Longmire Consulting: Hard Data and Tough Words

S. Longmire headshot

border insecurity coverWhen CNN, Fox and Univisión need an expert on Mexican drug wars or U.S. border security, Sylvia Longmire’s name is on all their go-to lists. In both the public and private sectors, Longmire is sought out for advice, presentations and expert witness in Mexican immigration cases. Her first book, Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, debuted in September, 2011. The Spanish version followed in 2012. Her second book, Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren’t Making Us Safer, hit the market two weeks ago.

In an interview for “The Other Side of the Peso,” Longmire was quick to point out that she is an analyst, not a journalist. “It’s my job to sift through all the raw data being provided by the people who are on the ground and provide a comprehensive analysis that’s more broad in nature, and looks at things like trends and patterns,” says the founder of Longmire Consulting. Her conclusions can leave both American and Mexican politicians uneasy.

Cartel cover As the bilingual, first-generation daughter of Cuban immigrants who fled the island after Castro’s takeover, Longmire grew up in Florida. After the University of Miami and Air Force ROTC, she began active duty as a second lieutenant in 1997. She earned a master’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, then worked as a counterterrorism analyst and Latin America desk officer for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

I asked Longmire to sum up her latest book and what has changed since her first one. “Border Insecurity is about our government’s inability to develop a comprehensive border security strategy due to its failure to define what a secure border looks like, and to prioritize the actual national security threats that stem from our borders. We have spent roughly $90 billion on border security in the last decade, and the drugs and people are still coming across. I think that’s largely due to human mismanagement and the lack of political will to make some hard decisions about immigration reform and resource allocation. Unfortunately, the changes since Cartel haven’t been good ones. Cartels are more involved than ever in human smuggling and exploiting vulnerable immigrants. Drug smugglers continue to confront US law enforcement agents on US soil, and our government is still failing to make Mexico’s drug war and border security a national priority.”

If you think Longmire’s assertions sound alarmist, consider a March article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, reprinted in the local newspaper here in Monterey, California. Over 70 panga boats used by drug runners had been seized along the California coast in the previous six months. One of those was at Monastery Beach, within twenty minutes of my house and literally across two-lane Highway One from the Carmelite Monastery and its cloistered nuns.

“We have to acknowledge there’s a problem,” Longmire says, “and start viewing them (the cartels) as the criminal insurgency they really are.” In 2009, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met in Mexico with Mexican President Felipe Calderón, she was criticized for saying, “We know very well that the drug traffickers are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States and that they are armed by the transport of weapons from the United States.”

Longmire takes the argument further. “As long as those drugs are illegal and the black market for them exists, cartels will continue to supply them—and kill to make money off of them. We are a self-medicated culture with little real sympathy for those our national drug habit impacts. As long as our society keeps popping pills and altering our minds for pleasure or escape, this problem will continue.” If this tempts you to write Longmire off as a left-leaning liberal, hang on. She was a contributor to Glenn Beck’s 2012 Cowards: What Politicians, Radicals, and the Media Refuse to Say.

Here’s an analyst whose reputation—and bread and butter—involve strong lectures to American and Mexican politicians. Her unwavering messages, which she backs up with hard statistics, are ones many Americans would like to ignore. So, how did she make it into “The Other Side of the Peso—Mexican Success Stories”?

Nobody can make a career of studying a country and a culture without developing admiration and respect for certain aspects. When I put the question to Longmire, she cited the vibrancy of the Mexican people and their culture, the pride they take in their country. She gave an example any Latin American resident would understand. “Mexico’s appearance in a FIFA or World Cup tournament can rally the whole country and help them forget about the drug war for a while.”

For Mexicans, the drug war has been long and costly. Longmire’s analyses and conclusions provide a ray of hope because, these days, a lot of people are listening.

S. Longmire and Tavis SmileyPhoto to the right: Sylvia Longmire in an April 29, 2014 interview on PBS’s Tavis Smiley show. Below, the official trailer for Border Insecurity. All media courtesy of Sylvia Longmire.

 

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