Saturday, September 09, 2006

Three way: Feds topple Tijuana cartel, make way for upstarts

In the confusing and increasingly violent wars between rival criminal gangs for control of US-Mexico transportation routes, it's hard to tell the players without a program.

ISN Security Watch reporter Sam Logan offers more detail than I've seen elsewhere about the role of the "Tijuana Cartel," the oldest and perhaps best known of the major smuggling groups, in the intra-cartel feuds that in Texas have mostly centered around the Gulf and Sinaloa gangs. Add this account to those I linked to in this post, and you get a pretty clear view of the players and the stakes for the three largest US-Mexico criminal smuggling organizations.

Bottom line: The Tijuana gang temporarily sided with the Gulf cartel against Sinaloa, but lately has gotten the worst of a three-way war, then was weakened further by arrests of key leadership and may be on its way out. This could be a pyrrhic victory for US drug enforcement, though, Logan argues.
The demise of the Tijuana Cartel may not happen with the arrest of Javier Arellano-Felix, but the cartel is arguably one step closer to dissolution, and Mexican organized crime one step closer to becoming the mega-organization that singularly and expertly controls smuggling operations into the US.

It is clearly the last thing the Mexican government needs. In a world of asymmetric war propagated by non-state actors, a long border with Mexico controlled by a mega-organization globally known to be efficient smugglers becomes more of a “soft underbelly” situation for the US government every day. The DEA may have toppled a dynasty, but it remains to be seen if it has facilitated the growth of another.

With all the publicity surrounding violence over who controls I-35, Tijuana remains the second most important border crossing behind Nuevo Laredo in terms of traffic volume. I encourage you to read Logan's piece. I learned a few things.

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