Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

2012 Will Be a Decisive Year in Mexico’s Deadly Drug War

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 |

 Author: Larry Kaplow/The Daily Beast
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/03/2012-will-be-a-decisive-year-in-mexico-s-deadly-drug-war.html

 2012 will be a decisive year in Mexico’s deadly drug war as the country elects a new president and figures out how to combat the cartels.

The Executionmeter began counting the deaths almost as soon as 2012 began.

New Year’s Day in Mexico saw six bodies discovered in five different places, apparent victims of drug-related organized crime. All of the bodies were male. Most of the victims had been shot to death apparently in cartel violence. It was actually a peaceful day by Mexico’s blood-drenched standards. But it registered on the Executionmeter—a graphic on the website of Mexico’s Reforma newspaper that acts as a grim reminder of this country’s bloody internal war.

This year, 2012, will be a pivotal year for determining the direction of Mexico’s and, by proxy, America’s drug war. While there is bipartisan agreement in the United States that the war is needed to interdict drugs and shore up Mexico’s stability, the war is sure to come under further debate in Mexico, where the price is paid on the ground in killings and decapitations.

That price continues to be high, according to the Executionmeter, or Ejecutometro, as it runs in Spanish and counts the deaths since President Felipe Calderon launched the war in December 2006. Reforma reported Monday that there were 12,359 killings related to organized crime or the battle against it in 2011, up 6.7 percent from the year before. The daily said the number of beheadings rose to 595 from 389 and noted an increase in brazen displays of corpses hanging from bridges. Another major daily published a study by an organized crime expert saying drug gangs exercised some type of control—enough to operate openly—over local institutions in 71 percent of the country’s municipalities.

An activist holds a photo of Mexico's President Felipe Calderon behind bars during a protest in Saltillo December 1, 2011, Reuters / Landov


And responding to doubts about the war, Joaquin Villalobos, a former Salvadoran guerrilla commander who advises Calderon on strategy, published a 10,000-word defense of staying the course in the Mexican intellectual journal Nexos. “The violence is inevitable,” wrote Villalobos, warning that a pause, downsizing or negotiation could create a “status quo that gives criminals an advantage over citizens.”

True, Mexico is a large country of about 113 million people and most Mexicans see little cartel violence. You could read the figures as leveling off, since killings rose a staggering 76 percent (to 4,996 murders) from 2009 to 2010. Reforma counts a total of about 38,000 killings over the five years while others put the figure several thousand higher. In an interview, respected security analyst Eduardo Guerrero said violence levels could decline very slowly this year. But as some notorious areas have improved, violence has spread to new ones like Acapulco and Cuernavaca, close to Mexico City. The killing surges as cartels fight each other, branch into new turf and enterprises—from drugs to extortion to kidnapping—and as security forces pursue them. It creates an unpredictable whack-a-mole dynamic.

Heavy majorities still support the military deployment and other anti-crime operations. About a third want to negotiate with the cartels or legalize drugs.

Heavy majorities still support the military deployment and other anti-crime operations. About a third want to negotiate with the cartels or legalize drugs.

 In July the country will elect a new president who will surely size up the war’s progress and popularity before taking office in December. An October poll showed that only 18 percent of Mexicans believe the government is winning. But heavy majorities still support the military deployment and other anti-crime operations. About a third want to negotiate with the cartels or legalize drugs.

Last year saw the birth of an antiwar movement, headed by poet Javier Sicilia after his son was killed with six friends. His rallies aim to show that innocents are getting killed, not just warring narcos. A series of high-profile massacres drove that point home, such as in August when 52 people, mostly middle-aged women, were killed in a Monterrey casino torched by extortionists. A mother and two teen-aged daughters from Ft. Worth, Texas, dual U.S.-Mexican citizens, were killed in December during an attack on their bus as they visited the coastal state of Veracruz. Human Rights Watch documented 170 cases of torture and 63 killings or disappearances by security forces. Some leftists see the war as a U.S.-backed pretense to militarize Mexico and stifle activism.

Of the alternatives, experts warn that the criminals are too divided and unruly to make pacts with them, which would, in any case, just perpetuate their corrupt hold on police and politicians. But there are strategic changes being floated, from concentrating law enforcement on the most violent actors rather than emphasizing the capture of kingpins, to addressing the bad schools and poverty that produce gang soldiers. Everyone agrees local institutions are too weak. Calderon has focused increasingly on rooting out corrupt police and often disbands or arrests entire local police departments in areas where soldiers are deployed—a tactic that seems to help but requires months for vetting of new cops.

American officials warn that if Mexico becomes a narco-state, the border will open to even more smuggling or, possibly, terrorist infiltration. About half of $1.4 billion in promised U.S. nonlethal aid, like helicopters, has been delivered. Calderon adviser Villalobos writes that the war has splintered the cartels into smaller factions that can be more easily eliminated. He blames the cartels’ criminal ambitions, while others blame the splintering, for most of the violence. He boasts that more than 150,000 criminals have been detained, which could either be a sign of the war’s progress or of its futility. Calderon advisers say the war could continue several more years and, reading the public mood, most politicians vow to press on in some form after he leaves office. But what regular Mexicans hope for most of all is to see a drop on the Executionmeter.

 Larry Kaplow is a freelance reporter based in Mexico City. He was previously a Baghdad bureau chief for Newsweek.

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11 Borderland Beat Comments:

Siskiyou_Kid said...

