Patterico's Pontifications

9/12/2007

“Something Has Changed” in Mexico

Filed under: Immigration,Terrorism — DRJ @ 8:32 am



[Guest post by DRJ]

The Houston Chronicle reports disturbing news about Mexico’s recent pipeline explosions (discussed initially in this post):

“Volkswagen’s only manufacturing plant in North America and hundreds of other foreign and domestic factories shut down operations today after attacks on the national oil company’s pipelines cut their natural gas supplies. Industry officials estimated the losses from both the attacks and subsequent precautionary shutdowns at close to $90 million. Petroleos Mexicanos chief Jesus Reyes said it would cause hundreds of millions of dollars in production losses for the state-owned oil company and affect 10 states.

The six explosions Monday did not cause any directly related injuries or affect major oil installations, but both industry and national-security experts say the small shadowy leftist group that claimed responsibility has proved it is a force to be reckoned with. “The sophistication required to plan, coordinate and execute these explosions shows that the perpetrators have the technical capability of turning these episodes into either terrorist attacks or industrial sabotage,” George Baker, a Houston, Texas-based energy analyst who follows Pemex closely, wrote in a report sent to news media.

The Revolutionary People’s Army, or EPR, a secretive Marxist group that killed dozens of police and soldiers during attacks in the late 1990s, claimed responsibility for the explosions in a note left with an undetonated explosive device in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, a state police officer who was not authorized to be quoted by name told The Associated Press on Monday. Mexican newspapers today published photographs showing an additional message the group painted on a Pemex pipeline.

The group had been weakened by internal divisions and was largely inactive in recent years. “But something has changed because now they have the capacity to attack pipelines,” said Mexican national-security analyst Jorge Chabat. “They’re acting outside their regular sphere of influence and that is a problem.”

This attack comes on the heels of “a wave of bomb attacks on energy pipelines” in July 2007 by the same group that disrupted natural gas supplies to thousands of businesses.

To summarize: A Mexican revolutionary group that was largely inactive managed to pull off two terrorist events this summer that significantly damaged Mexico’s natural gas infrastructure. Where did this group’s improved capability come from?

One possibility is al Qaeda:

“FBI director Robert Mueller told Congress [on March 8, 2005] that people from countries with ties to Al Qaeda have crossed into the United States from Mexico, using false identities. ”We are concerned, homeland security is concerned about special interest aliens entering the United States,” Mueller said, using a term for people from countries where Al Qaeda is active.

Under persistent questioning from Representative John Culberson, Republican of Texas, Mueller said he was aware of one route that takes people to Brazil, where they assume false identities, and then to Mexico before crossing the US border. He also said that in some instances people with Middle Eastern names have adopted Hispanic last names before trying to get into the United States. Mueller provided no estimate of the number of people who have entered the country in this manner.

Bush administration officials have previously said Al Qaeda could try to infiltrate the United States through the Mexican border. In recent congressional testimony, Admiral James Loy, deputy Homeland Security secretary, said Al Qaeda operatives believe they can pay to get into the country through Mexico and that entering illegally is ”more advantageous than legal entry.”

Food for thought.

— DRJ

39 Responses to ““Something Has Changed” in Mexico”

  1. DRJ,

    Reading your earlier post about the Mexican truck carrying explosives which exploded, I wondered that ammonium nitrate can be “cooked” to detonation. This post is making me consider other possibilities.

    nk (474afa)

  2. This sounds akin to several plots in the US that were thwarted, plans to bomb the fuel supply lines for JFK airport being one of them.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  3. How hard is it to attack a pipeline?

    alphie (99bc18)

  4. Actually, I think it’s pretty hard – especially with natural gas pipelines. The vast majority are buried except at the wellhead and at an uplift or processing facility. Pipelines are made of very durable, layered materials. There are valves that shut-off production in the case of a rupture, blockage, etc., so you have to know where to hit the pipeline to do more than minimal damage. And this is all for starters. I’m sure there’s more to it than this but I’m not an expert in pipelines or in blowing them up.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  5. Memo to Whites: Leave…

    This seems to be a recurring theme throughout the Western world (via Ilana Mercer:) M…

    The Lion Of Judah (f26c81)

  6. In recent congressional testimony, Admiral James Loy, deputy Homeland Security secretary, said Al Qaeda operatives believe they can pay to get into the country through Mexico and that entering illegally is ”more advantageous than legal entry.”

