to the criticism of UN activity in the country. In late December 2009, the UN resolved to extend its mission in Congo through May 31, 2010.

For a detailed look at the security crisis in eastern Congo, see World Policy Journal’s online exclusive, “Buying War: Why a Kimberley Process for Congolese “conflict minerals” won’t achieve what its supporters hope.”

The recently signed ceasefire agreement between the government of Sudan and one of Darfur’s main rebel factions may be jeopardized, as other rebel groups enter the fray, sparring with the government over negotiations. On February 23, 2009, the Sudanese government established a framework for peace with one of Darfur’s prominent rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Among the issues addressed were questions surrounding the return of internally displaced persons to their homes and the integration of Darfur rebel fighters into the ranks of the Sudanese military. During Khartoum’s negotiations with JEM, however, other Darfur rebels held separate talks with the government, much to the chagrin of the leaders within JEM, who had originally hoped to unite Darfur’s myriad rebel factions under a single front. As many international observers have noted, much of the political statelmate that continues to plague Darfur has been a result of the factionalism that exists within the region’s military and political leadership.

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