May 25, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Mexico's drug war escalates

President Felipe Calderon has continued the determined military offensive against the narco-lords that terrorize much of Mexico, with mixed results. Last week 22 people died in gun battles between police, Army soldiers, and the henchmen of drug traffickers in the Mexican state of Sonora. This week a newspaper in that state shut down operations after its offices were attacked with explosives twice since April. Cambio Sonora had boldly exposed drug traffickers, and paid heavily for it. Their concession to intimidation is obviously a sad setback in the war against narcotics trade. See BBC. This virtual low-level counter-insurgency campaign taking place just across our southern border is the context in which the battle over immigration in the United States is being waged. If the U.S. government tries too hard to accommodate Mexico's demands for freer access to the United States, it will take the pressure off them to reform, but if we refuse to make any compromises at all, it will undercut the government of Felipe Calderon, who is friendly toward Washington. We can't afford to lose an ally in a neighboring country, even an ally who is on shaky ground.

Ingrid Betancourt in chains

Last month, a Colombian police officer named Jhon (!) Frank Pinchao escaped from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after eight years in captivity, and after 17 days of trudging through the jungles, he reached safety just last week. Thanks to him, we now know more about the conditions under which hostage Ingrid Betancourt, who once ran for president, is being held. She has been shackled in chains, as punishment for having tried to escape. Betancourt was captured in 2002 while campaign swing through southern Colombia. President Alvaro Uribe expressed outrage at the condition to which the leftist guerrillas are subjecting their prisoners, and vowed to redouble efforts to locate Betancourt, three Americans, and other hostages of FARC. See . There were rumors that she might be released as part of a prisoner exchange about a year ago, but nothing came of it. The fact that FARC has shown little or no interest in bargaining for the release of their hostages, but prefer simply to keep them as an asset for eventual use, is another example of the low value they have for human life.