The main players are the "Gulf Cartel," which for years controlled most of the drug traffic along the Texas-Mexico border, and the "Sinaloa Cartel" which launched a campaign to seize control of their rival's distribution routes after several of the Gulf Cartel's leaders were captured by authorities in 2003. According to the Times, the Sinaloa Cartel bribed Mexican officials to get the federales to do their dirty work:
Mr. [Edgar] Valdéz [Villareal] and another lieutenant, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, went to Mexico City in March 2003 with a $1.5-million bribe for Domíngo Gonzalez Díaz, a commander in the Federal Investigations Agency, Mexico's F.B.I., Mexican authorities said. In exchange for the money, the authorities said, Mr. Gonzalez sent a close confidant to command federal forces here, with instructions to provide protection to the Sinaloa Cartel and to help it fight its rivals.They underestimated the resilience of the Gulf Cartel, though, which allegedly controls much of local law enforcement on the border. The Gulf Cartel has also fielded a team of US-trained Mexican special forces deserters known as Los Zetas to up the ante, and the violence. Reported the Times,
[Osiel] Cárdenas, the leader of the Gulf Cartel, managed to keep control of his gang from inside Mexico's main maximum-security prison, La Palma. The Nuevo Laredo police department served almost entirely at his pleasure, federal law authorities said, helping not only protect the Gulf Cartel, but also kidnapping and killing suspected rivals. And a group of special forces officers, known as Los Zetas, who had deserted from the military and served as Mr. Cárdenas's personal security detail when he was out of prison, were deployed to protect the Gulf Cartel's turf - especially Nuevo Laredo.So, in essence, the two main cartels have enlisted federal and local police as stalking horses against their rivals. Indeed, it's hard to know who to fear more, the cops or the drug gangs. Mexican law enforcement officials sound almost nostalgic for the days when the Gulf Cartel ran the whole show, given the brutality of the Sinaloa group and the open warfare now occurring between the cartels. Reported the Times,
The prize is the lucrative land drug routes that carry more than 77 percent of all the cocaine and about 70 percent of all the methamphetamines sold in the United States.
The more experienced drug kingpins, Mexican prosecutors said, were more willing to reach peace among themselves, to respect one another's territories and to stay out of sight in order not to cause trouble for local authorities.
New operatives like Mr. [Edgar] Valdéz [Villareal], however, fight for all or nothing, Mr. Vasconcelos said. And they seem willing to keep up their fight, no matter what the cost.
"Why are we in this situation?" Mr. Vasconcelos said. "Because the only leaders who can contain the violence are the ones who are in jail."
"The structures they used to maintain - of corruption and obstruction of justice - when we took those away, they were forced to use violence," he said. "It's a beast."
With so many local and federal cops working in the interest of the cartel factions, and even elite special forces troops fighting for the drug lords instead of the government, it's hard to envision a solution to this mess that involves stopping the flow of illegal drugs. So long as the United States indulges in its astronomical level of demand for narcotics, somebody will figure out how to supply them. A more likely way to end the violence would probably be a behind-the-scenes political agreement between the cartels and the government , greased with bribe money, that decides WHO will get to smuggle drugs and where. Given the alternatives, I don't know that that would be worse than the status quo.
You can almost hear Porfirio Diaz sighing, "Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States."