Calderon adviser Villalobos writes that the war has splintered the cartels into smaller factions that can be more easily eliminated. This statement is false on so many fronts, that it would be laughable, but the truth is too tragic for laughter.

The arrest and extradition of CDG capos is the primary reason the Zetas became independent, and they a neither SMALL nor MANAGEABLE.

Anonymous said...

"He boasts that more than 150,000 criminals have been detained, which could either be a sign of the war’s progress or of its futility."

Detained? Fucking kill them all! Stop pussyfooting around. Kill every one of these fuckers.

Anonymous said...

The Executionmeter is a terrific tool to humiliate the Mexican government into doing something positive for the people they govern.
Another horrible but interesting way to draw attention to the government's inability to fight crime is the "Gangplosion" game. Bettors would draw odds on where violence would take place and what casualties happened. The frightenening thing is that such a game would be played by everybody, including the gangsters.
How about a game of identity called "Charade", not "Charade?" You could try to match up officials with their blatantly false comments. The most egregious violators would have the most points scored, of course. Throw in a few questionable politicians and you'd make the rhetoric in Mexico worse, not better.
These are all sick ideas born out of sick times. But it seems that the Mexican government only responds to internal threats when the government's image is being embarrassed. It is political nature to fear shame more than any actual or even perceived threat.

Anonymous said...

yo chivis...get on it,Benjamin Arellano Felix just pled guilty in San Diego Federal court!!

Anonymous said...

Decisive my ass. The politicians will keep using their big, firm words. Random people will keep dying and the average guy on the street and his family will keep living in fear, lacking real protection, not even having the right to take care of his own security. Of course the high level Mexican politicians don't too much care about any of this, they have motorcades, armoured cars and retainers of armed gunmen watching their asses, all things which private citizens can forget about having. The U.S politicians need worry even less, they're not even in the country, and as long as their budgets keep bloating and their "decisive" war on drugs is being paid for with hundreds of thousands of gallons of foreigner's blood on the other side of the fence, what do they give a damn? Thus, the idiotic drug war continues, nothing changes in principle and people just. keep. on. dying.

Anonymous said...

All this belly aching,and yet Calderon has done exceptionally well. All these protests,in the open? You don't see any protesters against the military,the Fed or Calderon get shot by criminals,HELL NO the Cartels are paying them or they are affiliated ,OR these people are complete Leftist Morons. Its Mexico and everybody has their hand out. Can you imagine trying to clean up Mexico? Calderon is giving it a try as crazy as it is!

Anonymous said...

You guys can whine all day long about, what a terrible job Calderon's administration is doing..but tell me, how would you have handled the situation? And negotiating with DTO's is not an option! We are talking about eradication not "turn a blind eye." The truth of the matter is a great number of the so called causalities were involved in the drug game. Sure many innocent people were injured, killed, or detained but what can you expect, when the "problem" is everywhere! A lot of capos were killed or captured and got what was coming to them...and eventually the rest will fall too.

Anonymous said...

On the surface, the results look great when you use the same yardstick of seizures and arrests. If however, you use a yardstick of are drugs still available and at what price then the results do not look so good.

Anonymous said...

Siskiyou_Kid Calderon adviser Villalobos writes that the war has splintered the cartels into smaller factions that can be more easily eliminated. This statement is false on so many fronts, that it would be laughable, but the truth is too tragic for laughter.

The arrest and extradition of CDG capos is the primary reason the Zetas became independent, and they a neither SMALL nor MANAGEABLE.

WE ALL KNOW SMALLER FACTIONS ARE NOT EASY TO CONTROL, WE ALSO KNOW THE SMALLER CARTELITOS DON'T HAVE THE SAME POWER, WE ALSO KNOW THE ZETAS ARE FORCING PEOPLE TO WORK WITH THEM AND ALSO HAVE FINANCIAL PROBLEMS.
THIS ARE THE NUMBERS OF MURDERS IN MEXICO ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA 62 killed in 2006 2,837 killed in 2007 6,844 killed in 2008 9,635 killed in 200 15,273 killed in 2010 12,000 killed in 2011 THE WAY I SEE IT, THE CARTELS ARE DESPERATE AND RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS. I HAVE A FEELING THE CARTELS IN A COUPLE OF YEARS WILL BE MOVING TO ANOTHER COUNTRY.

Anonymous said...

A consensus is forming among observers that the drug trade in Mexico has reached the saturation point, forcing those excluded from direct participation into other criminal actions, such as extortion. That assertion can be supported by the murder of a woman teacher in Acapulco recently, reported here. The only possible motive in that crime would have been a "cut" of her salary -which she refused. Being a pessimist, I am ready to conclude that Mexico has reached a certain level of social chaos, caused by the drug war, but exploited by those who see an opportunity for gain in the general lawlessness. It reminds me of a riot, which may have started over a legitimate grievance, but which spirals out of control, resulting in looting, burning, beatings, and other crimes not justified by the original incitement. It's called a melee by military historians.

Anonymous said...

@11:04 exactly right. Everybody wants the govt to help and protect them but nobody wants to get involved. Sicilia's peace marches are useless. Mexicans thought they wanted a "democracy" until they found out that it meant reporting their narco-neighbor to the cops or the military.

If you are not going to participate in your govt (not just vote) you get what you get. And get a pistol so when that punk halcon on the corner threatens you, you can cap him when no one's looking.

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