    “Recent?”

    Two years earlier (2003), Sen. Schumer wrote Admiral Loy proposing GPS devices be placed on all trucks carrying hazardous fuels or chemicals:

    “If a terrorist planned an attack using a truck carrying dangerous chemicals or fuel, authorities would quickly be able to tell that the shipment was off course, pinpoint the location of the truck, and stop the attack,” Schumer wrote in a letter to Admiral James Loy.

    http://www.senate.gov/~schumer/SchumerWebsite/pressroom/press_releases/PR01807.html

    How far down memory lane do we need to go to conclude our borders are porous and the Administration has been intolerably inept.

    steve (9d7c3b)

  7. “Ok, repeat after me, guys: ‘Oye, vato!'”

    mojo (8096f2)

  8. Even before there was a 911, there were people employed by the petroleum industry to monitor the security and safety of gas and oil pipelines in the US.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  9. AlQaeda using coyote routes to get operatives into the US is quite different from working inside Mexico with a native group that is not only nonIslamic but also Marxist. So AlQaeda may be doing one but not the other. Of course, it may be doing both. I’m not discounting DRJ’s theory.

    Another possible source is Venezuela. Mexico is both an economic rival (petroleum) and one of two countries in IberoAmerica (the other is Brazil) which can claim to be the foremost nation in Latin America. The Bolivaran Republican of Venezuela of course wants that position for itself, and Chavez is a Marxist in everything but name, so it would be sensible for him to support a Marxist group. He certainly has the petrodollars now, and with a native petroleum industry could easily provide some, if not all, of the expertise needed for attacks on the gas infrastructure. (And notice that the other attack was also related to gas.)
    Furthermore, the group’s quiescence for the last fifteen years may be a result of internal Mexican politics. When Fox was elected, people had the feeling that Mexico’s ruling institutions could change peacefully and through normal political means, and that Fox’s part was a genuine opposition that could put the change into reality. That has faded over the years, as the IRP maintains itself, and Fox became something like the IRP under a different name. Support for the EPR (if it is actually the same group, and not a new one that has taken the name for itself) presumably has waned and waxed accordingly.

    kishnevi (b2082f)

  10. Good points, kishnevi.

    I guess terrorist networks are just that, be they AQ networks or Marxist or other. Blowing up fuel supply routes is not patented, or ada would have the pulse on it and everything would be under control.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  11. […] for Patterico, DRJ thinks the coordinated serial blasts suggest Al-Qaeda […]

    Hot Air » Blog Archive » Marxican insurgents blow gas pipelines in Veracruz (d4224a)

  12. Found some pictures of the pipelines that are being guarded for the next 48 hours here:

    http://www.notiver.com.mx/index.php?id=84645

    Looks like anyone with a stick of dynomite could easily take them out.

    alphie (99bc18)

  13. Alphie,

    It would be easy to attack a connection like the one in the photo but the article states the damages are $90M. That suggests these explosions occurred at a pumping station (or something similar) that is more substantial and expensive to repair.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  14. The $90 million figure comes from lost production at factories served by the pipelines, DRJ, not to the pipeline itself.

    alphie (99bc18)

  15. Kishnevi,

    It makes sense that Chavez and others have motives to help groups like this. I wasn’t suggesting that al Qaeda must be involved to the exclusion of others. It’s also possible that no one else was involved and the group did this on its own.

    Still, it interests me that within the past 2 years there have been reports of al Qaeda using Mexico as a conduit for personnel and now there are reports that a local revolutionary group has developed new capabilities. This group decided to hit the pipelines and found a way to obtain the materials and know-how to do it. I wonder why/how that happened.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  16. Alphie,

    I read the article to say the losses from the explosions and accompanying shutdowns are $90M. The production losses are “hundreds of millions.”

