Sunday, December 04, 2005

Mexican border wars: "The only leaders who can contain the violence are the ones who are in jail"

Today's New York Times offers the best who's-who explanation I've seen of the violence in Nuevo Laredo between competing Mexican drug cartels ("Rival drug gangs turn streets of Nuevo Laredo into war zone," Dec. 4).

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."


Catonya said...

I realize how ?naive/over-simplified? this question is, but-
if the US authorities know 77%C and 70%M comes into this country through that specific area- why don't they(US) send a small army there(US side of the border) to staunch/stop the flow at it's source?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good to hear from you, Cat. I think the short answer is that the border's just too long. It's like squeezing a balloon -- the displaced air just goes somewhere else. Also, we don't have a "small army" available -- we can't even afford the big one fighting in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Is it realistic to suppose that 70% of the meth sold in the USA is imported from Mexico? What about all those American meth labs we're supposed to be terrified about?

Anonymous said...

lindsey beyerstein,

70% of the meth comes from Mexico:

That meth is spelled with a y or myth. Spell check didn't work.

In order to believe DEA, you have to believe that a meth addict who lives in rural U.S.A. pefers to wait days, weeks, or months for meth to be manufactured, smuggled, and distributed even though the addict can make and feed that addiction instantly.

If that makes no sense, then send a FOIA request to DEA and ask them for the criteria they use to distinguish Mexican meth from locally produced meth; super lab meth from non-super lab meth.

Believe me, there is no credible way. DEA analyzes seized meth at it's crime labs and it determines purity and quantity. The lab also looks for other chemicals/adulterants but that analysis cannot determine the country of origin.

Every state in the U.S. is reporting record numbers of lab seizures yet according to DEA those rural labs could only produce 30% of the meth. Please.

Is it myth or meth?

Belive me, the only way you know that meth came from Mexico is because it's falsely being reported by DEA that way: Kinda like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The CIA isn't the only agency that needs an enema.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Anonymous, Lindsay -- that number sounds a little squirrelly to me, too. I've read several places that homemade meth never made up more than 20-30% of the total, with the rest coming from Mexico and so-called "superlabs" in California. A lot also comes north through Arizona. So while I wouldn't be shocked to learn that 70% of meth was non-homemade stuff from large producers, it sounds mistaken that every last bit of it comes through Nuevo Laredo.

On the other hand, if we read it in the New York Times, it must be true, right? ;-) Best,

Anonymous said...

Once more, the cure becomes worse than the disease. No fence, no sensors, no armed forces, nothing will keep the supplier from meeting the consumer. Like a garden hose, trying to pinch the flow does nothing to staunch it...and increases the forcefulness of the competition for remaining turf, making the whole trade even deadlier.

According to some sources, it took the loss of a Canadian RCMP officer to end the Canuck version of alcohol Prohibition. Will it take the death of an entire batallion of cops or military before the lesson sinks in here? Will Neuvo Laredo have to suffer the fate of Fallujah before it becomes evident you don't fight fires with gasoline in the water hose?

Anonymous said...


triple said...

I serve with the army and I see it everyday(drug trafficing)Our sulotion is a complicated and deep one that has required more than just soldiers on the border. Interception of these drugs is only the begining. We must and have deterred some drug trafficing but it all starts with Mexico their failure to get a grip on the Cartels. The cartels are powerful and should not be underestimated. But they are weak at the same time.
We put our lives on the line in Iraq but what we should be doing is quit involing ourselves in all the foreign problems and start at home where we belong.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to an outsider that
these Cartels are more organized
than the government but that can't
be true. I do know from firsthand
experiance that people are afraid
to walk the streets or shop in the
stores because of these so called
"Turf Wars". To think that in the
year; 2007 we are afraid to walk out
of our homes is absurd but TRUE!

Anonymous said...

will i know what it is like, for i use to run side by side with edgar. Its not a walk in the park and when your in mexico it just the mexican way. Now you know why people leave mexico to come over here. they really have no choice, for the hourly pay sucks and well what is you other choice. If the goverment and all local authorities are doing it, why not you. Kinda of a dumb analogy, but what can you do.

Anonymous said...

its me again, do you really want to know a way to resolve this damn matter. It is to start here at home. The damn problem is this country, we are so spoiled and take advantage of everything. We are the reason all of the turf war is going on. For the majority of distrabution of drugs is to the US, not europe or asia but the US. Like i said last time i know edgar and what we saw was there is pleanty of money to be made and why not be you making the money. I know that all of the other stuff he does is very bad, however if you would think that our president bush would put his time and money into the fight here at home, the problem would not go away, however it will reduce the rate of drug use and addicts in use, which could probably slow down the so called turf wars.

Anonymous said...

by the way when i said i new edgar it was when we where young people and never did what he did not, i mean we were college buddies and like all we used drugs never what he does now. So just to clairify i do not agree with what he is doing and should be in jail.

Anonymous said...

mexico should be employing the use of private military contractors to combat this, I have a group, but it is hard to enter this market. If you know how or have ideas, let me know

Anonymous said...

it's me again the contractor, if mexico realized that this would work, basically they would just have to grant the permits, the U.S. would be willing to pick up the tab.

Anonymous said...

The best overall situation/outcome would be to build a cinder block wall 10m high and 20m thick on the US side of the border with a 100m buffer zone of landmines. Bring home our troops and place them every 30m across the top of the wall. What the mines don't get, the Marines do. A field littered with the shattered bones of these idiots sends a message: stay out. Let them eat each other. Screw NAFTA.