Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Mexico risks losing large areas to drug cartels

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 |

'Criminals are hollowing out police and local governments' capacity to uphold the law'


Tijuana, June 2009: Mexico's drug culture is defined by guns and money, to be sure, but it includes sex, movies, music and even a heavy dose of religion. It also extends across the border into the U.S.

by: By Robin Emmott
Reuters

Mexico is struggling to avert a collapse of law and order along its northern border in a region that generates a quarter of its economic output, with two states already facing the threat of criminal anarchy.

Even after four years of dramatic military sweeps, drug cartels in Chihuahua and Tamaulipas are extending their control over large areas and the state governments seem powerless to stop them.

Mass jail breaks, abandoned police stations, relentless killings and gangs openly running criminal rackets such as gasoline stolen from pipelines are the new reality in regions once at the forefront of Mexico's efforts to modernize and prosper under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Gunmen killed as many as 18 people near Tamaulipas' state capital Ciudad Victoria on Sunday night, attacking a passenger bus and shooting up government buildings, although no word of the violence appeared in local newspapers and TV stations, which are too afraid to report or are paid off by the cartels.

Police found the severed head of a two-month-old baby dumped in the town of Delicias in Chihuahua earlier this month in one of the cruelest revenge attacks to scar the state.

"The criminals are hollowing out police and local governments' capacity to uphold the law," said Kevin Casas-Zamora, an analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former vice president of Costa Rica. "There is an explosion of robbery, extortion and kidnapping."

Violence is well away from the white beaches that draw millions of tourists, but Mexico risks losing control of parts of the country to drug cartels — fears expressed by a senior Mexican official in October 2009, according to U.S. State Department documents made public by WikiLeaks in December.

Back then, Deputy Interior Minister Geronimo Gutierrez, who has since left his post, said the government had 18 months to show voters it was beating drug gangs or see President Felipe Calderon's army-led offensive abandoned after the next presidential election in 2012.

The lawlessness in Tamaulipas is spreading to the neighboring border state of Nuevo Leon, home to Mexico's richest city Monterrey, as the Gulf cartel's war with the Zetas gang spreads across the region.

Coahuila, another frontier state, is seeing a surge in violence in one of its main cities Torreon. The calm in Baja California, where the government boasts a fall in violence, may not hold. The state has already seen 80 drug murders this year, a 70 percent jump compared to the same period in 2010.

Mexico's six border states generate one-quarter of gross domestic product but close U.S. links are a double-edged sword as drug traffickers fight to control the strategic region.

'Everyone is paying extortion money'
Extortions, one of the scourges that prompted Calderon to go after the cartels, have become so bad in Chihuahua's biggest city Ciudad Juarez that many small businesses have stopped paying their social security, and hitmen have warned government tax collectors against trying to chase up those in arrears.

"Restaurants, bars, delicatessens, shoe shops, everyone is paying extortion money," said a business man with an car dealership who has been extorted by drug gangs and declined to be named. "And if you can't pay both extortion fees and your taxes, you tell the gangs and they sort it out for you."

Mexico and the White House play down the threats posed by the cartels but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year that Mexico faces a drug cartels insurgency and U.S. Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal was recently forced to retract similar remarks.

The drug gangs have not launched major terror attacks like Colombian traffickers, who set off powerful car bombs in busy streets and killed 107 people in bombing a commercial airliner in 1989. But hitmen have killed at least 14 mayors across Mexico over the past year, have detonated explosives in vehicles, and on Sunday night murdered a Nuevo Leon police chief in Monterrey.

More than 34,000 people have died in drug violence since Calderon launched his crackdown in December 2006.

Taking no chances, Tamaulipas' new Governor Egidio Torre, a last-minute substitute for his brother who was killed by hitmen while campaigning last June, is heavily guarded at all times by soldiers. A third of the state's 1,200 police work full-time as bodyguards for officials and their families, said Tamaulipas' police chief, himself an army general.

The cartels, meanwhile, continue to defy troops.