    DRJ (4725f3)

  17. Staunch Brayer not reading the article you linked to, DRJ? Say it isn’t so!

    Paul (5efd01)

  18. I think you’re right, DRJ.

    No way to tell how much of the $90 million is actual damage to the pipeline and how much is lost sales, though.

    As to the why, one story said the group was trying to free two of their members from Mexican jails.

    Another story says it was Mexican oil workers involved in some kind of labor dispute…

    alphie (99bc18)

  19. Another story says it was Mexican oil workers involved in some kind of labor dispute…

    If this is true, and they blew up their workplace over a labor dispute, they are fools.

    Paul (5efd01)

  20. I think this is a confusing topic, Alphie, and it seems the government is keeping a tight lid on what happened and where it happened, so it’s even harder to make informed judgments. In large part, I’m relying on the experts quoted in the article and making some informed guesses based on things I know about natural gas pipelines. The truth may be more or less cause for concern.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  21. Food for Thought — Hugo Chavez has signed several deals with Iran to share military hardware and technology, and has aligned Venezuela with Iran re: foreign policy. Ahmadinejad had a state visit there recently where he was warmly received. Chavez stated that he and Iran were allied against the US and it’s interests in the region.

    If THAT is not a direct rebuke to the Monroe Doctrine (Venezuela finding Iran it’s protector) ala the Soviet Union’s nuclear missiles in Cuba I don’t know what is.

    Jim Rockford (e09923)

  22. DRJ,

    I think the desire to become a terrorist is the most worrisome thing.

    Once someone has made that decision, it’s pretty easy for them to figure out how to wreak havoc on a society.

    alphie (99bc18)

  23. Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It seems Alphie likes to simply make comments to be oppositional and irritating. I know this is news to no one, and there are different thoughts on how to respond.

    Once again, he has linked a “so-what” story with a “what is your point?” message.

    You follow the link and you see a series of pictures of above-ground gas pipeline junctions, surrounded by fence, with a guard in battle gear and an assault rifle. Alphie’s comment was, “Looks like anyone with a stick of dynamite could easily take them out.”

    Sure, anyone who wants to drive-by shoot and kill the guard and toss a stick of dynamite over the fence has disrupted a natural gas pipeline.

    Many real bad things can be done in a free or semi-free society. For a moment, just think of any major city expressway full of traffic and a petroleum tank truck comes along. A sniper takes out the driver, there is an accident involving many fatalities and injuries from the collisions alone, and if the tanker leaks or ruptures then you have an explosion or fire, perhaps with secondary explosions from gas tanks of cars caught in the wreckage. Do the attack just before the underpass of a crossing expressway and maybe cause double-decker havoc.

    One of the plans in the NJ/NYC area was stopped because the terrorists took a training tape to a commercial enterprise to have it duplicated. An employee let his boss/authorities know about it. It is fortunate that the number of suicidal and brilliant sociopaths in the world is limited, no matter what political affiliation they claim.

    Alphie, I seem to remember you posted some helpful and thoughtful comments at least once. Could you please return to contributing things that add to the discussion, even if you have a different point of view, instead of being a thorn or burr in the saddle.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  24. Alphie,

    I just made a post expressing my loss of patience with you, specifically wondering what your point was in #12. I am still not sure what your point was, nor am I interested in pursuing it at the moment.

    However, that post has not appeared (am I getting censored??), but part of it was exactly your point in #22. We agree on that.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  25. An attack on a pipeline (even natural gas) would not be all that complicated IF you knew where to hit. No matter what devices you put on a system, there are simple ways to damage a line without even harming the ‘safety’ parts. No matter what you do, if you break a line, you will lose whats in the line before the break (up to the safety) and what’s in the line after the break (again up to the safety).

    The 90m figure does make it seem like they hit a station, but pumping stations are not always monitored to the best of people’s abilities.

    Lord Nazh© (899dce)

  26. MD #23: I checked the comments blocked by the spam filter and there’s nothing there. I’m not sure what happened with your comment but I don’t censor anyone and I’m certain Patterico doesn’t either (without warning, at least).

