Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Why Mexico's drug gangs target rehab centers

Saturday, June 11, 2011 |


Mexico's drug gangs frequently target private, unlicensed rehabilitation centers, which have less security than government-licensed rehabilitation centers.
By Geoffrey Ramsey, Guest blogger
C.S. Monitor

The events seemed like something out of a gangster film. According to Mexico’s El Universal, at around 5:30 p.m. on June 7, five vehicles pulled up outside the Victory Center for Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation in Torreon, Coahuila, in northern Mexico. A gang of heavily-armed men emerged from the cars, and burst into the clinic. Methodically moving from room to room, they opened fire on everyone in sight, killing 13 patients and workers.

Then, as quickly as they had arrived, the assailants climbed back into their cars and fled the scene.

Although such extreme violence at a treatment center may seem incomprehensible, attacks on these institutions are becoming a fairly common phenomenon in Mexico. To date, the bloodiest of these shootings was in June 2010, when a gunman killed 19 people in a drug rehabilitation center in the city of Chihuahua, which borders Coahuila.

Mass shootings of this sort, with a defenseless group of people indiscriminately gunned down, have become common in Torreon, though typically the incidents have occurred in bars.

Prior to the June 7 murders, there had been at least five such incidents, resulting in more than 50 deaths, since the beginning of 2010. In most of the cases, official reports blamed the killings on local representatives of the Sinaloa Cartel, who are based in neighboring Gomez Palacio and have been engaged in a year-long battle with Torreon-based Zetas for control of the area.



Killed to minimize the risk

Gangs frequently target private, unlicensed rehabilitation centers, because they are more likely to take in active gang members seeking to free themselves from an addiction to their own product. In contrast to government-licensed rehabilitation centers in Mexico, private clinics are not associated with the penal system and often have very little security, leaving their patients vulnerable to attacks by gangs seeking to avenge the death of a friend or eliminate a potential police informant. Some unlicensed clinics may also serve as fronts for drug dealing, or even as safe houses for gangsters seeking to lay low.

After a 2009 attack on a center in Juarez, the Chihuahua state Secretary of Public Security, Victor Valencia, said the rehab clinics had become a hotbed of criminal activity, adding that “cartels are using them to recruit young people from 17 to 23 years old.”

According to him, it is difficult for these youths to escape from a life of crime, as they are seen as a “disposable” liability by the leaders of criminal organizations.

Drug cartels cannot afford to have a former member come clean, either about himself or, worse, his bosses. Because these young people can be quickly replaced, they are often killed in order to minimize this risk.

Cartels run their own rehab centers

In some cases, organized criminal groups even run their own rehabilitation centers.

The most well-documented instance of this is in the state of Michoacan, where a drug trafficking organization known as the Familia Michoacana has traditionally exerted a high degree of social control in rural areas.

While recent reports suggest that the Familia is on the decline, Familia operatives have traditionally enforced curfews, provided jobs (through drug production and trafficking), punished minor offenses and encouraged otherwise lawful behavior, based on its strict quasi-religious morality. The group is also known to operate a series of rehab clinics as front institutions for recruiting and training centers.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said that a suspect captured in 2009 claimed to have trained 9,000 Familia recruits in various rehabilitation clinics across the western portion of the state. According to the suspect, addicts underwent treatment as part of a strict training regimen, and were executed if they did not comply with the organization’s demands. Officials believe that drug-trafficking organizations like the Familia may prefer to use rehabilitated addicts as transporters because they have an incentive not to touch the product.

'The problem is revenge'

Some officials have said that the violence is a simply an unfortunate but inevitable affliction of private addiction clinics. According to Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova, there are more than 1,500 such institutions throughout the country, and all of them face the same danger of attacks. "The problem is revenge between groups, and that is very difficult to control,” he said.

Because the private clinics are not subject to the same security standards as government ones, it's difficult to control who is admitted to the premises. In contrast to the private centers, the government’s rehabilitation clinics are equipped with alarms around the perimeter, and emergency panic buttons which clinic workers can sound if threatened.

The government clinics also face problems. Most of the addicts in these facilities are there as a result of Mexico’s limited decriminalization law, which allows drug addicts who have committed crimes to serve their sentences in rehabilitation centers, instead of prison.