Gunmen claiming to represent the Zetas have threatened oil contractors working at isolated natural gas fields in the Burgos basin in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

Rivals working for the Gulf cartel in the nearby cities of Reynosa and Rio Bravo are openly selling gasoline siphoned off from pipelines or from hijacked trucks owned by state energy monopoly Pemex, residents and police sources say.

On a recent day in Reynosa, a young man casually smoking a cigarette and holding a wad of peso notes sold gasoline in plastic jugs with a 35 percent discount compared to legal gas stations.

Last year, a man in Rio Bravo who couldn't pay a ransom fee to free his kidnapped eight-year-old daughter was forced to watch as cartel hitmen chopped her into pieces in front of him, a family member told Reuters, breaking down as he spoke.

"There's no hope here, only fear," said the man, a local bus driver. "These gangs have complete power over us."

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21 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

I do not understand mothers and fathers, aunts uncles not standing up to the cartels...

Why arn't these fat bastards huntted down and killed like the dogs they are?

If these things happended to a member of my family, I will assure I would not stop until last cartel thug were dead.

I can not believe convoys of vehicles roam towns and no one has the bervardo to make a bomb and set it off as the convoy rolls by.

I can not believe that people have not banded together in towns lay in wait until these thugs attempt to collect mordeo money from shop owners...and kill them

You cant rely on the police, military or a forgin military to protect you...you have to do that yourself...the only reaons these gangs have complete power over people is because the people let them.

Anonymous said...

If only the US would legalize drugs across the board and then invest the $13 billion annually in drug treatment centers, Mexico would become the new Switzerland.

If only Nuneo Beltran de Guzmán were reincarnated, he'd sort this all out but quick.

Anonymous said...

As the cartel "Cell Leaders" get younger the more violent they become. These are not Narcos by definition but merely thugs. They operate under the name of a Cartel and don't even know the boss. Yeah the "Cartel Bosses" created this but I bet they don't even have control over these scumbags. La Linea, Los Zetas, and Gente Nueva to name a few, where all created to be armed wings of the Cartels. Now I bet they have more power as a group than their old and washed up patrones!

Que onda Chapo, Lazca, 40 amaren sus perros porque se los va llevar la chingada a todos! Si siguen asi ni uno ni el otro la va librar!

777

Kevin said...

That last paragaph regarding the 8 year old girl...that is truly horrifying.

Mexico is becoming a country of ghosts.

Anonymous said...

Why do you say that when Calderon is gone that it is over ?? Do you mean that the next president of Mexico will surrender the Country to lawlesness that shocks even Mexicans,is the next govt leader going to be CHAPO. Yes the US is a drug using mess because we have been made into a welfare state which tolerates unproductive weak people supported by those who work and earn/pay taxes to support the entitled mostly minorities, who use the vast amount of drugs the Mexicans provide. The next president of Mexico and the US must clean up the shitheads in both countrys, BUT how do they get elected?? There are millions of Mex that participate in crime, there are millions of US "CITIZENS" who are worthless drains on society family etc. THEY CAN VOTE strong productive people in Mexico and the US agree crime goes,drug use goes,but neither govt can or will fix the problems, WHAT TO DO??

''lito'brito said...

the story would reflect reality more accurately if it read:

Mexico fights losing battle to regain large areas lost to drug trafficking organizations

J said...

Please no more 'rise up and fight' nonsense. You expect unarmed, (comparatively), often impoverished common citizens to go toe to toe with heavily armed killers? Dozens of them? With pitchforks and a heart full of courage? most annoying style of comments on here, easily.

Not much to say about the story, other then, I don't see a way for this to end, in the next ten years. Didn't know about CDG selling gasoline either, financial problems over there too?

Anonymous said...

Truly horrifying, I hope that if spirits do exists those of the murdered innocent drive these thugs to kill each other and stop commiting these cowardly acts. ..

How sad that the people in my tamaulipas are used to this bullsh*t of life and that the government gives them no options to defend them. It is sad and despicable

Anonymous said...

Yes they canbe expected to fight against the, They all know who the families of these men are. Drag the father and mothers, the sons and daughters, the nieces and nephews of the men into the street. Set them on fire. Make them come to defend their own families and not kill other innocents. when they arrive to protect, set them on fire as well. You do not need bullets to kill.

