The director of a troubled correctional facility in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo has been killed inside the prison, according to the state of Tamaulipas.Texas has had its share of escapes and inmates have occasionally killed correctional officers. But the vast majority of Texas escapes end up with the prisoner in custody, usually looking a little worse for wear. They don't walk out the door 140 at a time. Also, wardens generally can walk through their domains without being murdered by an inmate in front of their own guards, and for that matter seldom go mysteriously missing. What's happening in Mexican towns along the US border amounts to a war for control of civil society between law enforcement and violent criminal gangs, and increasingly it seems like law enforcement has all but conceded, falling victim, one way or another, to the cartel creed: Plata o plomo. Silver or lead, take a payoff or die.
Rebeca Nicasio Vázquez, who took over administration of the prison after more than 140 inmates escaped in December and the previous director went missing, was killed by an inmate while touring the prison Monday, according to a news release from the state. ...
The prison, Centro de Ejecución de Sentencias No. 2, known by its acronym CEDES, is controlled by the Zetas drug trafficking organization.
Since 2009, at least two high-profile members of rival cartels have been killed there along with a Zeta sicario, or hit man, who had fallen out of favor with his bosses; and several accused kidnappers who police said were masquerading as Zetas.
In December, more than 140 inmates — accounts of the exact number vary — slipped out a service door. At the time, a current U.S. law enforcement official and a former one said the escape was masterminded by Orlando Monsivais Treviño, an inmate at the time and a nephew of a high-ranking Zeta.
Mexico's problems go beyond just drug trafficking. Large portions of their economy operate in the black market to avoid taxes, leaving the government vulunerable to being undermined by criminal thugs even in areas seemingly unrelated to drugs. Black markets are inherently corrosive, subject to corruption, and in that environment, the cartels have evolved into wide ranging smuggling and extortion rackets with tentacles into thousands of everyday businesses across Mexico. If their drug income vanished tomorrow, they'd be weakened but not vanquished. I don't know what it would take to fix things in that dysfunctional state, and I'm pretty confident Mexican President Felipe Calderon doesn't either.
In any event, our economy is far too integrated with Mexico's and the volume of legitimate traffic is so great, that calls to "seal off the border" make sense only as campaign rhetoric. By many accounts, much of the cartel leadership is already living on the US side. El Paso is the safest city in the United States not because their police are better than everybody else's but because of informal rules among cartels about the appropriate turf where their battles play out. Indeed, the much-touted "spillover" of violence across the border mostly occurs in the other direction, with Texas prison gangs traveling to Mexico from El Paso to carry out hundreds of contract killings. Given US gang involvement, we should not imagine that similar violence couldn't happen on US soil, nor that when it does it will be confined to the border or stopped with a wall.