Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Fast, Bold, and Lethal": Cartel assassins getting good at their jobs

The Washingon Post has a feature describing the squads of assassins working for multinational drug cartels, some of them former military and counter-drug personnel trained by American special forces, who have turned murder nearly into assembly-line duty in Juarez and other contested drug trafficking battlegrounds. ("In Mexico, assassins of increasing skill," Dec. 12). For the most part. these squads of assassins are used by cartels against one another battling over turf. But increasingly they also are targeting Mexican law enforcement who refuse to be corrupted. The story opens:
The hit was fast, bold, lethal. Jesús Huerta Yedra, a top federal prosecutor here, was gunned down last week in a busy intersection 100 yards from the U.S. border in a murder of precise choreography.

In Mexico's chaotic drug war, attacks are no longer the work of desperate amateurs with bad aim. Increasingly, the killings are being carried out by professionals, often hooded and gloved, who trap their targets in coordinated ambushes, strike with overwhelming firepower, and then vanish into the afternoon rush hour -- just as they did in the Huerta killing.

The paid assassins, known as sicarios, are rarely apprehended. Mexican officials say the commando squads probably travel from state to state, across a country where the government and its security forces are drawing alarming conclusions about the scope and skill of an enemy supported by billions of dollars in drug profits.

"They are getting very good at their jobs," said Hector Hawley Morelos, coordinator of the state forensics and crime laboratory here, where criminologists and coroners have been overwhelmed by more than 1,600 homicides in Juarez this year. "The assassins show a high level of sophistication. They have had training -- somewhere. They appear to have knowledge of police investigative procedures. For instance, they don't leave fingerprints. That is very disturbing."

Alejandro Pariente, the spokesman for the attorney general in Chihuahua state, said, "They are called organized crime for a very good reason. Because they are very organized."

The whole disturbing story is worth a read. Grits has pointed out other reports in the past that these same commando groups, most prominently Los Zetas, were training young gang members on the US side of the border as cartel assassins and agents of Mexican gangs. So far, the US side of the border has been spared that kind of daily carnage, but with competition over distribution routes heating up among multiple, powerful criminal gangs and the Mexican government unable to stop it, how long will that remain true?


Anonymous said...

"Zeta" has lost its "brand identity" is just seems to mean a gangster these days... much as "Mafia" doesn't necessarily mean "la Cosa Nostra". The WaPo story is a bit over the top (its a new reporter that none of us Mexico media watchers remember seeing before). The gangsters don't seem to be getting more efficient, but they are increasingly well-armed, thanks to your side of the border.

As to the contention that they're getting away with it, I'd point out that a few so-called Zetas who were caught here in Mazatlan were shot dead during a prison riot here last week. Whether the riot was staged to cover the murders, or whether it was an extra-judicial killing is something I don't pretend to know. And living here, don't want to know.

The troubling part of this "drug war" is that the gangsters are recruiting minors, which is going to put even more pressure on our justice system and could lead to still more abuses. If you have access to Proceso, there is an excellent article on Juarez gang-bangers in the latest issue.

Anonymous said...

Some, maybe many, of the apparently random attacks in Juarez and places like Ojinaga, have the appearance of training exercises. Those are the attacks, and the killings incident thereto, upon funeral processions, markets, and people with no known connection to the drug trade.

Anonymous said...

"Think of it as evolution in action."

It never ceases to amaze me, that when the ivory tower denizens dream up their policies and try to apply them to the 'real world', the 'real world' always responds by bloodying their noses.

Some of those ivory tower types had been peeing-and-moaning about not being able to 'fight the drug war as if it was a real war!'. And when they got an opportunity to do so, and they receive a thoroughly predictable increase of violence as a result, they stand there as if they were stunned at the prospect that the cartellistas would fight back.

That's not supposed to happen! The narcos are supposed to wither and slink away at the demonstration of power that all that US taxpayer's money has provided! How dare they up the ante in the most violent and bloody way possible? It doesn't happen that way on the TeeVee! Jeez, the narcos aren't playing by Washington's rules! How ungentlemanly!

Anonymous said...

thanks to your side of the border.

And there it is, the ever-convenient "it's America's fault" argument.

Sure, we're the market for drugs. But that in no way excuses how you created your own problem by turning a blind eye to rampant corruption for decades. This occurs at every level of your government and military. So naturally, when the fun is over and you actually make an effort to stop the corruption, the shooting is going to start. Do we have our own corruption issues? Absolutely. Is the War on Drugs (TM) working? No. And one of the largest problems is that drugs from other countries can so freely come into ours. That's primarily because there's been almost nothing to stop them from getting through your country, putting all of the burden on ours. Both sides need to do more with education and treatment. Your side has finally stepped up its interdiction and corruption efforts. The fact that it is going so badly is a testament to the years of doing nothing at all that did nothing but make the problem harder for both sides. Mexico is the primary culprit for Mexico's problems. Take some damn responsibility and maybe you'll root out these gangs that control half of your country.

And Grits, before you link to every one of your War on Drugs (TM) posts, keep in mind that I acknowledge the failures on both sides of the border. But to have someone clearly so biased try to blame it all on big bad America as if they have no blame is pure horseshit.

Anonymous said...

Well said Rage, right on man.

Anonymous said...

How much American money has wound up in the cartels hand, that we sent to help our Southern neighbors? No one down there can be trusted. They kill each other and anyone who gets in their way. But, America....keep on buying their drugs....you're not part of the problem!

FleaStiff said...

The Silver or the Lead.
An official must either take the money or the bullet; there is no middle ground and no trust of anyone who has not been bought!