    Lord Nazh #24: I agree with your comment. We don’t know how well PEMEX monitors its facilities but given its history and recent events, I would be surprised to learn that crucial or expensive facilities are unprotected.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  27. DRJ-

    Thank you for your attention to the matter, but when I mentioned “being censored” it was more tongue-in-cheek than a serious comment.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  28. DRJ: I agree, although it might not have been at an ‘expensive’ facility at all, and even if was a ‘expensive-to-replace’ facility, it might not have been considered that beforehand. Sometimes you protect what you think is expensive only to find out what really is 🙂

    [there are pumping stations and then there are Pumping Stations, if you know what I mean]

    Lord Nazh© (899dce)

  29. MD: My comment sounded defensive and I didn’t mean it that way. I was trying to reassure you that I don’t think it was anything on this end. My guess is there is some kind of internet/server problem because it seemed like P’s site was down for a couple of hours this afternoon. It might be related to that.

    Lord Nazh: After 9/11, Americans should be the last ones to claim anyone “should have known it would happen” but PEMEX is pretty good at security. My guess, and it is a guess, is there may have been some inside help.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  30. Sent to our host on 9/10/2007 @ 1013-hrs…
    Patrick: AQM (as the NYT calls them)…

    Not Mesopotamia, but Mexico.
    25-tons of truck-borne dynamite, plus oil-pipeline sabotage (radio reports)?
    Rebel groups, or AQM?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  31. I agree DRJ, but I’m not saying they didn’t know it was going to happen, just that they thought it would happen somewhere else.

    PEMEX is usually very good at security, and indeed may point to an inside job. The only way to know for sure is after an investigation of course.

    Lord Nazh© (899dce)

  32. DRJ-

    Not to worry. I didn’t take it as your being defensive, just straight forward and clear.

    Communication over the Internet has the advantage of a time delay, one can compose thoughts and give self-control a chance to kick-in when upset; but it has the great disadvantage of being devoid of body language, tone and inflection of voice, etc., that contributes greatly to communication. Emoticons can help, but only that.

    I am sure there is some kind of server problem, as it occasionally happens. What is really curious is if I have copied the message and try to resend it, sometimes I will get some other page that tells me “You already said that”.

    MD in Philly (3d3f72)

  33. I think there was a problem for a couple of hours. Right in the middle of the day, my visits per hour plunged to half of what they were immediately before or after. Not sure why.

    Patterico (2a8eaa)

  34. Alphie #22:

    I think the desire to become a terrorist is the most worrisome thing.
    Once someone has made that decision, it’s pretty easy for them to figure out how to wreak havoc on a society.

    I agree but it’s up to government, industry and citizens to make informed decisions regarding how to deploy resources to best protect the infrastructure. Just as air bags are designed to protect the head and torso instead of arms and legs, we can evaluate the targets and plan accordingly.

    Seeing the photos you linked, it seems Mexico is taking steps to protect its pipelines by posting guards at some locations but it may be too little too late. And, as you point out, it’s probably impossible to deploy resources in a way that prevents all terrorism.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  35. DRJ,

    I ran the article through babelfish (my Spanish is very rusty) and it looks like those guards are only there for 48 hours…and the bill for them is being paid by the state of Veracruz.

    alphie (99bc18)

  36. I think so, too. My Spanish is limited but I could read enough to see that the guards are a short-term gesture, probably to reassure people who live near pipelines in urban and semi-urban areas. But I still think, or at least I hope, that the larger facilities will get enhanced security from now on.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  37. Bravo, Kishnevi #9. Mexican intelligence says Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is financing the Mexican revolutionary group responsible for the pipeline bombings.

    DRJ (4725f3)

  38. […] Comment on “Something Has Changed” in Mexico by DRJ Bravo, Kishnevi #9. Mexican intelligence says Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is financing the Mexican revolutionary group responsible for the pipeline bombings…. […]

    Finance » Comment on “Something Has Changed” in Mexico by DRJ (ba4f2a)

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