Here is an excerpt from Ramon Bracamontes' article in the El Paso Times:
"In the mid-1990s, the United States began training Mexico's soldiers in hopes of stopping the flow of drugs through Mexico and ending corruption. Some of those trained by U.S. forces formed the Zetas, a criminal organization that works as assassins for one of the drug cartels fighting in Juárez, Mexican law enforcement officials said. Today, the United States is again trying to help Mexico with its drug-cartel problem, and part of the solution could include training Mexico's military and law enforcement officers... Given the history of the program, some question the effectiveness of that policy... Others agree, and as a prime example of training gone wrong, they point to the Zetas. The group was founded by Mexican army deserters, including officers trained by the United States at the military School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga. The Zetas, according to the Chihuahua attorney general's office, are thought to be behind some of the brutal killings in Juárez, which have surpassed 4,700 in two years... U.S. officials counter by saying that this time they would be doing more than just training soldiers. According to the latest proposals of phase two of the Merida Initiative, the United States would vet the Mexican soldiers who are to be trained. Previously, in the 1990s, the Mexican army chose those who came to the United States to train." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This article brings up an interesting point about the potential ramifications of Mexican soldiers and police undergoing training by US agencies. However, there are many distinctions between the situation with the GAFES soldiers who later became Zetas and the people who are going to be trained in the near future.
First, it's very important to understand that Mexican special forces (GAFES) soldiers who were trained at the School of the Americas (many of whom later became Zetas) were not being trained to fight DTOs inside Mexico. The Mexican army was given this mission by President Calderón when he came into office in 2006, so the training they received back then - and now being used against the Mexican military - did not have the same goals that present-day US training would have. Part of the problem the Mexican government is experiencing with all the allegations of human rights abuses by the military is that the army has not been well-trained to deal with narcos as adversaries. I'd like to think that any training provided by US agencies to Mexican soldiers would focus on tactics specific to counterdrug efforts - something most Mexican army soldiers are not familiar with. Another benefit, aside from increasing effectiveness in operations against DTOs, would hopefully be a reduction in human rights abuses.
Second, Mexican police will be receiving US assistance as well, not just the military. Yes, there is a greater likelihood that the cops will be dirty and use that training against Mexican authorities. However, Calderón is trying to nationalize and professionalize his police forces in an attempt to root out massive corruption, and this is a good way to start that process. Also, the Mexican people need to start having more faith in their police forces. Relations between the US and Mexico and the perception of US involvement in Mexican affairs have a sordid past, but US involvement in this particular aspect of the drug war might go a long way towards restoring that faith.
A third distinction you may have missed is that the US will have a hand in selecting who receives the training. Back in the School of the Americas days, the Mexican government chose who attended training. This will help ensure that trainees are vetted as thoroughly as possible, ostensibly to select the best and the brightest for what will likely be perceived as an elite group of trainees.
Mexico has always been slow to ask for our help, mostly as a matter of national pride. But I think this is a good step that (a) doesn't compromise anyone's pride, (b) is a solid bi-national effort, and (c) will hopefully help accomplish some concrete goals. I look forward to seeing how things go when the first round of trainees graduates and is put on the street to test their newfound skills.