Anonymous said...

don't worry about mexicans rising up, thay don't have the heart

Swanka said...

hate americans who have no respect for Mexicans. i love Mexicans they can work circles around me and they are real no fakeness like some of my fellow punk ass americans who think they better then everybody. but hey they get to live to thats why this is america.

i love you Mexico...

Swanka said...

plus why should someone have to fight?? why cant someone just live thier life like in america??? alot of people hate america but why? people live free no fear. two gay guys can kiss in public without worry. do i like it? no... but thats the beauty of america. why everyone so scared of us taking over the world?

this is no way to live

Ernest1 said...

Yes, Mexicans will rise up. Wait until you see DF explode.

Anonymous said...

"Last year, a man in Rio Bravo who couldn't pay a ransom fee to free his kidnapped eight-year-old daughter was forced to watch as cartel hitmen chopped her into pieces in front of him......."
Why would a drug cartel do that to a normal family? Unless "Ransom" means "drug debt"? More likely it was a kidnapping cell than a true narco.
If these guys could learn to share the wealth, they would be left alone for the most part. Nobody cares if adults want to get high, or if these guys sell dope, it's the body count that brings all the attention. A few bodies, especially when they're children or members of the general public brings alot of heat and attention on yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Great testament to Mexican culture, cant wait until all the US border states are mutated into the Mexican lifesyle, Laredo and Eagle Pass business people have and are paying protection, US law and judiciary are infiltrated and sympathetic to the poor dope smmuglers who had no choice but to turn to crime ,support sick mother, support little bros sisters---

Anonymous said...

Years ago in Western US there was no law,each town had a malitia,a sheriff when criminal gangs turned up the sheriff would get the posse Malitia together and the fight was on. Mexican local elected officials will resist any movements that may interfere with cartel or patron activities.

Anonymous said...

There is much you dont understand, Anonymous. Your posts indicate that.

Unbelievably naive to think that the Mexican people will rise up against these heavily armed, well funded organizations.

Ernest1 said...

... 'rise up against these heavily, armed, well funded organizations?' Like the US military and government to the North? Mexicans know just who and what is out there behind their own oligarchy.

Actually nobody thought that any of the Arab countries' populations would rise up against their US imposed military dictatorships, but it's been happening! And it might just happen in Mexico one day, too....

Anonymous said...

It s very difficult to legally buy and keep firearms under Mexican law, especially military weapons, even for (relatively)wealthy gringos. The Mexican citizens, especially those living in the small towns in rural areas like those taken over by the cartels, are also mostly very poor and cannot afford to buy and maintain weapons and ammo. Also, the average Mexican citizen, like the average American, does not have military training. Most Zetas, from my reading, are ex-military, come from the same poor rural areas, and are looking to have a job and make some money in a very corrupt society. They have been trained in the military, and their training continues in the cartels, particularly in ruthlessness and the specialized tactics needed to fight police and Federales. In many cases they have much more training than even the soldiers that are their only real threat, but the soldiers do have much heavier firepower, i.e., armored vehicles and artillery, backed by aircraft.

One result of our 2nd amendment is that many American civilians own firearms and have at least some experience with them. This will make it difficult for the cartels to openly operate as they do here; our relative lack of corruption makes it impossible; however if the cartels can corrupt large groups of police officials as they do in Mexico, it will be a big problem here until the corrupt ones are lynched by an outraged populace armed with 2nd amendment protected firearms. Our relative wealth also makes it more difficult to corrupt officials, although of course it happens.

What worries me are the rumors that the cartels have been contributing to the political process and are beginning to run candidates of their own choosing. By rumor, the PRI party which is now out of power has become infiltrated. If this happens, it will become a serious problem not only for the Mexicans, but for the USA.

I am retired and currently living in Mexico, in a safe area away from the smuggling routes. I will remain safely anonymous for this post.

Anonymous said...

If they chopped up my daughter id shove a grenade or two up their you know whats

Anonymous said...

No you would not. You would stick your head in the sand or you would be chopped up

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