By Cindy Ramirez
El Paso Times
Mexican President Felipe Calderón's strategic objective to break up major cartels has had some success, though that has led to more violence against residents, U.S. intelligence analysts said during a colloquium at UTEP on Tuesday.
"The fracturing of these cartels has been deeper than most people think," said James, an intelligence analyst with the Director of Central Intelligence Crime and Narcotics Center who didn't provide his last name at the conference due to security concerns. "The negative side, unfortunately, has been the violence against the citizenry as these cartels break down to a more local level."
James and a colleague, Lauren, presented the topic "Exploring the Rise of Mexican Cartel Power" during the fourth annual Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence Colloquium at the University of Texas at El Paso. The center, established at UTEP in 2007, is one of about 30 in the nation.
Lauren also did not disclose her last name while speaking at the conference.
The two-day event brought together "scholars, practitioners, students and the community to discuss the issues, learn from each other and come up with new ideas, new perspectives," said Mark Gorman, program coordinator for the Intelligence and National Security Studies Program at UTEP. The program enrolls about 180 students preparing for careers in foreign service, intelligence or security agencies.
Presenting their topic to about 75 people in attendance, the intelligence analysts said Calderón is fighting an anti-cartel battle, not an anti-drug war. Breaking down the cartels has also meant strengthening law enforcement, which the analysts said has seen some progress. A new Mexican federal police training center, improved background checks and increased pay help reduce corruption within the force, Lauren said.
"They got the ball started in what's going to be a long, long process," she said.
In 2006, the four major cartels in Mexico were the Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez and Tijuana organizations. Today, it's estimated that 16 smaller organizations derived from those four exist, James said.
"The problem is evolving, but you're pushing it to a level where you are least able to handle it," he said. He was referring to drug trafficking moving down to the street level where local and state, not federal, law enforcement agencies are responsible for policing neighborhoods. He added that current trends have made violence "more widespread and more extreme" at the local levels.
The cartel violence has left nearly 8,000 dead in Juárez since 2008. The Chihuahua state attorney general's office reports that nearly 630 people were killed in Juárez during the first three months of this year.
"It's plausible we could start to see some leveling off of violence in terms of homicides figures," James said, "but we know that's not always a good indicator of the impact of the violence."