The future of Mexican intelligence is in the hands of a select group of twenty- and thirty-somethings. They aren’t your typical cops or spies, most have degrees in psychology, computer science and sociology from Mexico’s top universities.
They make up half the staff of the newly created Fusion Intelligence Center (not to be confused with this media outlet that also targets millennials) which occupies the first floor of Mexico's intelligence agency, the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) building. High-ranking government sources explain the purpose of the Fusion Center is to coordinate the intelligence coming out of Mexico’s most important security agencies including the Navy, Army, Attorney General’s Office, CISEN, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Police.
This millennial intelligence effort against drug cartels is spearheaded by a woman in her early thirties. She’s attracting young and promising talent by offering salaries between $2,000 and $2,500 a month and opportunities to quickly move up the ladder. Authorities hope better educated recruits will be less likely to accept bribes, even though the government is fighting well-financed rivals.
Secrecy is a top priority for those working in the group. Officials tell me no outside cellphones or devices are allowed inside the Fusion center. A visitor must clear four security checkpoints before reaching the premises, which decades ago used to be an hacienda.
New recruits and administrators must be careful. Mexican cartels are known to make no distinctions and there are no rules in this war. The state learned the hard way back in 2009 when the family of a deceased marine, who was killed in the operation that took out drug lord Arturo Beltran-Leyva, was assassinated by avenging cartel hitmen.
Top officials describe the Fusion center as something out of a scene in a Hollywood spy movie. Maps cover the walls. Yes, the kind you might see in a detective flick. So do pictures of cartel bosses and their lieutenants, all linked by threads that ultimately give shape to a criminal pyramid. The photograph at the peak changes constantly.
The center has an entire wing devoted to monitoring social networks. Today, 50 percent of investigations are built on open sources of information drawn from Facebook, Twitter and television, radio and newspapers. Intelligence reports also reveal narcos like Rafael Caro Quintero use WhatsApp to send videos and voice notes to communicate with other kingpins.
Not only is the Fusion center at the forefront of incorporating new technologies in the hunt for Mexico’s most wanted, but it is also breaking many of the taboos surrounding American and Mexican cooperation, those which usually get denounced by patriotic cries as breaches of sovereignty.
The young recruits are known to have a direct line of contact with American agencies. They worked together in the capture of Hector Beltran-Leyva, pinpointing the capo’s whereabouts and tracking his moves before he was nabbed at a seafood restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.
An official also reveals that the FBI aided some of these Fusion millennials in tracking down the former mayor of Iguala and his wife, both of whom are accused of masterminding the murder of the 43 Ayotzinapa students.
For now, the center's focus is solely on tracking down fugitives and drug traffickers, and not investigating officials who make take bribes from the cartels - as some critics have called for.
The drug war is increasingly being fought by younger generations. On the criminal side, the sons, nephews and godsons of imprisoned or killed capos are rapidly taking the reigns of the business which is becoming more crude and violent.
But there are also those young minds fighting to regain the country and restore the rule of law. Mexican millennial counterintelligence is now tasked with defining a new era in this ancient conflict.
Carlos Loret de Mola is an award winning Mexican journalist and popular news anchor of Televisa’s “Primero Noticias.” He has served as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, Haiti, Egypt, Syria and Libya and writes for a number of news outlets on issues ranging from the drug war to international politics. Carlos has broken many influential stories about the operations that led to the capture of some of Mexico’s most wanted criminals. In 2001 he wrote the book "The Deal. Mexican economy trapped by drug trafficking." He is a frustrated chef, runner and guitar troubadour… but he keeps trying.