When confronted with the heightened police security at government centers, and the stigma associated with them, drug addicts with criminal pasts often choose private clinics, whose low security leaves them exposed to attacks from the world they’re trying to leave behind. Thus, for many youths seeking to turn their lives around in Mexico, the message is clear: there is no exit.

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14 Borderland Beat Comments:

Layla2 said...

If the private clinics are taking in money for their services, they should be spending a portion of that on security. Addicts need to know they're is an alternative.

Work-release programs could also be implemented to help addicts recover. When they know there is another path, they may be more willing to travel the road.

Anonymous said...

@Layla2...Find reality girl..."taking in money"...buy "security", "work release programs"...damn, what rose garden do you live in. Hell, the US doesn't even finance these things anymore. Work release, there are no jobs.
If the detox center is legitimate, they thrive on whatever money the patients can panhandle. They eat beans and barely survive. There is no private pay, insurance or government funding.
Rekin with the Juarez Cartel hit these centers pretty regular in Juarez eliminating what were Sinaloa Cartel flop houses. They did the same in Chihuahua City.

Anonymous said...

don't do drugs and you won't get a problem that's the drug game

Anonymous said...

I read the article but still do not understand why these slaughters are taking place,it appears that life means absolutley nothing in Mexico. Think about all the people being killed who just happen to be bystanders,but there again there are little to no consiquemces for these crimes. Out of Control.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

I read the article but still do not understand why these slaughters are taking place,it appears that life means absolutely nothing in Mexico. Think about all the people being killed who just happen to be bystanders,but there again there are little to no consequences for these crimes. Out of Control."

==========================================

Mexico is its own worst enemy with no death penalty these criminal cartel animals know that at the very worst if caught they will be placed in a prison that the cartels themselves run so what is the incentive to even make them want to stop? Mexico has set itself up as the perfect place for homicidal psychopathic killers to run free killing whom ever they wish. Some enjoy torturing and cutting up bodies and they do it purely to satisfy their blood lust...

Until Mexico makes some very drastic changes and implements the death penalty for ALL murders and for ALL confirmed members of criminal cartels we will continue to see this horrific nightmare continue to be played out in Mexico against the Mexican people... The ONLY sure solution to the horrific problems escalating in Mexico is complete extermination of ALL criminal cartel drug gang members by DEATH...

Anonymous said...

This report just barely scratches the surface of the "drug treatment" industry ... both in the Mexico and the USA!!!

Mexico is so utterly corrupt that even rehab programs are not immune from infiltration and control by criminal elements. This reality is logical because many addicts "know" things that can potentially incriminate criminal others. Anyone, who has been treated in a drug treatment program is a suspect as a potential "snitch".

Drug treatment programs (especially in the USA) have also been used as hide-outs by crooks who may falsely claim to have a drug problem when they actually do not.

In the USA, you can test this assertion by contacting certain programs and "offering" big bucks to " treat" anyone for a time... the money to pay for this can be "creatively" paid under the table. We must always remember that most drug treatment programs house people who have basic personality disorder, criminal orientations, and sociopathic tendencies.

I repeat, in Mexico, with a cruder and meaner (corrupt) social structures and systems... just imagine how bad it must be to be in drug rehab. programs. I f I were a Mexican drug addict, the last place I would want to go is a drug treatment program.... It can be a serious sign of weakness and can mark one as a danger to the bad guys...

Please, do not misunderstand, I am not inditing all drug rehab programs... just saying that what goes on in "some" of them may not be what the naive public thinks.

Former drug rehab insider

J said...

Not a death already for you? Jesus.

J said...

I meant, 'Not Enough' death.

Anonymous said...

Finally an intelligent assessment of what is needed in Mexico... Death to all elements of drug trafficking.

Anonymous said...

They are recruiting offices. Whats easier to recruit than a druggie? Most of these "so called sicarios" work for 200 dollars a week, others work for that amount but in drugs. Look at the video from Creel, most of them went up to the boss and grabbed a dash of cocaine.

Anonymous said...

Private clinics should be allowed to arm themselves..

drug rehabs said...

that is really bad thing that Mexico's drug gangs frequently target private, unlicensed rehabilitation centers, which have less security than government-licensed rehabilitation centers. I am feeling very bad for the private rehabilitation centers that they didn't get security fro the government to save their centers. I think private drug treatment centers should save themselves.

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Carlo Nash said...

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